Saturday, 29 December 2012

Taking a line for a walk

So Bad Hair Day Lady has a little boy (I'll call him lego boy) who loves to draw. When he was 4/5 years old he went through a particularly creative phase and lucky BHDL would stumble upon these magnificent pictures when tidying up after her noisy brood. She told me these pictures reminded her of Paul Klee, who said 'Drawing is taking a line for a walk' (or something like that).

Now I am not ashamed to say that I don't know my Klee's from Kandinsky's but I could see the link:
Panels of the doodle quilt

Lego Boy's drawings aged 4-5
Well needless to say this tripped the quilty ideas switch in my head and I had a lot of fun choosing fabrics and machine quilting the pictures - it really made me notice all the small details, like tiny faces in the windows of trucks. The machine embroidery was also a great way of using up Aunty Maureen's cottons, some of which are very old.

Doodle quilt detail: looks like a snail

Doodle quilt detail: birdcage head man and friend

Doodle quilt central panel: Thimble on the right
Probably a bit narcissistic, but I couldn't help putting my picture in the middle of the quilt (that is me on the right with the big chin). I wanted to join up the pictures with a maze design, but it got a bit complicated so I did a modified maze:
Taking a line for a walk quilt
For the border, I wanted to use up all the odds and end bits, so I used my new bias binding maker and was very pleased with the result, and with my thriftiness.
strippy bias binding
Anyway I was thrilled with the end result, so thanks Lego Boy for your inspiration. I hope this stands the test of time. Weirdly enough the portrait of me from the central panel (done in felt tip pen) was in a frame on my bookshelf and over the course of the year whilst making the quilt, the picture slowly faded away and now is just a ghost would have been lost forever had I not embroidered it into this quilt!


Sunday, 23 December 2012

Craft Crazy

This year's christmas tree angel is the lovely Castiel. I am not sure he featured strongly in the Jesus story, but then neither did magic mushrooms and marshmallows knitting a blanket, which also adorn our delicately tasteful plastic tree.
Something was missing though and I didn't know what until we were given this lovely hand-knitted snowman with crocheted twig arms. Thanks Sheila!

Sheila's snowman

Monday, 10 December 2012

Party Frock

Party Frock
Work christmas parties. Enough said. This year I was determined to fulfil my resolution to make a frock and make a proper job of it. It has been a(nother) curve on the mysterious and sometimes incredibly frustrating but mostly fun journey of learning needlecraft.

This was the starting point:
It was a sorry moment when after a recent severe cold spell necessitating extra portions of pie, I had to 'upsize' Hedley in the bust department. Then the really fun bit of ordering fabric which I mostly like to do in a real shop but I ran out of time so used Calico Laine which has the widest selection of dress lining fabrics I have ever come across and is really reasonably priced. I chose the Airforce/Navy iridescent satin back Dupion because it looked a bit special...and also some polka dot green cotton...well just because.

Unlike the lovely lady in black on the packet, my figure crossed over several size bands which was a bit confusing, being a novice. I decided to be extra careful and EVEN made a muslin FIRST:
Hedley in muslin
The idea being that this is made using the pattern, sewn up, tried on and then the muslin pieces adjusted and unpicked to become the new pattern pieces. I am jolly glad I didn't miss out this step because I had to add 2 inches to the length and alter the curve of the side panels. Well to cut a long story short I got into a bit of a pickle sewing the lining to the front mainly because I didn't read the instructions. I also found out that Satin back Dupion frays really easily and is not the best choice for a beginner. There were a few sweaty moments when I had to unpick the zip and it might have ended up in the bin at the attaching the skirt stage, had I not remembered that my best qualities are perseverance in the face of adversity and optimism.

Well, I did it. I had my Pretty in Pink moment (anyone else remember feeling a little crestfallen at the unveiling of the dress in that film after the tremendous build-up? I'd do it again though.
Pretty in Pink
Pretty in Airforce/Navy iridescent satin back Dupion

Wednesday, 21 November 2012


Patchy: front
Patchy: back
Hedley looks like she has been eating too many pies.

Here she is sporting a Thimble original - a patchy skirt using all my favourite floral fabrics, inspired by the twirly skirt.

A Room with a View (1985)
The design is not actually original in that I borrowed from a per una skirt in shades of grey that I have had for a decade. It is also lined...albeit with curtain lining...which makes it quite suitable for Autumn. I can also picture it being worn in a wildflower meadow in Spring in a cloud of butterflies (picture the barleyfield scene in 'a room with a view')...though here it is more likely to be damp tick-infested bracken and my allergic rhinitis would probably detract from the romance of the moment. Roll on spring...

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Good hats

Herdwick hat

Herdwick hat with lining
I was planning to talk about every good hat I ever knitted or had knitted or bought hand-knitted or admired, but realised it was a bit ambitious and would involve too many pictures of my head.

So instead I have picked 2 recent lovelies. First is the hand-dyed hand crocheted Herdwick hat I bought at Woolfest this year. I believe it was made at Crookabeck farm. A Herdwick hat?! Yes, that is correct, an itchy scratchy Herdwick hat. The colours are incredible - those hand-dyed greens really do shimmer in the all too brief glimpses of Cumbrian sunshine - always makes me think of the iridescent Green Tiger Beetle for some reason. I have no idea how the spinner managed to make something like this into something so vivid, I have a lot to learn about dyecraft.

Nevertheless, although I tried to be stoical, it really was like wearing a hair shirt...I think...and before long I added a lining. Now it is my all time favourite hat. 

Second I will mention this hand spun Gotland wool hat which we bought from Croft Wool and Weavers in Torridon. The couple who spin and dye and weave this wool from their own sheep had a lot of interesting things to tell us about wool and sheep. One fact I recall is that the harder the life for a sheep (the bleaker the winter, the crappier the weather, the sparser the diet), the finer/ softer the wool. I might have got that completely wrong as I only had half an ear on what he was saying - I was too busy fondling all the lovely scarves and shawls to pay full attention.

Anyway this hat caught our attention for its simplicity and the unusual gathered top. We decided it was definitely a man's hat even though we were told it was not committed to any particular sex and could be whatever we wanted it to be. I think that was a sales pitch. Not sure what makes a hat a man's hat but this hat has whatever it takes.
Gotland wool hat: Croft Wools and Weavers

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Twirly Skirt

Twirly Skirt

Although things appear to have been quiet here for a couple of months, there has in fact been significant activity behind the scenes in Thimble land. Most of these projects are TOP SECRET hence no posts.

The little imp girl who drew Bad Hair Day Lady is just the kind of girl who would make the most out of a twirly skirt. I am having fun with patches at the moment and wanted to make a little patch skirt.

The nicest/only patch skirt pattern I could find was on Etsy but due to a technical malfunction I ended up with this pattern instead:

Not being averse to a bit of pretty I have been collecting bits and bobs of charming fabric from Temporary Measure for some time. For those not already in the know the little rabbit and big bear on the fabric are the same little rabbit and big bear to feature in the very lovely books written by a wizard wordsmith I know.

This pattern gives options for making 'girly', 'preppy' or 'cool'. A little sleight of hand and I created 'patchy'. Add a rabbit T-shirt and I think we can call this an 'ensemble'. Not only that but a 'themed ensemble', something I feel was sadly missing from my youth. In fact you can probably see that Cathycoo (in turquoise ensemble) always did have more of an eye for colour-matching than me (left).

Rabbit and Bear ensemble

Thimble and CathyCoo
These days, as well as being unable to carry off yellow, green, blue and fuschia outfits with panache, I am a devil for the finishing touches; hence Liberty lining and finished seams, seam tape from seamstar, all so that the little lady need not feel ashamed when she does a roly poly.

As usual I was a bit nervous about the fit and Hedley was not going to be too much help, so this was my Macgyver moment: a melting middle fishcake 3 year old girl waistband form!

Friday, 24 August 2012

Bad Hair Day Lady

Hedley goes domestic
Spot the difference: Crotchety versus Squirelly
Although I try to leave out any personal identifiers in these ramblings, if Cathycoo is having a bad day you may well recognise her from this picture. Do not approach her when she looks like this as it probably means she is under duress and she is liable to shake her rolling pin at you. The 3 year old artist may well be responsible not only for the portrait, but also for the harried and turbulent state of mind of Bad Hair Day Lady. 

Fabric: More from the Maureen stash so probably from the 1970s
Machine embroidered with cotton from the Maureen stash (Woolworths!) so probably from the 1960s

Sunday, 1 July 2012

The Great Escape

Handspun Herwick Slippers
Ah, Woolfest over for another year. This year I leaped out of bed with excitement at the prospect: in fact the last time I remember feeling that same little buzz of anticipation in the morning was my first holy communion which was a very long time ago and the buzz had more to do with getting to wear brand new white mary jane shoes than receiving the Holy Ghost. I am sure I must have other happy morning memories but maybe not so many because all I can remember is those white shoes.

I digress.

Woolfest, ah. It was marvellous. The best bits were the talented knitwear designers Susan Crawford and Kate Davies whose designs look even better in the flesh. In typical Thimble style I couldn't think of a single thing to say to them, overwhelmed as I was, so I bought a couple of patterns instead: Susan Crawford: Frances and Kate Davies: Blaithin. After the cape fiasco I really need to start concentrating if I want to do these patterns justice, so it might be a good long while before I tackle them.

Speaking of capes, would you believe I had my crochet hook out today and was back polishing my...cape? There is simply so much wool in the darned thing that it stretched and started slipping off my shoulders and weighing me down like a wet sack and it was either fix it or mop the floor with it. So I hitched everything up a bit and crocheted an extra row around the neck edge and it is now behaving itself and not revealing my bra to the world which I used to think was quite cool when I was 17 but now find vexing. I am thinking about scattering little crochet daisies on it to cover up any little mistakes but I haven't decided if that is a really good idea or a really bad idea.

Speaking of crocheted flowers, our little family of handspun herwick slippers has just expanded. These little fellas are fleece lined and SO WARM, perfect for an English summer: 

his and hairs
acting sheepish

crochet flowers: a touch of femininity
making the fleece lining from a cheap blanket

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Capes and blunders

'Pilar' by thimble
Today I find myself wrapped up like an enchilada in metres of aqua Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran. Perfect for a wet English summer day.

Hard to believe but this has been a beginners guide to knitting blunders from start to finish...and I refuse to entertain the notion that has anything to do with DVD box set distractions.

So this was the pattern that caught my eye in 'Debbie Bliss: Alpaca Silk':
'Pilar' by Debbie Bliss
 Looks easy doesn't it?

Well the first stumbling block was that no-one sells Debbie Bliss Alpaca Silk any more.

No problem - I've read the books - so armed with a ball of Cashmerino Aran and aunty Maureen's bag of needles I made a tension square and chose my pins.

Garter stitch is easy peasy. In no time at all having flown down the left front and sleeve I was alarmed to discover I seemed to be knitting a 1980's style half-top or doll jumper. My pins were too small or I must have gotten tenser since the tension square. By now I was feeling pretty tense and having un-ravelled 2 months of jumper that was very nearly the last straw.

However not one to fall at the first hurdle, this time I made 4 tension squares and picked 6.5mm needles (the pattern called for 4.5mm). Feeling confident and with renewed fervor, clickety clack, off I shot.

4 months later and with the help of Hedley the moment of truth could not be avoided:

The more observant may notice a minor discrepancy in the sleeve lengths.

I have a feeling that I lost count on the first sleeve in series 1 of Whitechapel and during the denouement I added another 30 rows:

So out came the scissors...
...and chopped off about 10cm of sleeve.

At this point it was all going wrong. Unlike the picture in the book I was looking at holey borders and scruffy seams, plus the cloak/shawl/cape bit wasn't staying put.
So remembering the Mandala quilt - what is the best way of covering up bad workmanship?


Out with the crochet hook for the edge, double row for good measure
a couple of little beads for the tie
and a beautiful handmade button to keep the shawl in place
it will have to do
I'm calling an official end to the year of the cape.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Guest crafts: Ribbons - deceptively simple

My friend CathyCoo spent a very long time sewing in straight lines to make these lovely ribbon cushions.

Whilst it goes without saying that the fronts are delightful, I really like the backs a lot.

That comment didn't go down too well with CathyCoo. I wasn't supposed to be admiring the backs.

But I do really like the backs a lot....such lovely crisp lines, neat buttonholes and buttons perfectly spaced.

It's all in the little details.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Liberty Belle

Home made baby corduroy Liberty print dress
Like most quilters I have a compulsion for buying small pieces of lovely fabric, but the problem is that if the fabric is too lovely I can't make myself cut it up. I have now found a painless method of tackling this: make small clothes....and the left over bits can be used for patches!

Luckily I know a couple of small people.

Simplicity 5284
This dress is made using Simplicity 5284. I had to make it a bit smaller by altering the pattern so was a bit nervous that it might not fit, especially after I put so much loving attention into the details:
Liberty lining!!
Flower button (from my spare button box) and fastener....

Mummy Bee...

Baby Bee (in pocket)...

Hand made with love...

...and the very best bit.... fits!