Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Rosy nosies

I made another key accessory for each of the RedNoseDay dolls.

Can you guess?

Well, how could they be Red Nose Day dolls without noses? They couldn't, that's how. So I made them some.

My favourite 1mm crochet hook, some red stuffing, some red cotton and a bit of jewellery elastic. And inspiration from Lucy at Attic24 - these are like her tiny balls, but I used slightly more stitches, a magic ring to start and a different method for the decreases. You can see Maisie wearing hers in the button on the right of my page.

Have you got your Red Nose yet?

Friday, 22 February 2013

Weaving for Red Nose Day, and a free pattern!

If you're in the UK, you'll know all about Red Nose Day and have probably taken part in many cake sales and sponsored pyjama days to collect donations over the last 25 years. This year, Emma Mitchell and Ros Badger started rolling a crafty fundraising snowball that has steadily grown and grown and grown - the RedNoseDay Doll project. Four friendly dolls, handmade and kitted out with a vast array of adorably cute accessories made by willing volunteers. How could I say no when Emma asked me to join  in? It has been pure joy from the start, a project which has just made people smile (and occasionally Squeeeee! OK, that may be mostly me.)

You can read about the pair of baskets I made, and all the other presents the dollies are receiving on their the RedNoseDayDolls blog. You can also follow the activity on Facebook (over 1000 people have so far, would be great if we could increase that!) or Twitter, and watch out for your chance to take part in the auction at the beginning of March.

One of the baskets (and the one that caused me the most hairpulling moments) was a fishing creel for Mac, the little boy doll. And just in case he has a bad day and nothing to show for his angling exploits, I included three little crochet fishies. If you'd like to make one, the pattern is below. If there's enough interest I'll make a photo tutorial, but it's pretty straightforward - you could look at my mini Downton Hat tutorial to help with the start.

Sing Ho, Little Fishy!

(Inspired by this pattern but with changes to starting method, increases, decreases and tail shaping)

You are working in continuous rounds. I just count, because I cannot keep crochet markers in any order.
I used Rowan Cotton Glace and a 1mm hook for the bodies, switching to a 2mm hook for the tails, because I didn't want the stuffing to show through.
NB These are UK crochet terms

* DC 2 together: insert hook into next stitch, YO, pull through a loop - 2 loops on needle. Insert hook into next stitch, YO, pull through a loop - 3 loops on needle. YO, pull through all 3 loops. I am not sure whether this is the right term, or the right way to do it, but it is what I do to make a decrease without leaving a hole.

1. Make a magic ring, and then 5DC into it. Tighten the ring.

2. 2DC into each DC around the ring (10sts)

3. 2DC into each DC around the ring (20sts)

4. Work 3 rows DC without shaping (20sts)

5. (DC 2 stitches together*, DC 9) twice (18sts)

6. (DC 2 stitches together, DC 8) twice (16sts)

7. (DC 2 stitches together*, DC 7) twice (14sts)

8. (DC 2 stitches together*, DC 6) twice (12sts)

Pause here to stuff the little fish to within an inch of its woolly life. I use fine nose tweezers, pencils, and the non-hooky end of my crochet hook to ram it in.

9. (DC 2 stitches together*, DC 5) twice (10sts)

10. (DC 2 stitches together) five times (5sts)

At this point it will be so small and fiddly you will curse me, but persevere!

11. 2DC into each DC around the ring (10sts)

12. 2DC into each DC around the ring (20 sts)

At this point I switch to a 2mm hook to help the wavy shape of the tail.

13. (1DC, 1Htr, 1DC, slip stitch 7) twice (20sts)

14. Repeat previous row - (1DC, 1Htr, 1DC, slip stitch 7) twice (20sts)

Now fasten off the thread. Flatten the tail so that the Htr peaks form the outermost points and then join the sides of the tail together either with slip stitches or by oversewing.

Add a pair of little eyes - I used a tiny circle of glitter felt and a sparkly jet bead - and pinch the tail until it is the shape you wanted.

And that's it!

Friday, 15 February 2013

Living in the past and the present

I can't remember now whether I've ever mentioned that I like to weave. I took up weaving in the early 90s when I was a lonely postdoc in the US and a friend persuaded me to go with her to her evening class. I made a truly hideous yellow and purple egg basket and was hooked - from that point I wove every pattern I could lay my hands on, experimented with dying reed, and filled my tiny apartment with baskets and trivets. When I moved to upstate New York to rejoin Mr DC my hobby continued  - I stocked a spare room with reed, joined a weaving guild, went to basketmaking conventions (oh, yes, I did) and started to teach friends the basics. I designed baskets for our wedding which went into the hotel rooms of our family members, filled with bottled water and aspirin, and wrapped with tissue paper and love. I foolishly didn't make one for us to keep.

When we moved home to the UK, my baskets came with us - picnic baskets (separate ones for food and wine), woven rubbish bins, a laundry basket - but the reed had to stay behind. Our new house was teeny tiny, with no room for weaving. Pretty soon we moved into our present home; first one baby arrived, then her little sister and the extra space we had gained was filled with small people and their belongings, as it should be. Baskets were forgotten.

A year or so ago I met a local basketmaker and remembered just how much I had loved my hobby. Over here willow is a very popular weaving material and while you can buy reed (it's called centre cane) it is imported and expensive. Willow seemed to be the way to go. I signed up for a class and made my first wobbly plant support. Then  last autumn, Celia mentioned she had met Debbie Hall, a willow artist who runs courses and would some of us like to go along for a day? Try holding me back.

A second, far more pleasing, obelisk came home with me; and soon I had revisited Debbie to learn how to weave borders and make lanterns. One of my unfinished border practice pieces lives in our honeysuckle and looks like a sunburst, inspired by the one in Debbie's garden. Another hangs on our front door - a willow wreath, if you like. My fingers have not forgotten how to twine and rand and wale.

This week I tried a pattern for a very simple bird house. It's in Kirstie Allsops's craft book. It has issues - the buff willow I bought is rather splitty, and it has no proper base and I'm not sure any self respecting bird would look at it twice; but it has given me ideas for improvements and new designs I am itching to start. But in the meantime I have taken on a little project to do some weaving for some very small, very special dollies to raise money for Comic Relief. More of that another day - my efforts are nearly finished and when they are I'll let you know but in the meantime you could head over to visit Mac, Maisie, Blossom and Poppy's very own blog and see some of the other goodies the four cheeky friends have been given already!