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21  NEEDLEWORK / Needlework: Completed Projects / Blackwork map of Africa on: May 12, 2014 12:11:26 PM
I have finally finished my glow-in-the-dark blackwork map of Africa. This is my entry in the Intermediate Embroidery category of our Needlecraft Guild's annual competition. I am pleased with how it turned out.
Day light picture

In the Dark 
I couldn't get the camera to work very well in the dark so it is rather grainy.

The theme of the competition is Out of Africa.  I took Pliny's quote and did a blackwork map of Africa to go with it.  I have wanted to do a blackwork map for some time. I did it in glow-in-the-dark DMC floss on black aida as I thought glow-in-the-dark thread would be the "something new"  at least our grandmothers didnt have it.  Also Africa was often referred to as the Dark Continent so I wanted to signify that it has its own light.

After it was all finished and I showed it to my daughter on Skype she pointed out that I had left out South Sudan  Embarrassed.  Actually I had a few problems with the map, as the outline map I found on the internet didn't have Lesotho, Swaziland or Eritrea.  So there may be other countries I have missed.  Oh well,  it is supposed to be Embroidery not Geography.

For Zimbabwe I did a couple of the stonework patterns from Great Zimbabwe herringbone and chequer.  Then I had to add two strips of fabric to the sides of the piece because the competition rules say it has to be at least 30 by 30 cm.  My bit of black aida was irregularly shaped and only 30 cm in one direction but I had enough of the rest to cut two strips to make up the difference.  I joined them using the Great Zimbabwe chevron pattern.
To transfer the map to the black aida I printed it out and traced the mirror image onto white muslin which I tacked onto the back of the black aida and then stitched all the country outlines in running stitch. Once that was done I cut/frayed away the muslin and did the fillings.
I got most of the blackwork patterns from String-Or-Nothing  A wonderful resource for blackwork patterns.

The fill I used for Madagascar I made up myself. I wanted to do the traditional technique where you do simple running stitch in various directions and it all comes together into a pattern at the end.  It was fun seeing how it all looked more and more confusing until the last vertical pass turned it into a pattern.

1    Completed First Diagonal pass
2    Completed Second Diagonal pass at 90 degrees to the first pass
3    Completed Horizontal pass
4   Completed Vertical pass

The glow-in-the-dark DMC floss was a real pain to sew with.  It slips out of the needle, knots itself and it snags on any skin roughness. The outlines were worked in double stranded floss which I achieved by using a long single strand and doubling it through the needle so there were no ends to slip out.
The fill in blackwork is traditionally done with a single strand of floss and the only way I could do that and retain my sanity was to split the single strand into its two component fibres and double one of those through the needle to give a single complete strand of floss. 

The whole piece is backed with cream "barkcloth" and the edges bound with black satin bias tape.
22  TOYS, DOLLS AND PLAYTHINGS / Toys, Dolls and Playthings: Completed Projects / Sleeping mermaid on: April 12, 2014 12:29:45 PM
Still working on my cloth doll skills.

Here I was experimenting a bit.  The eyelashes are made from white satin folded double and then the fold was machine stitched with a very small tight zigzag satin stitch. (As for a buttonhole.) Then I frayed the edges to try and make them look like eyelashes white to match her hair. I don't think it was entirely successful.

The tail was also white satin.  I took two strips and wet them thoroughly and then painted stripes of green, crimson and blue fabric paint and used water to let them run and blend until I liked the look of it. 

After drying, and heat setting by ironing, I quilted the scales in a tail shape.  You can't see it well in the photos but I stitched on the wrong side and used a spool of Gutermann Sparkle Metallic Thread, Aqua shade, underneath so that I would get a glittery outline for the scales.  It sort of worked but I had problems with the thread catching and breaking maybe my tension was wrong.

The buttons for her shoulder joints are mother of pearl (of course) from my grandmother's button box.
Her wide awake fluffy pet octopus is based on this Octopus  pattern from Red Heart.  I used Rowan Kidsilk Haze Stripe by Kaffe Fassett and a very small crochet hook I think a .75mm.

I'm not entirely happy with her face. The profile is too flat and I think I got the proportions wrong but she is  part of the learning curve and I like the way her hands and opposable thumbs turned out.
23  KNITTING / Knitting: Completed Projects / Fox fur - the vegetarian option on: March 23, 2014 12:45:13 PM
I saw this stunning "fox fur" by luckdragon and I just had to make one for myself.  Thank you so much for the link to the pattern luckdragon.  I did alter it a bit to suit my yarn.

I used an eyelash yarn called elle Plum 1  x 50g (60m) ball of 501 Zebra for the tail and face (I would have preferred a plain white but choices are limited where I live and I was lucky to find the Zebra which is mostly white), and 2 x 50g (60m) balls of 254 Chimney Smoke for the body on 5 mm needles. Tension was about 18 stitches and 26 rows over 10 cm. (I also used 3 ply black acrylic yarn four strands together for the nose)

I started with the ears.

Garter stitch
Inner ear. Cast on 2 stitches with White. Increase at beginning of each row until there are 11 stitches. put these onto a stitch holder.
Outer ear. Cast on 2 stitches with Brown. Increase at the beginning of each row until there are 12 stitches.
With the inner ear slip alternating stitches of brown and white onto a stitch holder.
Repeat for the other ear and set both ears aside.
Starting with garter stitch in White and 2 stitches increase at both ends of every alternate row until there are 28 stitches.
Change to Brown and continue in garter stitch for another 26 rows.
Next row decrease 6 stitches evenly across the row to give 22 stitches.
30 rows of knit 2 purl 2 rib for the narrow part of the tail.
Next row increase 6 stitches evenly across the row to get back to 28 stitches.
Continue across these 28 stitches in garter stitch for about 80 - 90 rows - measure it against your neck to see when it is long enough.
Adding the ears
On the next row
Knit one, then knit 2 stitches from one ear together with the next stitch (3 stitches together) Repeat until all the ear stitches have been knitted off ( the last ear stitch will be on its own so you only knit 2 together. Knit 2 stitches.  Take the second ear and knit the next stitch together with the first ear stitch.  Then knit 2 stitches from the ear together with one from the body until all the ear stitches have been knitted off.  Knit last stitch.  Make sure that the inner ear is facing away from the tail as you do this.
I knitted  the face in garter stitch using this chart.  I hope it is self explanatory. You start decreasing on every alternate row in the brown and then add in the white on either side as you continue to decrease at both ends of every alternate row. So you end up with a long brown nose and white cheeks.

The four rows of four stitches for the nose are done in stocking stitch using 4 strands of black acrylic 3 ply.
(I got the graph paper from  http://www.tata-tatao.to/knit/matrix/e-index.html  A wonderful site where you input your tension and it creates a graph paper that you can print out and use for designing motifs directly.)
Once you have finished the last black row change to white again and garter stitch and increase at each end of next and every alternate row until there are 28 stitches. Cast off.

Fold the face and stitch underneath the row where you joined in the ears.
Sew the fronts of the ears to the backs.
Sew two buttons for eyes.
Wrap the fox around your neck and slip the tail through the mouth.

24  KNITTING / Knitting: Completed Projects / Cottage Teacosy on: March 16, 2014 04:51:31 AM
This year the theme for our Needlecraft Guild annual competition  is Out of Africa.
So for the knitting and crochet category I decided to do a variation of the knitted cottage tea cosy by taking inspiration from traditional Ndebele thatched cottages.

This is the front.

And this is the back.

I hadn't much experience with intarsia before and I wouldn't like to attempt it on a larger piece. 
You can see from this picture I took when I was part way through the back wall how many balls of wool I was using at one time.

I used butterfly bobbins as they were much easier to use than yarn wound on cards etc.
I knitted front and back separately and grafted them at the roof.

The reason for making the tea cosy in this shape is because the rules of the competition say the work must measure at least 30 x 30 cm and, although it is more than 30 cm wide, if I had stitched the sides together it would only have been 25 cm tall.  So I have used horn toggles and crochet loops to fasten the sides and this also means it can fit a range of teapot shapes.
I used 3ply yarn double on 3mm needles for the patterned side, switching to 3 mm needles for the roof, and for the lining I used chunky yarn on 6mm needles.  The reason for the odd mix of yarns is that I was using up all kinds of oddments and I happened to have a couple of balls of chunky yarn that I wanted to finish off.
I attach a pdf of the charts I used and instructions  in case anyone else wants to make one.  The charts are working drawings so not entirely complete or finished as I didn't bother to draw a motif that was repeated twice but just copied the one I had already done.
25  NEEDLEWORK / Needlework: Completed Projects / Embellished Quilt Square on: March 07, 2014 11:09:54 AM
I really don't know where to put this. The butterflies are crochet, the caterpillar is bullion stitch with a bead eye and the whole thing is going to be part of a quilt. 

Our Needlecraft guild is having an exhibition this year and one of our members is making a quilt to raffle.  She handed out squares of floral printed fabric for us to embellish and return to her by next Thursday.  This is my contribution.

The butterflies were crocheted in single strands of DMC floss. The red and purple glitter is E130, the silvery blue is E317 (5287) and the white is luminous E 940.  I didn't get a picture of it in the dark. The pattern is by Apak.
You can't actually see it very well, but for the butterfly feelers I just tied a thick knot in the starting and finishing ends of the thread they were made from.
The bodies are three long stitches of five stranded floss couched down in the middle to separate the abdomen and thorax.
 I have to say that although they are small it was a lot of work to crochet these. One of the hardest parts was separating out the single strands as I did not want to have to join any thread so it had to be continuous. Also the glitter thread is quite hard to work with at the best of times and the luminous floss kept catching on any slightly rough skin on my fingers.

The caterpillar is bullion stitched in single stranded DMC 4050 with a tiny green glass bead eye.

I'm looking forward to seeing what everyone else does and I'll try and post a picture of the finished quilt and some of the other squares here too.
26  COOKING / Dessert / bethntim's chocolate mayonnaise cake on: October 20, 2013 01:49:11 PM
Just to say how thrilled I was at the way this cake turned out.  I normally have no luck with cakes.  Unless it is a very rich fruit cake they always collapse in the centre.  I do keep trying new recipes all the time but without great hope.  They usually taste great but, without exception, flop.  Sad

But for our Silver wedding anniversary I made bethntim's mayonnaise cake and it was wonderful, such a success. I didn't have a ring cake tin so instead used two victoria sandwich tins. Also I used self-raising flour.  As you can see all this did not affect the success of the recipe. It rose beautifully and was so moist and chocolatey. I can't praise it enough.  At last I have found a cake that works.

Many many thanks bethntim.
27  CROCHET / Crochet: Completed Projects / Polish star cafetire cosy on: October 20, 2013 12:17:58 PM
The larger cosy was my entry in the crochet section of our Needlework guild annual competition in May. The theme was stars. The smaller cosy was a practice for the bigger one.

This is not done in proper Polish Star stitch.  I changed the way of doing it to make it easier (for me) but it still uses the same basic technique of weaving the loops to achieve the same star effect.

For anyone who wants to try this I have attached a pdf pattern. I had to include a lot of pictures in order to show the method of weaving the loops.  It is a bit complicated until you get the hang of it so I hope you can follow my instructions.  Other people have posted videos of the weaving of the loops on the web which may be easier to understand.

Also, although I took pictures as I went along - mainly for my own records - I didn't write down the method until afterwards so I hope there are not too many glaring errors.
28  NEEDLEWORK / Needlework: Completed Projects / Star pillowcases on: October 14, 2013 01:37:30 PM

A pair of pillow cases were my entry for the embroidery section of our Needlecraft Guild annual competition earlier this year.  The theme was "Stars"

I was inspired by the geometric string art designs of my schooldays.    Since this involved counted thread work I used waste canvas to stitch them on the cotton pillowcases.

A few in-progress pictures

The white thread in the centre of some stars is DMC glow in the dark floss.
29  TOYS, DOLLS AND PLAYTHINGS / Toys, Dolls and Playthings: Completed Projects / Dimples and Opposable Thumbs on: August 31, 2013 11:40:23 AM

I wanted to move on from the cloth dolls I have made from socks and try some new techniques.  In particular I wanted to have a go at a method of defining the mouth shown in Sunnhild Reinckens' book Stoffpuppen Wie Kinder Sie Lieben.  And also a way of making thumbs opposable that my mother told me of some years ago. 
Of course the day I decided I wanted to do this I had no suitable fabric in the house except a pair of sleeves cut off a blue t-shirt that I'd turned into a vest.  Being impatient I didn't want to wait and buy some fabric just for something that was going to be experimental and might not turn out well at all. 

These photos show how I stitched the inner head to give the face a bit more shape than the usual Waldorf type face.

All the body parts are marked onto the fabric using templates and stitched before cutting out. The pattern for the hands is squared off instead of rounding over the fingertips.

The opposable thumbs are done by stitching the arm seams including the thumb,  but  leaving the finger tips open. You may be able to see that in the photo above. Then you fold the tube of the arm/hand so that the seams move  to become the lines demarcating the little finger  on one side and the index finger on the other (instead of being directly opposite each other)

This pulls the thumb round into the palm. You have to make sure before you sew that you don't make two left or right hands Roll Eyes

My sewing of the fingers isn't all that neat.

The shoulders and hips are button jointed so she/he can be posed a bit.

In the end I thought he/she turned out quite cute if an odd colour.
30  COOKING / Recipes and Cooking Tips / Lots of lemons on: July 28, 2013 08:08:26 AM

Our lemon tree is covered in lemons and all last month I was busy making lemony food.
Lemon curd

I used this recipe from the Daily Mail  and it made two full jars. Very nice and kept well in the fridge.

Lemon Marmalade

From my ancient and dropping-to-bits copy of Marguerite Patten's Jams Pickles and Chutneys
Delicious for Sunday morning breakfast.

Lemon tang ice-cream

This is a recipe my mother used to make when we were kids in Nigeria. No freezers in those days but you could make ice-cream in the trays from the ice-making compartment of the fridge.
1 large tin evaporated milk 397 g
2 eggs separated
3 oz. sugar
grated rind and juice of one lemon
Put the unopened tin of evaporated milk in a pan of water and boil for 20 minutes. Allow to cool and then chill overnight in the fridge.
In double boiler (or basin over hot water) beat together egg yolks, lemon rind and juice and 2 oz. sugar until thick. Allow to cool. Whisk evaporated milk until thick and fold into lemon mixture. Whisk eggs whites till stiff. Beat in remaining sugar.  Fold into lemon mixture. Place in ice-making trays and freeze.

Lemon drizzle cake

Having made the lemon curd I had to have a go at r.craftwright's lemon and almond cake

Unfortunately it turned out nothing like her's because it collapsed in the middle, but since everyone was quite happy to eat it like that it didn't matter.  But I wanted to try and get it right so  I made another one and the same thing happened. Then my Mum-in-law said she'd had the same problem until she switched to making it in a round tin so I made another one and guess what, it collapsed in the middle again.  Cry
So I guess I am doomed to have all my lemon cakes sag in the centre but since they taste okay and I have no ambition to enter them in a show, I can live with it.

Lemon squash

My Grandmother's recipe
3 lemons
2 lbs. sugar
1 pt. boiling water
2 oz. citric acid

Pour boiling water over the lemons and allow to stand for 10 minutes. Remove lemons and dissolve sugar and citric acid in the water. Squeeze lemons and add the juice. When cool store in the fridge and dilute to taste.

Last of all  - Lemon creams

Only they aren't really. Just plain 1-2-3 biscuits sandwiched together with  thick glace icing made from lemon juice and icing sugar.

Still a lot of lemons on the tree so I plan to make lemon surprise pudding and lemon meringue next.
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