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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Bunnies and Bears

The post arrived yesterday and it was quite the most exciting delivery I have had in a while.

My Christmas cards arrived from Catherine at Bumpkin Bears. Catherine's handmade bears are so gorgeous and perfect and I have totally fallen for all the beautiful drawings she is now sharing with us.
AND a huge parcel of trim (seriously there is so many lovely pieces - all as beautiful as the other ... ... although the pink bunny trim did catch my eye!) came from Anne at Bunny Hill Designs - as well as a lovely card congratulating me on the bump and a dear little bunny named Flora ...... who will be a perfect addition to that very meager bunny collection I have ;-)

The knitting goes on ...

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

What is at the top of your tree?

I am feeling guilty about my blog. I worry I am lacking in crafting news these days as I am currently buried in my Hugs Kisses and Cables blanket - which will soon be finished - if I can just keep going. At times it feels a little bit like a knitting marathon ... only the serious athletes will survive! Here is a little sneaky peak at my progress.
I'm already pleased with this blanket as it is my very own pattern. I've actually written the pattern down - which I am trying to diligently check (and check again) for any mistakes. I also really love the yarn I am using - it is so soft, easy to work with and the hanks (478yds each!) are just enormous - so it goes a long long way.

With Thanksgiving behind us for another year - I can now fully concentrate on the glitter and excitement of Christmas ... and this Christmas is going to be extra special as my sister is coming to stay with us! (My lovely sister wins the prize for being the most excited about the impending bump!) And Christmas has really begun early for me as I won (yes I actually won something - woo hoo!) a beautiful package of trim from Anne at Bunny Hill Designs. Anne (a faithful bunny lover too) is a very lovely and very very talented lady - do not fail to check out her blog.

In the meantime - with my lack of crafting news - lets talk about decorating Christmas trees!! I faithfully put up our tree on December 1st ... (it is a fake tree - because in a small apartment - coping with constantly dropping needles and then the final fight to get the dead tree back out the door and down in the elevator without covering every inch of floor and stairs with needles ... well I just would prefer not be be cleaning up needles until spring arrives ... my husband would prefer the 'natural smell of pine' ... but he is not the one who cleans ... and it is a rather good fake tree ... Can I stop justifying the fake tree now?) ...

So as I began to say ... I faithfully put up our tree on December 1st and the poor thing looks a little bare in the decoration department - so I'm probably a bit too thrilled about being able to take my sister down to the Union Square Holiday Market (has to be done at night for the extra sparkle effect) ... and pick out some additional decorations. I might have to concentrate on more bunny decorations as we seem a bit short of those ...
... cute bunny, bucket and birdies ...
... slightly scary fir cone bunny (actually I think it might have been bred with a squirrel!) And what would you put on the top of the tree? An angel? A star? What about a beautiful Ballerina Bunny?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

This year I would like to give thanks for ...
... a new little bunny will be joining the Rachael Rabbit workshop in March next year! ;-)

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Secret Lives of Snowmen

I'm not a big cartoon fan - but I am quite a fan of Calvin and Hobbes. Perhaps it is the fact that I can quite happily talk for endless hours to my beloved pet - so I am more than able to understand the close and secret bond between Calvin and his dear Hobbes. Although - in my humble opinion - the funniest Calvin and Hobbes cartoons are those of the snowmen that Calvin builds.

Snowmen are so fun. One year at primary school I remember clearly the overwhelming excitement when it actually snowed properly - each class went out onto the playing field were we all competed in a snowman building competition. It hardly ever snows properly in the UK - so this happened all of once! But I remember it quite clearly. Now living here in the US - every year my husband is still surprised at my endless delight when it snows.

My latest Christmas tree skirt has been dedicated to my dear snowmen friends. Giving us all a little insight into the lives of snowmen!!
Did you know that snowmen like to give each other presents?? ...
... that families of snowmen like to gather around and decorate Christmas trees?? ...
... that snowmen like to sneak the odd kiss under the mistletoe too?? ...
... but most of all Snowmen love to sing carols!!!
What carol do you think would be a snowman's favorite? 'See Amid the Winters Snow' or perhaps just 'Let it Snow'?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Christmas is coming ...

Whether you want to admit it or not you can't ignore that Christmas is coming. The stores already have their Christmas decorations out - ready for you to browse and rummage through all the glitter and tinsel.

And here in our little work corner it is no different. Summer seems like an age away. Halloween was barely here (apart from the pumpkin tutorial) and there has been no sign of any Fall or Thanksgiving crafts. The bunnies and I have jumped straight into Santa's sack and I fear here we will stay until the end of the year.

We have been making reversible Christmas tree skirts ...... working on nativity advent calendars ...... (I love how the little pockets turned out for this calendar!)
And the bunnies ... without having a garden to play in have been getting into so much mischief. This little bunny is trying to pretend to be one of the Christmas tree decorations in a bid to become the the fairy on top of the tree this year.I tried to explain that although we are making Christmas crafts now - decorating the tree is a long way off. And this little bunny seems to have been tortured by the other one in what was described to me as the 'wrapping up game' ...
I must give a loud and warm shout out to Janice, Rachel, Louise, April and Barbara (I hope I caught everyone) - all have tagged or given me lovely awards in the past months. I've been terrible at playing along I know - and distracted with moving etc - and I can't tell you how much all the comments mean to me. I loved how and what Jodie (from RicRac) wrote back in August about the whole tagging/award debate - and I'm sorry to be such a party pooper. By the way - have you seen Jodie's Big Selvedge Project - it is truly amazing and should not be missed.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Tutorial: Simple Patchwork Pumpkins (and a Giveaway!)

I really love pumpkins and when the Halloween season comes along I squeak like an over excited toddler when ever I see a pumpkin patch. Each year I have been here (did I mention it is 5 now!) I have insisted on carving pumpkins. When we were little no one celebrated Halloween in the UK - in fact if someone did ring your doorbell you didn't answer it for fear of having eggs thrown at you or something horrible like that. So the discovery of dressing up, stupid amounts of candy, tacky decorations (our front lawn was so nearly decorated in polystyrene tombstones last year - until I realized ... at the check out ... tombstones in hand ... that it might lead to divorce) and of course - pumpkins!!

Last year I made some life sized patchwork pumpkins.
They were very luxurious and really quite beautiful. I used recycled silk ties and lovely thick upholstery cord to tie around the pumpkins. However lovely they were - and they were certainly big - they deemed to be totally impractical for selling on Etsy due to postage costs!

Here is my tutorial for making your own simple patchwork pumpkin. My version this year is much smaller - but the tutorial will help you make any sized pumpkin - it is up to you. Remember that pumpkins come in all shapes and sizes - so if you think your sewing is too dodgy or your stuffing is too lumpy - it won't matter in the least - throw caution to the wind and dive on in!!

Simple Patchwork Pumpkin
You will need:
- colorful fabric- yellows, gold, oranges
- thread for sewing
- some sort of stuffing - I tend to use Poly-fil
- selection of yarn, thread, cord - NOTE: you will need 12 x the length of your template
- felt for leaf (optional)

1. Make your template. Your template can be any size - as long as it is this sort of eye shape - it will work.

2. Cut out the template out 6 times from different fabrics. This is a great way to use up all those small pieces of fabric you have lying around - sew pieces together to make patchwork strips ...... and then cut out the templates. Each section of the pumpkin can be as plain or as 'patchworked' as you like.

3. Sew the shapes - one by one - together to make a ball. Remember you need 6 pieces sewn together make a pumpkin. Leave part of the last seam open - this will allow you to turn the pumpkin right side out. Turn your pumpkin right side out and stuff. Sew shut the open seam.

4. Now you need to cut your yarn/thread that will wrap around the pumpkin. You will need 12 x the length of your template. My template here was 5 inches long so I cut 60" of mixed yarns. I chose to use 4 strands of yarn - a dark green, light green, yellow and a cream. There are so many things you could use to add decorative detail here - ribbons, sequins, lace etc - just experiment!

5. Tie your yarns around your pumpkin (I twisted my yarns together as I went.) Make sure the yarn is tightly squeezing the ball - this will help give the 'pumpkin' shape. You will find that knotting the yarn at each 'junction' will help it stay in place.
Make sure you make a nice strong knot at the top of the pumpkin.
6. Once you have tied the yarn around your pumpkin - you will want to make a stalk. Select one strand of yarn and use it to wrap around the other strands. I used a simple slip knot which I repeated (keeping it nice and tight) until I didn't have any yarn left and a little stalk was left at the top of the pumpkin.
Tie a knot at each end of each yarn strand and trim to your desired length.

You can add a little leaf to your pumpkin if you wish. I cut a pumpkin leaf from green felt and tied the leaf to the stalk of the pumpkin.

So what to do with my little pumpkins. Well this little pumpkin is just the perfect size for a pincushion ...... and if you would like to win this little pumpkin pincushion - all you have to do is leave a comment on my blog (remember to leave an e-mail address so I can find you) before midnight (EST) on October 23rd!

UPDATE: Pumpkin was won by Donna from Cottage Days & Journeys. Number was selected by the Truly Random Number Generator!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Why Do Bunnies Have Hoppy Birthdays?

I was sitting very quietly in the garden - observing the wonderful nature sanctuary my lack of gardening skills have created - when I heard a little voice ...

"Hello there little bunny what do you want?"

"Well I fear I am a little lost. I am looking for Matthew's 1st birthday party ... I have a special jumper on just for him AND I made him a birthday card with my own little bunny paws."

"Well I've heard that Matthew's birthday party is actually England - which means you still have a very long way to go - but it was very sweet of you to make him a handmade card."

"Thank you - I drew a picture of my favorite thing on the front - a big juicy orange carrot."

"Shouldn't the card say 'Happy Birthday' instead of 'Hoppy Birthday?'"

"Oh no ... we bunnies are very happy creatures so we always like to give Hoppy Birthday wishes instead! Bunnies just love to hop you see, especially on exciting days like birthdays."

So I hope here today I have shed yet more light on the secret lives of bunnies!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Handmade Things are Filled with Love

One of my oldest friends is getting married and I wanted to make something special for her to mark the occasion. I didn't really want to make another love filled quilting disaster so I decided that this was the time to knit something big! Time to knit my first full sized blanket. But what pattern to knit? After much searching I found a free pattern for a Lover's Knot Afghan from the Lion Brand Yarn Company.I thought that 'Lover's Knot' was such a lovely pattern name for a wedding present. I found the most gorgeous cream and super soft (as well as ecologically friendly) wool from the YarnCountry.com. (The hanks were so enormous that I had a whole hank left over - which enabled me to knit all three of my maypole dancing bunnies!) I increased the size of the Afghan by adding an additional two pats to the pattern ... ... so my finished blanket measures approx 53" x 67" and there is a super soft 4" fringe/tassels at both ends.
I also embroidered a little label that I sewed on to the back of the blanket. (I saw this idea on the lovely Julie's blog back in June and knew I had to make something similar for my blanket.)
I wish the bride and groom a life time of happiness together - as well as many winter evenings feeling warm under the love of one very special blanket!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Heartbreak and Distraction

It is true - my heart is aching ... we have sold our beautiful house - and until we find our next house having my own little room to use as a dedicated work space is doomed - I shall be 'craft camping' ... by that I mean I have to decide what craft items will be going into storage and what craft items I can take with me so I can continue working.

The house has been so much more than a place to live for me - since I have been in the states I have been so homesick and this is the first place - since leaving the UK nearly 5 years ago - that I have called 'home'. It is cute, beautiful, warm and cosy, old fireplaces and floorboards, the garden has been fabulous for bunny photo shoots, the community is wonderful ... it is going to be very hard and very very sad to leave.
But my husband spends his weeks in the city and I spend a lot of my week in the country - we always spend our weekends together - we recently decided that we should try find a home that was the 'grand compromise' - close enough to the city for commuting and enough out of the city so I don't go crazy. So I'm off to the big apple to stay with my lovely husband (it will be nice to see him during the week) - and I know a stint in the big apple would be a treat for some - but if I'm totally honest I am not a city girl in the least ... unless it is for a little shoe shopping expedition!

So what do I take? Obviously Bernie has to come with me and my bag of knitting needles ... but what about ... ...the boxes of ribbon ... ... lace ... ... buttons, sewing needles, cord ... ...bias tape, scraps of material or just the big bits? Will I need my box of felt? What about all the ties and shirts I have to recycle? How much yarn should I expect to use? Which books to take?

It is all seeming a bit much to choose from ... where do I start?

Monday, August 4, 2008

Tutorial: Simple Knitted Ball

I find it hard to throw away any material or yarn - and I have lots yarn remnants that are too small to be incorporated into new projects. So over the weekend I made this pattern for a simple knitted ball - a fast easy project - and the ball is suitable for all ages. I used my left over Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Superchunky yarn (sometimes I think this is the softest yarn ever invented - but it has proved to be too expensive for my constant knitting habits!)

Simple Knitted Ball
You will need:
- yarn remnants (various colors or same color - this is really your choice)
- knitting needles
- some sort of stuffing - I used Poly-fil
- yarn needle for sewing pentagons together

1. Knit 12 pentagons following this pattern:
cast on 6
row 1: inc, knit 4, inc (8 stitches)
row 2: p
row 3: k
row 4: p
row 5: inc, knit 6, inc (10
row 6: p
row 7: k
row 8: p
row 9: k2tog, knit 6, k2tog (8
row 10: p
row 11: k2tog, knit 4, k2tog
(6 stitches)
row 12: p
row 13: k2tog, knit 2, k2tog
(4 stitches)
row 14: p
row 15: k2tog, k2tog
(2 stitches)
row 16: p2tog and tie off

Sew your pentagons together to create a ball - I hope this diagram helps to show how this is done. I used a contrasting yarn in blanket stitch to add an additional decorative element.
Remember to leave at least one seam open so you can stuff the ball!

3. Stuff the ball and stitch remaining seam(s) shut.Then all you need to do is find someone to play ball with you ... Castro didn't seem to want to play ball - but he did agree that it was a very soft!