Upcycling Granny’s dress

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When I spotted this dress (left) in Reign Wear, probably my favourite vintage clothing shop in Oxford, I just knew I had to buy it.

But once at home, I eventually realized it was way too long, with an ugly plastic belt and  an uptight schoolgirl look, complete with long sleeves and rond collar.

Still, I liked the fabric, the lovely pleats that became fashionable again like two years ago –  and it was a polka-dot dress! So I just thought a little upcycling could save it from rubbish or from an indefinite, unattended stay in my wardrobe.

 

Problem: it is not like I do not like sewing, rather sewing does not quite like me:

 

 

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To cut a long story short, and being without Cinderella mice, I took my efficient though rather unemployed  sewing machine (Janome Green) and started to work on the dress.

 

I eventually shortened the dress to knee-length, trimmed the sleeves adding red bias binding and above all, I got rid of the ugly belt and made a red cotton one.

 

To be 100% honest it is not yet perfect BUT I can wear it with a smile AND it actually matches my Almodovarish Chie Mihara pumps.

 

And now, a photo of me in the dress – a huge dose of old-fashioned sexism might be hinted here.

 

 

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Knitting takes balls / Knitting celebs

As a tribute to the awareness campaign for male cancers during April, I wanted to write a proper post on male knitters in popular culture.

Are you ready for this?

The hairiest

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Gromit

 The malest

Russell Crowe

The hottest (obviously)

Paul Rudd

 The most awkward

Chris Parnell (right), in the amazing Five-Year Engagement

The most eccentric

Gene Simmons (Kiss) ? Actually no, it is just a fun ad for hi-fi!

The most genuine knitter


David Arquette

The knitting Dodger

Ryan Gosling is a gorgeous man who no longer needs introduction and who repeatedly claimed that knitting was one of his hobbies (probably a token of his Mormon education). Problem: no visual evidence of Ryan Gosling’s knitting can be found on the Net. This did not prevent Internet users from creating a solid Internet meme on the subject:

Drop a comment if you think of other male knitters I could add to this list!

Gaspard, a French needle-felted bear

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*Caption: in French “feutrés” means both felted and muffled… A pas feutrés means to approach without a sound…

 

After the workshop with Gretel Parker, I decided to try needlefelting at home, with French supplies sourced in the gorgeous Parisian shop Pain d’Epices (“Gingerbread”).

I made a 3D sculpture from wool instead of merino: wool felts more quickly but has a dry, fuzzy aspect – which I guess becomes a bit tricky when it comes to small details. I suppose one has to decide depending of one’s project.

 

The bear’s name is Gaspard simply because Mr Republic and I love giving human names to animals. It is obviously a Gaspard.

And you even get a bonus picture of the work-in-progress I had posted on FB:

 

I think I am okay with needle-felting, not so sure about igloo-making!

 

Have a lovely Sunday!

Sweet Easter Bunny and needle-felting

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Last week, before taking a few weeks of holidays in my  homeland, I went to a workshop in my favourite knitting supplies shop in Oxford, Fibreworks, to learn about a very puzzling technique, ie needle felting and 3D sculptures.

The idea is to shape wool straight from the carder to create 3D items with specific felting needles.

Roughly, we want to go from this:

 

To this:

 

So it sounds and looks a little bit like black magic, but with some patience and imagination it actually works and it becomes a very addictive activity.

 

To get into needle-felting, our group had possibly  the best UK teacher, the lovely and very talented Gretel Parker. You can check her website and her amazing works at the end of the article. Her style is very graphic, colourful and cartoonesque, but if you browse Etsy, you will find strikingly realistic pieces. We made Easter candy bunnies, with very different interpretations – I tried to make a lop-eared bunny.

 

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If you are in Oxford and if you feel curious about needle-felting, Tash will provide you with all supplies in the Fibreworks on Cowley Rd.

 

References

 Gretel Parker‘s website (who published a pattern book about needle felting and does sweet illustrations)

Fibreworks, Oxford (with next needle-felting classes).

Knitting for Male Cancer Awareness

Today, I feel like talking of penises, wees, cocks etc. April is the month of Male Cancer Awareness. One of Oxford’s most active knitting groups, the Drunken Knit Wits  has decided to take part in a vast awareness campaign for research against Male Cancer:

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A few key facts

Around 2,300 men in the UK were diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2010.

Testicular cancer is rare before puberty but is the most common cancer of men aged 15-49 in the UK.

Incidence of testicular cancer has more than doubled in Britain since the mid-1970s.

Testicular cancer incidence is rising, particularly in white men.

 

Activities organized for the Knitting Takes Balls challenge include  (amazing pun) to teach willing men to knit and to make items to win during a big fundraising quiz event in a pub. Cherry  on the cake, we are also making a blanket made of amazing penis squares.

 

 

How can you be part of it:

  • You can donate at the following link to support the ODK campaign (no minimum amount – size does not matter in such questions)
  • You can share the info (I am sure you are very thrilled about having knitted penises on your social media and/or blog)
  • You can knit, of course! Here is our penis square chart (made by Janey) to be knitted with 4mm needles. Then we can arrange something for shipping or collecting if you live in the UK.

Further reading

Knitting Takes Balls FB page

Male Cancer Awareness Campaign Website

 

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The campaign is on during all April 😉 Many thanks to those who will help the project in one way or another !

Introducing Simone (the) Peg

I am pretty sure Simone the Peg can  be submitted as Pun of the Month.
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Today I will just show you a very quick and sweet project, the peg doll (as in, made from a peg, not the XIXth century toy). It is something I have seen quite a few times on Pinterest:

 

 

 

To make this kind of doll, you can buy a fair amount of wooden vintage pegs on ebay. You can even save some of them to add a vintage touch to your home decoration.

 

 

ebay Link (UK)

 

A dab of paint here and there and you have your doll (you may want to be careful about the face features just not to have a doll looking like a creepy clown). Mine is simply a ballerina (or a cabaret dancer) with a pompom skirt, but I really like the versions with fabric clothing.

 

It can also be a good craft activity for kids (but then you may end with a creepy looking doll ).

 

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Happy Mother’s Day

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Don’t worry, I am not nuts, UK Mother’s Day is actually next week.

When my mum saw the cute Valentine catdoll I had made, she said she wanted a doll too, without being specific about the way it should look.

So I grabbed my tiny DPNs and made a mini-me doll.

Again, I based my project on the Tanoshi Toy patterns – big head and tiny legless body – and made a little doll sporting a soft yet slightly messy mop of hair (with Debbie Bliss Angel). I even tried to reproduce my wild hairstyle!

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It also comes with trendy accessories, aka the charity shop acrylic hat which I have been wearing through the winter.

For the next doll projects, I plan to go for more normal body proportions to accessorize it more easily (because eh, that’s the fun part in knitting a toy) and I think I will knit it top-down for a safest, almost seamless toy.

Meanwhile, this cutie is going to be given to my mum in the form of a bag accessory to be carried around!

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Rendez-vous sur Hellocoton !

DIY: Upgrading a birthday gift on a bus

Let me explain: on Saturday, I went to a birthday party.

The girl celebrating her birthday had recently taken up Portuguese so that the safest gift I could think of was Nobel Prize winner José Saramago. And if the novel was about an elephant on a journey, all the better.

Only the big library in Oxford would surprisingly not do gift wrapping and I was to hop on the bus to London straightaway. I still found that giving a plain book was a bit of a shame. So I made the most of a few minutes on the bus to give my gift a slight makeover.

Photo on 15-03-2014 at 14.54

Photo credits: a very nice girl on the bus

Fortunately, I always have some yarn leftovers and a crochet in my bag. I chained stitches for a while to make a fancy ribbon and I improvised a crochet bookmark, with 3dc rows and a tiny pom pom.

Well obviously the novel matters most but I was still happy to upgrade the gift with a minimum of supplies.

My first time

Did I tell you about my first time? I mean the first time I knitted a lace project! My first experience in the matter leads me to share some useful tips with you.

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1)

Pick up a partner pattern you really like, there is no good in feeling compelled to it. I chose Emily Ross’s Haruni shawl, which has everything a girl wants: it is pretty, it is free and it does exist in French. And it is a cultivated pattern – haruni means grandmother in Elvish – as I am teaching where Tolkien was both student and teacher, I felt I could not miss that opportunity.

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2)

Enjoy safe knitting – it is the best way to feel condident and to avoid a nasty accident. There will still be problems in the process anyway. So do buy some good quality supplies, like a good row counter and stitch-markers which are specifically designed for lace-knitting (for pattern repetitions) – mine are Hiya Hiya (bought at the Fibreworks).

More generally speaking, just go for good quality instead of cheap supplies: I took a kickass yarn – Merinos Malabrigo Lace Yarn (Sotobosque) and reliable 3mm bamboo circular needles – still Hiya Hiya.

And even with a good kit you are not safe from a terribly embarrassing moment (in my case the crochet/needle binding off was something of a massacre at the beginning – it taught me a lesson about improvising new positions)

3)

Do it at home! One may be fond of outdoor kinky activities, but the first time demands way too much focus to be disrupted by external elements. For a while, do forget about knitting groups and outdoor sessions when knitting your lace shawl.

4)

Show off! The first time makes you proud and rightly so! Therefore once you are done, please walk about with your new knitted project – that is what I did last Sunday in sunny Oxford.

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Reading and knitting

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To the question: can one knit and read at the same time, someone with a bit of common sense will most likely answer in the negative way.

So how are we supposed to combine these two passions? Dull people might just say “Well drop your needles and pick up a book” which is actually the easiest way to go.

But then there are audiobooks. I hardly meet people who are fond of audiobooks to be honest, probably because for avid readers, the idea of being read to is at odds with the idea of reading.

Audiobooks are met with polite skepticism among intellectuals, as if  confessing your use of it equalled your saying in a literature talk on Jane Austen that you only knew of her work through BBC series.

More generally speaking, it is a common opinion to believe that only those who can’t read (children) should be read to.

But audiobooks have some good in them: it makes one hear the text, its rhythms, its implied meaning and its repeated motifs. They are in keeping with old traditions of reading aloud and above all, they are a gentler immersion in a text, especially for the days when one feels a little tired.

And it allows knitters to knit away while listening to the stories of the greatest heroes and heroines of all times.

Of course, there is some inconvenience too (beside the impossibility of dogearing your audiobook), mainly because the audiobook industry is not a very rich one and  draws mostly on volunteering (like LibriVox) so that there are good things and not-so- good things to be found. More significantly, I think it is a pity that most audiobooks simply do not make the most of this medium: there is often but one reader, very little reflection on atmospheres or extra sounds, in a word it is a traditional reading-aloud while it could be much more in some cases – it could be genuine audio adaptations, without texy editing  like in some good quality radio programmes.

Do you know of any nice audiobooks? Gothic tales and fantasy are usually good (Lovecraft, Harry Potter,…).

I have just finished to listen to Edith Wharton’s House of Mirth via Librivox free version  and I must say it was quite nice – I had already read the novel a few years ago but I really enjoyed rediscovering the 1900s Gilded New York. And it enabled me to complete a  shawl, which I will show here pretty soon!

Links

LibriVox