Monday, 4 March 2013

Blackboard Wall Calendar

Hello Everybody,

I made my blackboard (chalkboard) calendar for the kitchen quite a while ago now but thought I'd share it with you.

I have always struggled with kitchen calendars. With the invention of modern technology, such as iCal, I was finding that I was pretty much ignoring the kitchen calendar. I still wanted a 'traditional', i.e. non-digital, calendar but wanted one that was more interactive and not just a piece of paper that I forgot to turn over until halfway through the new month.

As I was searching on the internet, some interesting blackboard calendars caught my eye. Most were in traditional paint form but some were blackboard wall stickers, which I thought were quite cool.
I looked at lots of websites which showed you how to make chalkboard paint in any colour under the sun, which also appealed to me.

Here are some of the blackboard calendars that inspired me:

Blackboard wall sticker decal - available from here on Etsy.

From the Our Fifth House blog - full instructions on how to diy
From Martha Stewart's website

In the end, I bought some ready-made blackboard paint. I bought the conventional type, not the magnetic one but mainly because they had sold out and I had project startitis. The tin was dented so I got it reduced as well - bargainous! I started with a white wall in my kitchen. I didn't prime it or anything (although I probably should have!).

The next part was the most fiddly and time-consuming. To cut a rather long story short, I carefully measured out the design for my calendar and laid down masking tape where I didn't want the chalkboard paint. I bought a top-end brand of painting masking tape as I didn't want to deal with too much paint bleeding.

Seriously, I can't begin to tell you how long that part took. It's harder than it looks to get all those straight lines you know! Anyway, next was the fun part - painting the blackboard paint. 

I let it dry for a couple of hours, then removed the masking tape. And...ta-da!

I did have to do some minor touching up with a white paintbrush where the black paint had bled slightly. I waited a good 24 hours before using chalk on the board. I did buy some chalkboard markers but they were really tough to get off so I have stuck to good old-fashioned chart. it's a nice big calendar, so there's room to write a few notes on each day and it's easy to see what's coming up at a glance. I use the bit on the right for shopping lists, memos, important dates coming up next month etc. 

I also made a mini blackboard by my front door for important memos. I'm really pleased with how they turned out. Although I made them back in August last year, they're still going strong. Some of the pigment from the chalk has got onto the white paint when I've been careless with wiping. It's not too bad yet but I might need to touch it up with some white emulsion later in the year.

I still have lots of blackboard paint leftover, so I'll have to keep an eye out for more projects! 

Thistle Girl x

Friday, 15 February 2013

Baby Hats

Hello Everybody,

I just thought I'd share with you some baby hats that I've made recently. Back in September, my friend gave birth to her baby girl a bit earlier than expected and she weighed just 1lb 9oz! It was a stressful few months but she's doing well now and weighs nearly 6lb. Premature babies struggle to maintain their body temperature so have to wear warm clothes. I made her a few little hats. I forgot to take photos of some of them, but I'm sure you get the idea. They are really quick and easy to make and are great for practising knitting in the round, Fair Isle, stripes, intarsia etc. I mostly made knitted hats, but a few crochet ones snuck in too.

I found it quite hard to find patterns for teeny tiny preemies. The pattern I mainly used was one I found on a random typed piece of paper that someone gave me years ago. It's not credited to anyone, so I'll type it out here.

I made the smaller size, which I think still just about fits the baby (so probably up to 6lb). It also fit her when she was much smaller too. In the picture with the dusky pink hat, she was just under 4lb.

Using 3.5 mm needles (can be done in the round or straight) and DK wool (you can use 4-ply and smaller needles to size it down for a tiny baby):
Cast on 60 (70) stitches. Work 6 rows K1P1 rib.
Change to 4 mm needles (I actually didn't bother) and continue in stocking stitch until work measures 9 cm.
Then decrease:
1st row: K6 (7), K2tog, rpt til end.
2nd and alternate rows purl (or knit a row if knitting in the round).
3rd row: K5 (6), K2tog, rpt til end.
5th row: K4 (5), K2tog, rpt til end.
Continue decreasing as thus until approx. 12 stitches remain.
Work one row. Break yarn off and thread through remaining stitches. If worked straight, sew edges together with as smooth a seam as possible.

The crochet pattern I used was from Rosie's Cozies, it was the one with the ear flaps. The hats on this site are really cute and were designed for a 1lb 7oz baby that sadly didn't make it. I'm sure they can be easily modified for a larger baby. I only made one of these for the baby when she was still under 2lb but she wore it for some time.

I'm going to try and find some free time every month to make a hat to donate to the local SCBU/NICU. They are quick to make and can really make a difference. Make sure you use a washable yarn!

Thistle Girl x

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Sheep Toilet Roll Cover

Hello Everybody,

This might sound a little bit weird, but I made a Sheep Toilet Roll Cover for my friend's birthday. This may seem like a slightly strange gift but in my defence, the friend in question bought me the Toilet Roll Covers pattern book for Christmas so I felt she deserved one! I decided my first toilet roll cover would be the sheep pattern.

It's crocheted, not knitted. You start off by crocheting a circle and then spiral out from that to create the sides. The sheep's "wool" is created with fancy yarn and then a nose and ears are added. I created a bit of a scene at the pub at our local knit night when I brought along the loo roll to measure up!

It didn't end up looking very sheep like! I think I put the eyes a bit too close together. I didn't have any of the more sheep-like yarn that they suggested so I used some cream DK and some random frilly yarn I found.

I wonder which toilet roll cover I will make next?

Thistle Girl x

Monday, 11 February 2013

Owl Sewing Kit

Hello Everybody,

My friend was having a sewing party for her birthday and I thought it would be nice to make her a gift that she could use when crafting and sewing. I found this cute little owl on Etsy and decided to copy it. You can buy the embroidery design files here and quite a few people on Etsy seem to be making these owls and selling them. I'm not sure what embroidery design files are and I'm fairly sure my antique Singer sewing machine is not suitable for using them! So, I decided I'd just have a go at trying to copy it.

Here is the finished product:

I started off by drawing a template on paper, pinning it onto my two differently coloured fabrics and cutting them out. I then ironed on some stiff interfacing to give it some more support. I used a fabric scrap (curtain fabric sample) to make a little pocket on the front for bits and pieces and machined it on, making 3 separate compartments. I then cut out some felt eyes and a beak and hand-sewed them on using black embroidery thread. I used 2 tiny spotty buttons for the centre bit of the eyes as I thought they looked really cute.

I then cut out 2 long purple felt rectangles with pinking shears, folded them and machine sewed them into place. I made a little pin cushion for the other wing using turquoise felt. I hand stitched this into place and left a little gap to stuff it later. Next, I added 2 elastic loops for a stitch picker and 2 buttons to the underside wings for the closing clasp.

I pinned the two pieces of fabric together with the right sides facing inwards and machine sewed along the edge, leaving a gap at the bottom. I turned the owl inside out and lightly stuffed the wings. I then machine sewed a line along either side of the body and stuffed the body well with toy stuffing. At this point, I also stuffed the pin cushion and finished attaching it to the left wing.

Once I'd stuffed the body, I sewed it shut. The seam was a bit messy and lacking something, so I found a rectangle of denim and chain stitched my friend's name on it with embroidery thread. I then attached this to cover the seam. Finally, I added 2 elastic loops at the bottom to hold a couple of spools of thread and added a little elastic closure to attach to the buttons.

I bought a pair of pretty polka dot scissors, a measuring tape, stitch picker and a few pins and needles to complete the kit.

She seemed to really like it. It took quite a long time to make but I think it was because I was doing a lot of guessing and hadn't really thought it through before I started making it. I would definitely like to make another one as a gift. If I'm honest, I'd quite like one myself- they're rather handy!

Thistle Girl x

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Personalised Christening Gifts

Hello Everybody,

I was lucky enough to be invited to two christenings recently. Both were children of my friends, one a 6 month old boy and the other a 2 year old girl. As I was hunting around for a gift to give them, I decided I wanted to give them something a bit more personal. I thought I would make them each a picture that they could hang in their room.

After a bit of trawling around the internet, I found some inspiration for my little boy gift. I can't find a working link to the original artist at present but I'll link it if I find it. I totally pinched the idea but I'm not  selling it or anything. I decided to go with a nautical theme, all boys like that surely?

Here is the finished product:

It was quite simple to make. My biggest challenge was that I am not very familiar with my sewing machine so I got into a bit of a mess at times. I should probably have also bought the frame before I started the project, but you live and learn. 

I chose a cream coloured fabric for the background (I think it's actually old curtain lining!) and some pretty fabric for the boat and sail. You probably can't tell from the picture, but the sea is made from denim (offcuts from hemming my jeans). I used white felt for the cloud and a little bit of red felt for the flag. I ironed some interfacing onto the back of the background, to stiffen it a bit and make it easier to work with. I then backed my other fabrics with bondaweb and cut out the shapes before ironing them in position. Next, I just machined around the outlines of the shapes to create definition and to make the mast. I also machined the name in the cloud - it looks rather "rustic", but I quite like the effect of machine writing. My machine has no freehand foot, so it was easier said than done. After I finished, I ironed it again to smooth it over, before popping it in a frame I bought. 

Inspired by my first attempt at a hand-sewn gift, I decided to have another go for the next christening. This time, it was for a little girl. After another inspiration hunt, I found these simple designs by this lady - who sells them in her Folksy store.

Here is my finished product:

I chose some white material for the background. I then adhered bondaweb to various scraps of fabric and cut out the letters and the flags for the bunting. I ironed it all on, then machine stitched the top of the bunting before hand sewing around the edges of all the flags and the letters. I added a little birdie to finish it off. Hope she likes it. I learned from my previous error and bought the frame before I started to make the picture this time. It makes measurements a lot easier!

Thistle Girl x

Monday, 28 January 2013

Christmas 2012

Hello Everybody,

It seems a long time ago now, much longer than a month. We spend all year working up to the Big Day and then BAM! - it's over. In my family, we take it in turns to host Christmas. There is (currently) a three year rolling rota, comprising my Mum, my Aunt/Uncle/Cousins and Me. I'm looking forward to my Cousins getting their own houses so they can participate too, then it will only be every 5 years! I couldn't believe it was my turn again. Not that I don't love having everybody at mine, but where have the last three years gone? Three years ago, I'd just bought and moved into my first house, everything was new and shiny and I didn't have a garden (my house is a new build and it came with a patch of dirt). I was really looking forward to Christmas this year, but as usual time ran away. I have decided that it is just not possible to do all the things you pin on Pinterest! Still, it was very nice - even if it was over in a blink of an eye.

The major change this year was that I did not have a real tree inside. Gasp! Balthasar, my potted Christmas tree, was banished outside. Last year, I went away for Christmas and returned to find Balthasar (and my house) covered in hundreds of tiny flies. I destroyed them but then Balthasar took a turn for the worse and I thought he was going to die. He has recovered pretty well, considering, but I thought it would be kinder to give him a year off (and I didn't like those flies!). So, he stayed outside for Christmas. I still decorated him, but don't think I remembered to take a photo. I also made (with the help of my Mum) some star-shaped bird seed decorations to hang up for the fat little robin that visits my garden. When I first moved in, we didn't have any birds or wildlife - despite being on the edge of a forest - and it was eerily quiet outside. So much so that I actually bought a birdsong CD. Yes, you heard me correctly. There are a few birds now but not many little ones, mainly nasty magpies! Inside, I decided on a space saving creation instead of a real tree. I was inspired by this pin on Pinterest (yes, I'm obsessed) and decided to recreate my own ladder tree. I don't own any ladders but knew my Mum had a wooden pair so I asked if I could borrow them. I think my Mum was a bit confused at this point, she had no idea how I was going to turn them into a Christmas tree! Anyway, once I'd removed all the dust and dirt I decorated them with lights, hung a few decorations from the platform at the top and put the Fairy on top.
Before all the presents were put out!

Dodgy iPhone photo - sorry!

Not as smart or elegant as the Pinterest one, but Hey Ho! I may well have told you about my Tree Fairy  (?Angel, not sure of the correct terminology) before. She's just a simple Fairy made out of Cardboard, some hessian and a wooden ball for a face but I think she's fab. My parents had her when they first lived together but when I was about 15, she was evicted for a trendy star from Ikea. I was outraged. I kept on trying to put Fairy out but Mum kept on banishing her to the box. As soon as I bought my own house I told them I would be taking Fairy with me. I think she's characterful. It's also nice to have some childhood memories on the tree. Most of my decorations are new, but there's a couple of childhood items that my Mum let me have and they make me smile.

For place settings I went with the fir cone idea I'd seen on.... (I'll let you guess). However, painting the tips with emulsion seemed a little tedious. It was also Christmas Eve night and I was reluctant to go to the garage to hunt down some paint. So, the tips were painted with Tippex! I have the Tippex with the spongy bit on the end and it was great for painting with and dried really quickly. To finish the placesettings, I just typed names out and stuck them to the fir cone. 

I made some Reindeer noses and Snowman Droppings to give as gifts and also to put in a jar for people to munch on over Christmas. It is harder than you would think to find red sweets that aren't aniseed balls. Don't get me wrong, I quite like aniseed balls - but I am aware that other people do not. In the end (don't laugh) I ended up dyeing mint imperials with natural red food colouring to make the Rudolph noses. 

Call me strange, but I was slicing leftover Brussels Sprouts and thought they looked cool in cross section. 

Anyway, that's all I have to say about Christmas. Maybe next time I'll get around to making cranberry shortbread, cinnamon ornaments, Christmas cookie cocktails and the million and one other things I thought I'd have time to make! Hope you all had a good time. What did you get up to? Have you recovered yet? My decorations are still in boxes in my lounge, but I'm blaming the rain/snow!

Thistle Girl x

Sunday, 27 January 2013

FO: Purple Cabled Handwarmers

Hello Everybody,

Long time no blog, oops. This is a bit of an overdue post about my knitted handwarmers that I finished at the end of October. Yes, they did take me a whole year - but only because I forgot about them and they festered on the needles for many months. I think I've probably written about them before when they were a work in progress.

The pattern is called Midnight - with a twist! and is available as a free Ravelry download. It is fairly simple to follow. I went a bit wrong - I can't remember exactly what I did, possibly started the cabling a bit late (as in too far away from the thumbhole) but I did both the same so they look fine. I knitted them in this lovely merino cashmere DK from Artist's Palette Yarns that I randomly picked up at a show. It is a beautiful purple colour but ever so slightly variegated. They are really soft and cosy. My only complaint is the lack of "fingers" in this cold spell we're having - because I've misplaced my "fingered" gloves! At least my wrists are warm.

I'd really like to get some more of this yarn as I loved the colour and it feels so soft. Maybe I will knit a matching scarf.

My Baktus Scarf is getting a lot of use these last few weeks. It's been quite chilly and I like how you can wrap it around your neck several times to get really snug. You might remember that, when I first completed it, I was a little worried about the yarn being too scratchy for something that goes around your neck. Well, it's softened up nicely and the yarn has a bit of a spring in it so there's lots of warm cosy scarf to snuggle me warm. I'm quite tempted to make myself another one, but the first one took forever.

Thistle Girl x