Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Failed Hat for me #1

So this was the first hat I made for myself. After months spent knocking up things for other people (my aim was to make something for everyone at Christmas but I ran out of time in the end) I decided that I would make myself something - especially as I was going hatless while my friends were swanning about in my original creations.

This was the Cloche Cap that I made using this pattern. It was nice and easy to do, but no matter how large the hook was, I couldn't get it to fit the gauge. Possibly because I was intent on only using one strand of double knitting rather than 2 strands as requested in the pattern. Because I'm a cheapskate.

So, as expected the hat came out a little on the small size, but it fitted my pin head fine. You can see my charming boyfriend is reluctantly modelling it for me and it looks a little tight for his manly-sized head, but for me it was just about right. Despite this, I soon concluded that it had another fatal flaw. It didn't suit me. This in spite of the fact that I generally look pretty spiffy in hats. Problem was, it looks better perched on a curly mop, and it just didn't really sit right on my straight locks.

Well that's my excuse anyway. The fact that my fellow straight-haired, pin head friend came over the other day and took my cloche along with the other hat I made her (more of that another time) is beside the point. She tells me she's not wearing it, however, because it doesn't cover her ears which is no good for winter.

So failure all round then.

No wait! There's a happy end to this tale. Having seen how good it looked on Milway's curly locks, I decided it would be a great wheeze to make a similar hat for my brother-in-law, a great tall man with long flowing curly locks of silver and blond. Mighty impressive hair indeed, in dire need of a house cap to lend even more of a distinguished air. I also knew it would annoy aforementioned niece. Incentive enough for anyone. Alert to the undersized failings of the last one, I added an extra shelly bit at the start, and ended up with a huge hat that I thought would be far too large. It did end up being on the large size, but still within the limits of acceptable hat-to-head size ratio. Brother-in-law was, of course, delighted. Niece was, of course, appalled.

So success all round then.

Except she got the better of me. While my father was down for Christmas he took a shine to the hat and took to wearing it. Come leaving day, she convinced him to thieve the hat so now I'm the one who gets to be humiliated by my father and she gets to chuckle in a self-satisfied manner. Truly, there is no justice in the world.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Flower Cushion

I saw this pattern and absolutely loved it immediately. It was only after I made it and showed it to friends that I realised that my design tastes appear to have been stolen from an old lady. I've stuck to my guns, however, and this (still unfinished) cushion has pride of place on my knackered old green chesterfield (see what I mean about the old lady tastes). Still, I must still have some doubts about its design merits, because I bought two cushions to cover and not only have I not made the second one, I've not even finished this one off properly.

This was actually the first non-Granny Square-based thing I made. Until then, I'd only ever known how to create trebles and double trebles, and I only ever picked up my crochet hook (pinched from my mother's collection) sporadically, usually to start a large blanket that would invariably be abandoned by the third square (ah, the folly of youth).

Since I was (and still am) a bit of an amateur at this sort of thing, I went online to learn how to do the basic double crochet stitches. Problem is, when I then made the thing, nothing quite looked right. Being a slow learner, it took me until I'd finished the first side to realise that the Americans have changed the names of all the stitches, so I was doing trebles instead of double crochets and double crochets instead of single crochets (oh, the larks!). Being both lazy and stingey, I decided not to waste time and wool unpicking the whole thing, but simply made the other side correctly (which you see here now) and added a few extra rows to the edges to get them to meet. Incidentally, the guage was totally wrong for the smaller UK sizes - it would never have worked out the right size even if I had followed it correctly. So the extra rows would have been in regardless. Incidentally (mark II), you can quite clearly see that the lazy crocheter has used the older US large central yellow bit for the right-hand blue flower. Louisa Calder wouldn't mind...

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Crochet Bag

Good old Louisa Calder came in handy again for this bag I made for my niece. It's a lot smaller than the laptop case I made, but is pretty much the same sort of thing. I still hadn't twigged about the row of trebles, though, so it's threaded through the stitches as per last time. I really like this bag, but I actually meant it to be horribly garish again to annoy my niece (isn't that what Aunts are for?) after she mocked my laptop bag. I was tempted not to give it to her, in fact, but since I'd left it too late to get her something she might actually like for her birthday, I had no choice but to give it to her. I stuck in a load of Burt's Bees products to soften the blow of the ugly present. And gave her a new mobile as well, so maybe I should have kept the bag after all...

Those with a keen eye and a rapier wit will note that I've quite clearly missed a few stitches along the way. I'm still not quite capable of making something without mistakes. Even somethings as simple as a rectangle, double crochet bag.

Crochet Laptop Bag

Yes, I really did crochet myself a laptop bag. Thing is, the laptop is teeny tiny - about A5 size - and so no normal laptop case was going to cut it. I made it while sat in hospital waiting for Al's Gran to recover after her op went horribly wrong (thankfully she's on the road to recovery now) and it helped to keep me busy and gave me something else to think about that wasn't too taxing. The pattern is based on one from this fantastic old book called "Louisa Calder's Creative Crochet", which is full of loads of garish designs - just the sort of thing I love.

She's obviously a true English eccentric, and the ghostwriter is at pains to point out that she comes from an artistic environment and that her husband, Alexander Calder, was "one of the greatest sculpters of all time". Quite what he had to do with it is a mystery to me, but this was published back in 1979, so maybe including your husband's bio in your own book was less strange back then.

One of the best things about this book is the inclusion of some truly awful designs, that even I, with my love of all things bright and woolly, can't bring myself to admire. There's a whole section on creating woollen ties for men to wear with their suits, and since the designs are very similar to this bag above, you can get a fair idea of just how horrified any man would be to be handed one of these as a gift.

And along with some remarkable revolting neckties, there are a a few designs that appear to have been knocked up by the artist's small, academically inept, relative. Probably around the 6 year's old mark. But no, we discover that Louisa herself is responsible for stitching the red bag together on the outside with black wool and uneven stitches, because imperfections should be left if it "enhances the final result". Certainly, the designs that quite clearly drop and regain stitches liberally throughout for no apparent reason are "enhanced" by the look, but whether that's a good thing in this case is something I'd be willing to dispute.

But despite much guffawing at some of the things our Louisa felt happy to include, she gets full credit for giving me some great ideas of things you can do with simple double crochet (US sc). Specifically, the colour changing is a real eye opener. Usually you're told to pull through the new colour as the final loop in a stitch, but these designs start a new stitch with a new colour, giving a little "bird in flight" dot effect that works really nicely. She does it the whole way through, and while I don't like it when changing rows (I'm too anal for such sloppiness), used to add little colour flecks, or bands of colour, it works really well.

The only downside to creating a bag like this all in Double Crochet is that I find it really hard to work up any pace and so it takes a lot longer than making Granny Squares, for example. There aren't actually any patterns in the book, you get general written instructions on how to do it and what to chain, etc, but after that you just have to work it out from the pictures. I should have put in a row of trebles for the pull ties, but I didn't read the instructions properly.

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