Monthly Archives: July 2013

Handmade Gifts of Crochet Love

Over the past few months I seem to have given myself the challenge of creating any gifts that are given by me or my family.  There has been a run of birthdays including those of Miss L’s preschool classmates, family and friends.  Plus a new baby here and there.  So I’ve been busy.  Here’s the list thus far:

softie teddy

lavender eye pillow

lavender hand balm

two super hero costumes (plus an extra set for Miss L …the prototype actually)

two softie bunny-type creatures

half a dozen crochet hens’ eggs, and

two sets of crochet headband, wristband and brooch.

This is the one I just finished for my daughter’s little friend who’s turning five tomorrow.

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I’ve certainly been doing my share of crochet lately.  As I have said before I find it therapeutic…relaxing…satisfying.  I had already made a few of the little flower headbands for Miss L, but with 8 ply acrylic yarn.  I love the natural, crisp look and feel of cotton though.

The handy thing about small creations like these is that yarn leftovers can be utilised.  In this case it was someone else’s leftovers purchased by me on ebay.

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To make the bands for the headband and wristband I used a very simple crochet pattern called ‘up and down stitch’, which features treble crochet (US double) and double crochet (US single) in alternating stitches.  My recent discovery of this, and plenty more patterns in my vintage copy of Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Needlecraft was a delightful moment.  I felt rather ashamed that I hadn’t looked at it sooner, especially because my mum had lovingly given it to me a couple of years ago.  To think that I’d been scanning the pages of Pinterest rather than handling the leaves of a humble book that was at my fingertips all along!  My grandmother would shake her head.  Anyway, here is the pattern:

Chain a multiple of 2 ch plus 2 (I couldn’t work out why this isn’t just a multiple of two…perhaps it’s acknowledging that the length is the multiple of 2 ch, not the plus 2 bit as well?)

Row 1

skip 2 ch, 1 dc (US sc) in next chain, *1tr (US dc), 1 dc *, 1tr, ch 2, turn

Row 2

skip 1st tr stitch, *1 tr in dc of previous row, 1 dc in tr of previous row*, 1 tr in ch 2 of previous row, ch 2, turn

Rep from Row 2

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I used a 4 ply cotton and 3.5mm hook for both the headband (100 chains long) and wristband (34 chains long).  Obviously your chain length will vary depending on the size of the recipient (in this case, a five-year-old girl).  Both the wristband and the headband are about 8 rows wide (I forgot to write this down so I’m not certain…but just make it to your desired width)! To join the ends of the headband strip I overlapped them slightly and hand sewed together using the same cotton.  I found that the up and down stitch of this width produced a pattern with two tiny holes at the ends of the band – perfect button holes, which I utilised for fastening the wristband!  (Alternatively you could create button holes by skipping a few stitches where you want your button hole and just chaining for this tiny section instead; or making a little chain loop at the end of the band.) Then two little buttons were stitched to the other end.

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The sweet but simple flower pattern was courtesy of the very generous Scrapbooking and Cards Today Mag blog.  (Note that this pattern is written in US terminology.  ‘Double crochet’ (dc) equals ‘treble crochet’ (tr) in Australia and the UK, and ‘single crochet’ (sc) equals ‘double crochet’ (dc) in UK and Australian terms.)  By varying the size of the hook and yarn, you can make different sized flowers.  The largest hook I used was 4.0mm the smallest was 3.0mm and the yarns were 3-4ply cotton.  For the other headband set I also used a 2 ply cotton with 1.75 and 2.0 mm hook and these flowers turned out very sweet (great for the smaller flowers on the brooch). The little purple flower was created by mistake.  Instead of six trebles (US dc) for each petal I did six double crochet (US sc).  But it turned out just right for the upper flower part of the brooch.

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You can combine the flowers in whatever way you choose.  For example, you might like two of different size and colour for the headband or three for the brooch.  And you could put button centres on the headband and wristband too.  All flowers were hand-sewn on to the bands or to each other using the same cottons (I actually used the tails in most cases).  The little button was secured to the crochet flower beneath it using cotton thread.  To finish off the brooch I sewed a small gold safety pin to the back with cotton yarn.

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And as a final touch I added a little card  with Miss L’s two striped cats drawing.  (I couldn’t resist having it converted into a stamp…to Miss L’s amazement.)

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Together with some good old-fashioned type-print from my old-fashioned friend.

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We shall find out tomorrow if Miss Turning-Five likes her gift!

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Home for the Holidays

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I couldn’t resist including a little typewriter love in this post – a packing list for last week’s holiday.  To my old house.  Sounds exciting doesn’t it!?

An odd list of holiday necessities it would seem.  Secateurs?  Boxes of cushions? Actually it wasn’t exactly a holiday.   The purpose of our trip was to make preparations for our eventual return to our property and for the arrival of a special house sitter.  There was lots of work to do.

But there were lots of sweet surprises to be had too.  Like the abundance of flowers in my garden despite the fact that it’s winter.   My resourceful preschooler set about collecting them (edible ones only) to make various exotic teas.  (Nasturtium or calendula tea, anyone?) I showed her the delightful red pineapple sage flowers and hinted about their sweet nectar contents.  Needless to say Miss L kept herself occupied with those for a long while.

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Our old vintage rocking horse became a surrogate pet for the week.  ‘She’ was lavished with various garden treats including nasturtium leaves and flowers, of which we have an abundance.  Thanks to my nasturium planting method of throwing handfuls of seeds onto the general designated area and hoping they will eventually germinate.  And of course now they self-seed quite happily.  This could be a problem. But I’ve noticed that as the seeds are too large to be dispersed by wind (they’re about pea size) they tend to fall close to the parent plant rather than spreading all over the garden.  Which is very good of the nasturtium.  (In contrast to the lemon balm which I mistakingly planted in a front garden bed and now discover popping up anywhere there’s a bit of soil.)

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While Miss L was busy with plants and animals I found myself taking pseudo-holiday snaps in between wiping out the kitchen cupboards, unpacking boxes and blindly assembling the timber bunks which I bought second-hand on ebay.  ‘Blindly’ refers to the fact that the bunks came minus instructions…so it was a joyful exercise.  As you can imagine.  (And thank you, Mum, for your amazing dedication, perseverance, and skill.)

The sunny calendulas below were shot in a hurry – those little feet were  getting into a suitable position for flower-picking.  I had to be quick!

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This bright but delicate fungus was growing on a timber log that informally edges the front garden.  It was quite tiny.  But look at that colour!  Nature is incredible, isn’t it?

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And this beauty was  in a pot amongst the other orchids that were given to me by my mother-in-law a few years ago.  Living in absolute neglect.  What a perfect welcoming gift from my home itself.

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Typewriter Love

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I received a new toy in the post today. Well. It’s clearly not new. But hey, I haven’t used a typewriter since tapping the keys of my mum’s 1960’s Olivetti Lettera 32, back in the eighties. So to me it’s as good as new.

And it seems to be working fine so far. But I must say that ‘tapping’ is hardly the correct description to use in reference to pressing down the keys of a vintage typewriter. If one merely taps on a key one can barely get the key to make contact with the ribbon. ‘Bashing’ is more apt. Perhaps before modern computers, smart phones and pads, tapping was an acceptable word. Before we really new what it was like to literally tap out a few words with our fingers.

Today after testing the keys to make sure they truly are in working order, I announced to my mum (via a tapped out text message on my smart phone): ‘How you ever typed fast on a typewriter is beyond me’. Mum could type fast. Lightning-fast it appeared to me when I was a two-finger-tapping…make that ‘bashing’…youngster.

Anyway, I didn’t make my new purchase to assist with my typing speed. I decided I’d like to use a typewriter to produce little labels for some of the softies and such that I create. I thought genuine typewritten cards would be a nice touch. As opposed to just using a computer typewriter font and printing them.

So I’ve been searching online lately and eventually found this Olympia Splendid, apparently from the 1970’s. I didn’t pay much for it. I bid on ebay and was the lucky winner. But golly gosh. I could have paid lots and lots for an old typewriter. During my recent typewriter quest I discovered that people will pay big money for old typewriters. Even if the machines are not in working order. Antique stores, online or not, seem to charge no less than $100 for anything from the 70’s or older. Mostly closer to $200, and of course the asking prices go well above that especially for any that hail from the first half of the 20th century. On ebay it’s easier to snap a bargain, but most of the starting bids for vintage typewriters are set at $60 or more! Plus delivery.  I settled for something that was still clutching on to it’s youth, and in working order. But without an exorbitant fee.

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There’s something really appealing to me about vintage typewriter typeset. The imperfection. The rawness. The nostalgia. And to enrich this appeal is the existence now of different coloured typewriter ribbons. My excitement on discovering not only green and blue but pink…yes!..and purple…no?!…was perhaps a slight overreaction! But isn’t that brilliant?!!

My intention was to type out this post on my splendid new typewriter.  And then scan it.  I thought it would look quite cool.  But the problem is a typewriter wasn’t intended to use when everyone else in the house (particularly easily woken babies) is asleep.  And when everyone else in the house is asleep happens to be the only chance I have to write my blog posts (without distraction).  I also wanted to finish the post before the end of the year.  So I had to settle for the above photo.

I might just become an obsessive vintage typewriter collector yet. Like this fellow in Canberra. Amazing.

But for now I’m going to get re-acquainted with an old friend. Not that old, really. But old enough to be vintage. Just like me. I think we’ll be happy with each other.

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