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September 2019

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Circular Design

September 21, 2019

It feels like it's been a while since I blogged about new designs I've been working on, although I mentioned one a month or so ago, which was a storage case for circular knitting needles.  This one has taken quite some time, but I'm delighted to say that I feel much closer to a finished item that I can be happy with.

I guess it would have been easy to just make the case using the usual styles that are already available via mainstream manufacturers and other handmade makers, but I really didn't like the look of those and felt that it should be possible to make something a little more polished.  Moving from that proposition to actually coming up with a design that works is another matter!  I spent a lot of time thinking about how it could work and drafting up shapes and measurements, but always felt dissatisfied – I knew what shape and style I wanted it to be, but to store lots of circulars (my aim was to have 12 large pockets and 6 smaller ones), it would need to larger than I wanted.  After thinking around the circulars problem in for weeks and going in actual circles, I finally decided to do what always works best for me and just cut up some fabric and make it!

So this was my first attempt at the case using a cute Kokka circus themed print.  At a little more than 13 inches high and 10 inches wide, it was way larger than I wanted, although there was stacks of storage inside, with room for many more pockets, if I'd wanted them!  On the inside front cover are pockets for storing smaller circulars.  With 8 pockets, there's tons of room here.  Like most of my prototypes, it's now become my circular needle storage, although I have very few fixed circulars to store – you can see my complete collection here:

Most of my fixed circulars are mini circs used for socks and when in their original packaging, I found that they fit perfectly into the central 'pages' of the case which were designed for larger circulars:

Admittedly, the colours here are a little wild – as this was a prototype, and it matched the mood of the colourful outer circus print, I used lots of colourful offcuts of cotton 😀  The construction is also very rough with extra lines of stitching here, there and everywhere, which is something you can't really avoid when you're sketching with actual fabric and the sewing machine – I do wish I was better at thinking things through with a pencil and paper.

Because I'd already made more pockets for circulars than you could shake a stick at, I didn't want to put more on the back internal page, so I put a large zip pocket in there and crocheted a little rope to store stitchmarkers on:

In retrospect, I think I could have put all the pockets I needed on the inside of the 'book' and not bothered with the two internal pages at all, but I still didn't like the overall size and went back to the drawing board.  After more measuring, fiddling and a couple of false starts, I came up with this much smaller folio design that's just 9 inches wide and 7.5 inches tall, when closed:

This Enchanted Forest print is perfect for it too!  When you open it up, you see this:

There's a little press stud at the bottom to keep this folded over piece in place, then you open that to see all the pockets inside:

There are 12 large pockets and 9 smaller ones in total and I think you could certainly store more than one needle in each pocket, if you wanted to.  I've done away with any other storage, although I think it'd be easy enough to add more, if needed.  I definitely don't like my construction choice for the pockets here and will be changing that on the next version, which should see the width of the case reduce a little.  In this version, I decided to make sections with finished edges for the pockets, which was to reduce the bulk in the seams of the whole piece, but you can see that it hasn't worked – getting the edges of several different pieces perfectly square with each other is pretty impossible, even when they're cut and sewn precisely – they always go slightly wonky on turning out and pressing.

The next stage of my design is to answer a number of questions about how the case works in practise: do the closures work effectively; do circulars fit as well in the pockets in real life as they do in theory; do the circulars sit safely in their pockets when the case is carried about / moved / opened and closed in the usual course of use?  For this stage, I'm hoping to have some help from a very kind customer who can road test this prototype and give me some feedback.  This is something I've done a couple of times in the past and it is so helpful.  For most of my designs, I can road test them myself, but when the design is for something that I don't use, like this case, that's pretty impossible to do in a meaningful way.

Another new design completed in the last few weeks is my re-vamped sewing case, here in an absolutely gorgeous limited edition Liberty print:

I'm super happy with this new design, it feels much more flexible with the new scissor storage, which means that stitchers can store their own favourite small scissors in the pocket rather than the ones that come with the case, should they wish to.

The anchor for the scissor keeper is also a great excuse for sewing on pretty buttons!  My plan is to replace all my sewing cases in the shop with the new design, as and when making time allows.

My latest finished reading (or listening, since I use Audible), is The Familiars by Stacey Halls:

It really is hard to believe that this is a debut novel, it is so well written, in every respect. I'd read the description of this novel several times and thought it sounded like something I'd like, but rejected it because it might just be another one of those novels with a whiny, irritating heroine. Happily, it's not.  From the Audible description (©2019 Stacey Halls (P)2019 Bonnier Books UK):

"To save her child, she will trust a stranger. To protect a secret, she must risk her life….

Fleetwood Shuttleworth is 17 years old, married and pregnant for the fourth time. But as the mistress at Gawthorpe Hall, she still has no living child, and her husband, Richard, is anxious for an heir. When Fleetwood finds a letter she isn't supposed to read from the doctor who delivered her third stillbirth, she is dealt the crushing blow that she will not survive another pregnancy. 

Then she crosses paths by chance with Alice Gray, a young midwife. Alice promises to help her give birth to a healthy baby and to prove the physician wrong. 

As Alice is drawn into the witchcraft accusations that are sweeping the North-West, Fleetwood risks everything by trying to help her. But is there more to Alice than meets the eye? 

Soon the two women's lives will become inextricably bound together as the legendary trial at Lancaster approaches, and Fleetwood's stomach continues to grow. Time is running out, and both their lives are at stake. 

Only they know the truth. Only they can save each other."

A very enjoyable read that was over way too soon. The story was very original and unpredictable and I loved the idea that it was based around real events (the Pendle witch trials) and on a real person, albeit that her history was pretty much all made up. The narrative also made for a great opportunity to think about what it would have meant to be a woman of the time. The writer did a great job of making you really feel that restriction of freedom and the danger you could very quickly find yourself in if you went against the men of your circle or society – even if you were a privileged woman of the upper class.

I'm looking forward to reading more by Stacey Halls.

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2,500 things!

September 8, 2019

Last week I had nothing new to record for my maker's journal and this week, there seemed to be stacks going on – not least selling my 2,500th 'thing' in my Etsy shop!

It honestly doesn't seem like very long ago that I made my 100th thing, which felt amazing, so you can imagine how this feels! 😀  I tend to be quite demanding of myself, so I probably don't take the time to celebrate successes when they come along, but this one does feel very special.  Each of those 2,500 pieces was made by my hands and was bought by someone who values that – wow.  The best thing about running my little business these days, now that it feels a bit established, is how many lovely people keep coming back to me to make them more 'things' – that really does feel good and I'm so grateful that they do.  When I think back to the last few years of my corporate working life and how utterly miserable I was, these days my work is a joy and it has all been built by me and lots of wonderful people who like what I do.

Now seems like a good time to talk about something new I've added to the shop:

How cute?!  My own collection of stitch markers and progress keepers is very small, but I so enjoy using them that I spend time window shopping for charms and thinking about making some of my own.  When I came across these enamel charms, I had to have them for myself and bought extra to make stitch markers for the shop.  It turns out that lots of other people loved them, so I have ordered some more of these and a few others that caught my eye…  One thing that irritates me a bit about stitch markers / progress keepers is that they tend to be one or the other and it seems to me that they could and should be both.  They also tend to fit on up to 4mm needles only and as I'm a keen worsted in the round knitter, I often wish they were bigger.  With these two points in mind, I've added a large size double split ring to mine and the usual size lobster clasp – that way, you can use them on larger needles and easily remove or re-add the lobster clasp as and when you like.  It's like Transformers for knitting 😀

My new cowl design is also finished and I now just need to write up the pattern – see that word "just"? it's a big one that one – LOL!  I am actually planning to put this pattern in a little booklet with a couple of other easy cowl patterns that I've been meaning to write up for a while.  I always have very good intentions!

Another new make is this A5 notebook cover:

This was attempt number 1 and the fit is a little snugger than I'd like because I decided at the last minute to add puffy fleece to the outer as well as cotton interfacing and didn't allow for the extra headroom I'd need to have in the fabric.  The great thing is that I love this polar bear fabric and as this first version isn't perfect, I get to keep it for myself and use it every day for my work notebook 😀

When I make the next one, I think I'd also like the inside pockets for the notebook flaps to be a little wider to hold the book better.  I'm very glad that I added the snap closure to the side, it holds everything perfectly snug when it's closed.

There was also a 'last' thing made this week – this little polar bear purse:

I ran out of this fabric (except for one purse's worth) quite some time ago, which is a shame – it's so cute.  I have a few little scraps so it should turn up in a bit of patchwork somewhere, sometime.

Just as I had an order for an unseasonal 'Hesketh' snowdrops project bag a few weeks ago, I had one for a 'Hubert' daffodils bag this week:

Although this one is actually seasonal for it's new owner as she's in Australia, where Spring is just springing!

In my mind, Christmas is the next season as this is the time that the shop starts to get busy with orders from people like me who like to start early and get organised.  I spent a while yesterday cutting out fabric for some special Christmas pieces I have planned and I also sent out this bag, which although the print pattern is totally not Christmassy, makes me feel Christmassy!

I really do have to do more with this winter white Metallic Essex Linen and I have a particular plan for it, if I can find the time to make it.  I only managed to get a small amount of this lovely Maureen Cracknell Moon Stories fabric in this white, although certainly enough for at least one more bag.

Reading wise, I continue to make my way through the Sevenwaters series and I'm about to finish book three, so more of that next time.