Cat Tree is a Hit

I just got this new cat tree for Herbert.

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It’s less of a cat tree, and more of a cat barrel.  I wanted it to have a small footprint and not be a hideous monstrosity, so it fitted the bill.

There is a comfy bed on top and three dens inside. The bottom two dens connect, and the top den is self-contained. There is even a fluffy mouse on a piece of elastic suspended inside, for hours of fun.

 

Monty and Larry, checking it out

Monty and Larry, checking it out

Trouble is, this cat tower is standard cat-sized. Not Maine Coon-sized. They fit on top OK, because they fold up really small. But they can’t get their great backsides and tails inside.

 

Hey, I don't fit!

Hey, I don’t fit!

Still, it’s useful for storing toys and pulling bits of string through.  And it’s covered in sisal so they can give it a good scratch, instead of the bookcase.

The reason I got it for Herbert is that he hasn’t really got a perch to call his own in the kitchen. Larry has the laundry basket, where he has his special cushion. Monty has the top of the bookshelf, where he likes to look down on us. And now Herb has his own cat tower. I really hope it will help to build up his confidence and stop him over-grooming.

Zzzzzz

Zzzzzz

Till next time,

L x

 

 

New Baskets are Ready

New 100% wool baskets are ready and listed for sale.

9-inch square basket

9-inch square basket

9-inch round basket

9-inch round basket

11-inch round basket

11-inch round basket

18-inch round basket

18-inch round basket

Carefully designed and made over many weeks, these baskets have all manner of uses.  The wool is semi-felted and slightly spun, giving a firm structural finish but retaining its natural softness. As readers of previous posts will know, cats love them. There is a faint scent of fleecy wool about them which seems irresistible to felines. And of course they are snug and warm. If your cat has ever made a little nest on your woolly jumper, your cat will love these baskets.

Larry likes it

Larry likes it

Monty takes 3 in one go

Monty takes 3 in one go

Herbie snuggles down before I've had a chance to cast off

Herbie snuggles down before I’ve even had a chance to cast off

They also make great work baskets, ideal for holding all your bits and pieces for a small project.

Basket will grip your knitting needles and keep them safe

Basket will grip your knitting needles and keep them safe

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I have had a lot of fun making these, and I hope you like them!

Till next time,

L x

Mrs Bunny’s outfit is complete

I finished Mrs Bunny’s jacket and here it is with the dress.

But whose feet are those poking out?  Not Mrs Bunny’s, surely!

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Oh, I see now…

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It’s Shelf Cat modelling Mrs Bunny’s outfit for the photo shoot!

I am going to give Mrs Bunny her new clothes as soon as I can arrange a visit. I will be sure to take pictures of her in all her glory. That’s if they actually fit her.  Here’s hoping!

Till next time,

L x

Something Completely Different

It doesn’t feel much like Easter here in Sheffield, what with all the snow and ice and not a single crocus or daffodil in sight. But making some clothes for a toy bunny is quite appropriately festive for the time of year.

After spending weeks working on the extreme knitting cat basket, it was time for a change. So I put the giant needles away and  started to think about Mrs Bunny’s new wardrobe.

Mrs Bunny belongs to the daughter of a very dear friend. She has been so loved that she has lost all of her fur and looks quite undressed. A new set of clothes is in order.

This is such a fun project for me. I don’t have to try to be stylish or subtle.  Pink, fluffy, and cute is my design brief. Of course, Mrs Bunny isn’t here for me to constantly check the fit, so I am working from detailed measurements and hoping for the best.

First I thought I would make a dress. I had a look through my stash and settled on a dusky pink DK, with a slubby, fluffy white contrast. My design included some pearly beads and a couple of heart motifs.

As always, minimal sewing is my aim so I started at the hem on double pins and worked upwards in the round. I divided for the armholes and left one shoulder open for getting the dress over Bunny’s head.

That was the plan, anyway. But the first attempt threw up some issues. The lacy heart motifs were supposed to be topped with a small bobble, so that they looked like rosebuds. But my bobbles were so messy that they had to go. Omitted, the rosebud became a heart.

I found I was working in the round with the wrong side facing, so every row was a P row. This meant I had to convert the pattern for the lacy rosebud/heart from knit-based to purl-based.  I managed to do this OK, but why make it this hard? Why not just work with the right side facing?

The other problem with working purl rounds with the wrong side facing, was that my decreases were untidy. I was placing some decreases as I progressed up the skirt to the waist, to create a flared shape.  I found that P2 together was not as neat and subtle a decrease as K2 together. I also had not placed the decreases evenly between the heart motifs.

Then I checked the measurements and realised that Mrs Bunny’s dress was far too big. Time to unpick the whole thing, address all of these issues and start again.

For some reason I found it really hard to cast on 88 stitches, join in the round and have the right side facing. So I knit one row first, then joined in the round. That did the trick and I was away. The lacy heart motifs read easily off the page for K rows.  I found the optimal spot for my decreases and worked them beautifully with K2tog.

Mrs Bunny's new dress

Mrs Bunny’s new dress

I found a pearly button to finish off the shoulder fastening. Ain’t it pretty?

Now I’m making a tweedy jacket to go with the dress. Fingers crossed that they fit!

Till next time,

L x

New Fish Dishcloths are here!

These are my new fish dishcloths. They could be face cloths too, or washing cloths at bath time. Kitchen or bathroom, they are made to swim in water!  The yarn is super soft, 100% organic cotton. This was a real find: it’s hygienic, naturally clean, which helps to protect against allergies and respiratory problems (so says the blurb). The wash and wear properties are far superior to normal cotton, and it’s softer too. It certainly feels wonderfully soft on your fingertips.

I wanted to write a quick and fun knitting pattern for the fish. I realised that for a heavy-wear item like a cloth, it probably wasn’t a good idea to sew anything on.  I didn’t want any fussy details with threads to hide, especially when the wrong side of the work would be so visible. All the detail had to be knitted in, in one go.  That way, the wrong side would be relatively neat and uncluttered, and there would be no chance of any sewing gradually coming unravelled after some heavy use.

I really enjoyed playing with these fabulous bright colours!

 

Next job is to lay out the pattern and get it listed.

**Update 24 April 2020 – pattern is available on Etsy and Ravelry**

I have another fish design in development…very excited! Coming soon…

Till next time,

Happy knitting,

L x

Knitting a cat

For a long time I have wanted to combine my two favourite things and knit a cat. If only I could get around to working out how to do it. Of course, I could have just bought a pattern and knitted a cat. But for me that would be a cop-out. I’m supposed to be a designer, after all. I looked around the web for knitted cat patterns. There weren’t very many out there, and in any case, typical me, I wanted to do it in my own way.

There are so many creative decisions to be made for a project like this. Firstly I had to decide how much detail to include. I could knit a blob with ears and a tail and it could be a cat. Or I could go for a lifelike, every-last-detail design. The more detail you include, the more parts there are to knit and sew together. You could end up with a complicated design which requires a lot of tiresome fiddling around. It might be a great result, but complex construction can be very off-putting.

So I had to decide on a basic shape, and then decide which details should be included whilst keeping the design as simple as possible.  I took some time out from the studio and had a cup of tea in the garden. I have a cute garden ornament in the shape of a cat. Actually, it is not in the shape of a cat at all, it is just a sphere with a cat’s face on it and a couple of ears. Uh….bingo! There was my knitted cat, right there. Inspiration strikes!

I really wanted to nail this design so I took the rest of the week off my day job and shut myself in the studio. I knitted for 8 hours with barely a break. I got a blister on my left index finger where I push at the needle with every stitch. I didn’t even realise I did this!

Herbie helping me in the studio

I worked the bottom circle in the same way as my cupcake. With some well-placed shaping, I added a snout panel – a protrusion to indicate the cat’s muzzle. I knitted up a couple of test snout panels before I was happy with the size and shape.

The decreases for closing the cat’s head were tricky to get right. I can only work out shapings like this by writing out every stitch on squared paper and counting out the decreases row by row. I wasn’t sure how steep the sloping should be. The first attempt wasn’t right so it got unpicked. More squared paper. I tried again, not sure if the snout panel was at the right height or not. Fortunately this time the shaping worked well, and it so happened that the snout panel landed neatly in the centre of two decreases, as if I had planned it. A lucky accident like that spurs you on.

The ears were easy, but the paws took five attempts to get right. It had to be a strange shape with corners which when folded over achieved exactly the shape I was after. Next job was the face. There was no getting away from it – it had to be embroidered on, and it had to be right, because the whole design depended on an appealing face. Several attempts later, I was satisfied with it. Then I added a tail, and voila!

 

I’m already looking at my yarn stash and sizing up which yarns to use on the next version. I may go fluffy.

I love the patterns which emerge in stocking stitch when you are shaping with increases and decreases. Those fluid vertical lines merge and separate in a very pleasing way.  Knitters, you know what I’m talking about….

Till next time,

Lx

Extreme Knitting Cushion

I made a cushion.  Not a cushion cover, but an entire cushion, in one.  This is extreme knitting, folks!

Rocking chair with cushion

I started with a 400g ball of aran weight yarn.  I needed 20 strands, so I took my digital kitchen scales and started winding into 20g balls.  I was expecting a ‘baker’s dozen’ of yarn, but was surprised to find that my 20th, final ball of yarn weighed only 13 grams.  So actually the  ‘400g’ ball was 393g.  Bah!

I placed the 20 strands together, threw the 20 balls into a box, and started to cast on.

I used the knit cast-on, and I deliberately twisted the yarn a bit with each new stitch, to give a nice firm edge.  One stitch equals 2.6cm (one inch), so only 17 stitches were needed.

I discovered that the essential thing with this technique is to keep all 20 strands as even as possible.  With every stitch I was combing through the yarn with my fingers to keep it straight.  Each time I wound it around the needle, it formed a natural twist.  The twist gradually built up down the yarn as I progressed.  Every couple of rows some untwisting and untangling was required.

It took me 3 false starts before I was happy with the tension.  I didn’t know how many rows I would be able to work, so I just kept going until I ran out of yarn.  I was about 4 rows short of a perfect fit for my kitchen chairs.  So really I need 500g for a complete cushion.

The cats were fascinated by what I was up to.  A large cardboard box is one of their favourite things in the world!  And it was filled with little balls of yarn – second favourite. And said balls of yarn were being constantly jiggled about!  This was heaven in a box for them so I had to distract them with loads of other toys and then wait till they were sleepy.

What I like about this cushion is that it’s firm and soft, and it doesn’t look like you’ve just knitted a rectangle in garter stitch.  It doesn’t really look like garter stitch at all.  Just big, chunky ridges of yarn.

Hope you are seeing some progress with your own projects,

Till next time,

L x

Creative Space

To be creative, you need the time, space and inspiration to express yourself in your chosen medium.  If you are trying to create around a full time job and other commitments, that time and space are all the more precious.  I am loving my new workroom!

Due to a massive re-organisation of stuff upstairs, I now have a whole room for my creative space.  You don’t really need a lot of room to knit in, but it makes a difference when you are surrounded by the yarn and objects of your choice, rather than someone else’s gear relating to their project.  This room was previously a music studio, but that has gradually been moved downstairs.  A few bulky bits of gear were left, but after nearly 2 years of no use at all, we decided to clear it all out.  OH built me a worktable using the leftover piece of beech kitchen worktop and beeswaxed the surface.  I re-organised my yarn stash and gathered all my knitting books and resources together on the shelves.  It’s a fantastic hangout for me and the lads, when music stuff is happening downstairs.

Workroom Larry

From my chair I can see every ball of yarn in the stash.  Which tells me that I’m going to need more shelves.

I also have space for my spinning wheel.  I haven’t learned how to spin yet, and my wheel needs some attention, but for now it’s a beautiful and inspirational object and I love it.

Spinning Wheel

The stand next to it is a 1930’s cake stand.  I can just imagine it loaded with cakes, and the waitress in a frilly apron….  So where better to keep my knitted cake samples, in cake tins, on the cake stand.

Having said that, I feel that I’ve ‘done’ cakes, and it’s time I moved on.  I have a few ideas in the pipeline, but creative decisions take me a long time.  Hopefully my new creative space will help me to get moving.

Till next time,

L x

It’s a knitting revolution!

Ooh it’s my first blog post!  Been meaning to have a proper blog for ages and now I’ve finally got one.  I’m not the sharpest tool when it comes to the technical stuff and it’s taken me most of the day to work out how to get my page to look just so. Now I must post something so that it feels like I’m off the starting blocks. (mmm, topical metaphor there).

But I’m not here to go on about the Olympic Games, fabulous though they are (did you see the cauldron being lit? Wow!  And the Queen!).  No, this blog is all about creativity and design.  I design things in yarn.  Mostly cakes.

Flower Cupcake

The Flower Cupcake

A while ago I wanted to knit a cupcake.  I googled like mad for a pattern, but didn’t find any that were quite right.  There were some very good designs out there, but they either did not have the detail I was looking for, or the construction involved sewing together various little pieces.  Now, as a lifelong knitter, I know that knitting is the fun part.  The sewing and seaming is a pain, a necessary evil that all knitters have to take in their stride at some time.  Or the project might never be finished.  Unless it’s a scarf.  That’s why there are hundreds, no, probably thousands, of unfinished projects stashed away in drawers and attics the world over.

So I set about designing the ultimate knitted cupcake.  Starting from the bottom, I made an attempt with no seam at all, working in the round on 4 double pins.  But I came unstuck when I got to the top and had to think about inserting a cardboard disc and stuffing.  It didn’t work.  So then I decided to aim for one piece with one seam.  I still had to use a couple of double pins in the first few rows, to allow for the multiple increases, but I found I could switch back to 2 needles once I’d worked the sides.

Then I had a brainwave.  A picot edge would nicely suggest the crimped sides of the cupcake case.  So I did a ‘pick up and knit’ on the last row of white, and worked a 2-stitch picot all around.  All I had to do now was to cut a cardboard disc to snugly fit the bottom, stuff, and sew one little seam.  Then a flower and a bead to finish.

Using this basic construction, more designs followed.  Obviously I had to knit a butterfly cake:

Butterfly detail

The Butterfly Cupcake

Then, inspired by the pattern of 8 decreases per row on the cupcake top, the Spider Cupcake followed:

Spider Cupcake

The Spider Cupcake

I never thought I’d be knitting cute spiders to decorate toy cakes.  On a bit of a roll, I then produced the Rainbow Ladybird Cupcake, Goodness knows where this came from:

Ladybird Cupcake

Oops, forgot to do the picot edging on that one.  More of a bun, then.  I had a lot of fun making these bug-topped items.

I made a few more pink flowery-type cupcakes and the obligatory Christmas Cupcake, but the Flower Cupcake was the first design and turned out to be the bestseller.  So far I have only sold the patterns, not the finished items.  This is simply because I don’t have time to knit a lot of cupcakes and I would get bored making more or less the same thing over and over again.  Besides, I get the biggest kick from working out the details of a design within the limitations of some yarn and two needles.  So, on to the next design!

http://stores.ebay.co.uk/knittingrevolutionpatterns