When Reality meets Fiction

There once was a loving mother who wanted to knit her darling daughter a beautiful cardigan. She found a pretty pattern and sourced the perfect yarn: a hand-dyed local cashmere/merino/alpaca/wool blend in a colour that would look stunning against her daughter’s eyes. She went to a local craft fair to find the cutest buttons to go with the cardigan. For hours she adapted the pattern to her daughter’s measurements and set out the work to craft the garment (blogged here). Et voila’

The girl refuses to wear it. Apparently the cashmere blend is not soft enough but scratches her sensitive arms.

With this experience all too vivid in my mind I couldn’t help laughing when the Papa brought home his recent book find: Lotta Leaves Home by Astrid Lindgren (1962).


The book is about Lotta, a five-year-old girl who lives with her parents and two older siblings. One morning she wakes up in a foul mood, having dreamed that her older brother and sister were mean to her special soft toy Bamsie. Not receiving the sympathy she firmly believes she deserves her sadness and disappointment turn to furious anger. She refuses to wear the knitted jumper her mother puts out for her but instead takes her scissors and cuts large ugly holes in it.

Lotta leaves home by Astrid Lindgren - cutting the jumper

Her grief and regret is disguised in anger of her family and Lotta decides to move away from home. Luckily her next-door neighbour, Mrs Berg, has a spare attic in her garden shed which is just the perfect househole for a five-year-old with its tiny bed, little table and chair and little chest-of-drawers. Lotta loves it! But as evening comes the corners grows darker, and the thought of home is so much more appealing…

Lotta leaves home by Astrid Lindgren - home of my own

Lotta leaves home is a wonderfully charming story that perfectly discusses the subject of tantrums and the stubborn mind. Doing so from a child’s perspective it is a kind reminder to parents that, in the moment, the strong emotions are real, but they can pass just as quickly.

As a knitter, of course, my heart was bleeding when Lotta took the scissors to her jumper. The symbolism of toddler rebellion being all too clear. My mother-in-law, also a knitter, has since the Toddler was a baby reminded me of the fact that was I to knit for my daughter, I better speed up because before I know it, she will refuse to wear what I knit for her. I could never imagine this would happen so soon!

As the Toddler grew out of the baby stage I moaned about the shortage of patterns available for toddlers and small children relative to the abundance of baby patterns. Having discussed this with my knitwear designer friends they have argued that designing patterns for toddlers and older children isn’t quite worth their while as they don’t sell as well as baby patterns. Now, this may be because parenting a toddler is more laborious than mothering a baby (with having returned to work, negotiating every aspect of life from the getting dressed to the eating of the soup) and there’s simply not as much time and/or energy left for knitting our little darlings wonderful garments. Alternatively parents have experienced their labour of love being left unwanted on the floor or (the horror!) shredded in the bin and simply resorted to focusing their efforts elsewhere. I have not yet given up my quest of knitting my little one a cardy which she happily will wear with love. Not yet.

Lotta Leaves Home. Astrid Lindgren (1962/1969) Magnet, London                                         Illustrations by Ilon Wikland

Please note: no actual knitted garments were damaged or destroyed in the writing of this blog post

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The New Year – and some Xmas pressie chat

Happy New Year! It’s 2013 which, of course, is the year of the Edinburgh Yarn Festival! YarnPony, Jo and I who are organising the day are super excited (and super busy). You can follow the progress and working up to the festival on the Edinburgh Yarn Festival blog where we shortly will reveal the classes and list of stallholders – all of which we are very proud!

logo final

On the home front illness hit this household pretty bad this holiday season and amongst the Christmas preparation, travelling etc etc there wasn’t much time for blogging. Here comes a little summary of what I have been up to.

As Christmas knitting was piling up I took advantage of the wonders of one skein projects. Using 8mm needles (yes, that’s right) on bulky yarn (Malabrigo Gruesa, 100% wool, Super Bulky, 65 yard/100g) I churned out a hat for my wee girl in a couple of hours.

In the snow

This child sized pixie hat fits my three-year-old perfectly. It is the Wee Folk Art Pointed Pixie or Gnome Hat by Michelle WeeFolkArt which is a free pattern. I cast on 48 stitches which is the amount for a large hat, but followed the directions for a size medium in terms of height. In the end I had about 10″ of the yarn left. Phew!

Leading up to Christmas I was busy making knitting project bags for various Christmas markets and I couldn’t resist allowing the bag making to spread into my Christmas pressie making. Here are some fairly dodgy photos of the pencil cases I made for my God daughter and her wee sister.

Wee CraftyAlly bag

Wee CraftyAlly bag

I’m looking forward to see what excitement this year will have in store for us.

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Craft Reactor Edinburgh’s 3rd Annual Members’ Showcase Exhibition

Welcome to the official launch of Craft Reactor Edinburgh’s 3rd Annual Members’ Showcase Exhibition!


The Annual Members’ Showcase Exhibition is a real opportunity to see what Craft Reactor members have been working on in their attics over the last year and perhaps pick up a couple of Christmas presents. Additionally to my CraftAlly bags, Carmenland will be exhibiting some of her adorable monsters and Madeleine Shepherd has some amazing knitted and felted scarves on display. I can’t wait to see what the other members have been up to. The exhibition will run until 22nd December, and if you join us tonight there is rumoured to be rum in the punch..


Craft Reactor Edinburgh 3rd Annual Members’ Showcase Exhibition

Official launch party: Tuesday 4th December, 5:30-7:30 pm

Exhibition dates: 27 November – 22 December 2012

Address: Hula Juice Bar, 103-105 West Bow Edinburgh

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Embroidered Numbers

Just in time for December 1st I managed to get our Advent Calendar finished. It is inspired by Katie’s beautiful felt calendar. I will spend the next couple of days finishing the ornaments that will go on the tree. I figure, as long as there are enough ornaments for one to go on the tree each day before Christmas I’m sorted, right?

Embroidering the numbers on the pockets reminded me of how much I love hand embroidery. It is so methodical, slow and therapeutic. I’m looking forward to playing with the wool felt and I got some lovely golden silk embroidery thread from the Yarn Yard that will need to find its special place on the tree. Templates for the ornaments are available on Homemade by Jill’s blog, but I will probably adapt them somewhat. Oh, decisions…


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Arts Complex Open Studio Day

As the evenings are getting darker and we are firmly and steadily approaching Christmas times (I know, I know it is only November still..) there are busy times here at CraftyAlly Towers. We had so much fun at St Abbs that YarnPony, Jo and I decided to join forces again and once again share a stall, this time right here in Edinburgh, at the Arts Complex Open Studio Day on 8th December.

The Arts Complex is the reincarnation of the former 1970’s office building located at 151 London Road near Meadowbank Stadium. The building now holds a range of artists including  painters, jewellers, ceramists, web designers, printmakers, sculptors, illustrators, textiles designers and, of course, indie dyers. At the Open Studio Day more than 70 studio holders will be on hand to show and discuss their work. You’ll find us up on the 4th floor in studio 4.26.

I will be selling knitting project bags and notion/make-up bags. I’ve been busy at my sewing machine working with some lovely new fabrics and I have also experimented with hand sewing and embroidery that I’m now keen and excited about showing off. Jo and YarnPony will be selling their patterns and lush yarns.

getting there:

art’s complex
St. Margaret’s House
151 London Road

Hours: 10am-6pm

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Back from St Abbs

We had a really nice day out in St Abbs. The location is stunning and it was a crisp and sunny day (mostly). As I was working at my stall for most of the day I didn’t get a chance to go outside to take some photographs, but this was the view from my stall. Not bad! (even through a rainy window…)

There were some really interesting stall holders. It was the official launch of YarnPony‘s lush range of hand dyes and together with designer Jo Kelly they were launching a yarn/shawl pattern kit: Gilver. The pattern is a simple garter stitch that finishes off in a really interesting and unusual double edged picot edging (visible in the top left corner of the photo below). I can’t wait until the pattern is available as a ravelry download! I was also tempted by Jennie Howes’ hand spun..

A selection of my project and notion bags is now available in my newly opened etsy shop. I will update the shop as I make new bags and I also have some ideas of other things to put up there as we’re getting closer to Christmas. Please feel free to take a look!

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A Felted Hallowe’en: Part 2

Everybody enjoy a bit of messy play.

Inspired by a big bag of wool fibre in a range of amazingly lush colours recently gifted to us by a friend, we embarked on creating some autumnal/hallowe’en decorations. We used ordinary hand soap for the felting, this being the first time trying out the technique and soap being available at hand, and it worked well. We made small balls by adding thin layers of wool fibre in different shades of orange, red and brown, adding more soapy water throughout and gently rolling the fibre into a fairly firm ball.

Once dried I tied the felted pieces with embroidery thread and attached a couple of leaves cut out of wool felt (hobby felt would work as well but is not nearly as nice to the touch). Et voilà: we got ourselves some pumpkins.

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Bags at St Abbs Wool Festival

I am delighted to announce that I have been invited by the lovely and talented YarnPony to share a stall at St Abbs Wool Festival this Saturday 3rd November to sell my handmade knitting and crochet project and notion bags. The bags are made from vintage or carefully selected contemporary fabric to create a unique bag to store your knitting/crochet project and/or yarn.

I started making project bags after, somewhat guiltily, realising that my precious yarn and knitting projects deserved better treatment than being chucked into some randomly available shopping bag. I’m very excited about going to St Abbs this year as this will be my first time at having a go at selling the bags, and it looks like I’m not the only one:

If you haven’t been to St Abbs Wool Festival before it really is worth a visit. St Abbs is a pretty little fishing village in the Scottish Borders situated on the top of some rather dramatic cliffs. The wool festival will have about eighteen stalls and a cafe on the premises and sounds like a lot of fun. A perfect autumn outing!

St Abbs Wool Festival                                                                                                               Date: Saturday, 3rd November 2012, open 10.00-16.00                                                       Place: Ebba Centre (the old school house), getting there (google map)

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A Felted Hallowe’en: part 1

This weekend the Toddler and I emerged ourselves in felt as we made our first Halloween decorations.

20121021-215353.jpgWe started out by cutting out a number of bats in different sizes in black felt, folding the felt in two as I traced the templates onto the fabric. I based my bats on Tove Jansson’s bat drawings in Who Will Comfort Toffle as they were, after all, the inspiration to this project. (I will write more about this book in another post.)

I then attached the bats with black thread in a fairly random manner before tying them to the twigs. I love these twigs. The tree was a fairly large specimen that used to stand proud in the park before one of the early autumn storms brought it down. Looking jaggy and scary like witches’ hands they were perfect for the bat-mobile.

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Autumn has arrived.

Every morning en route to nursery A and I chat about the changes we see around us. The colours of the leaves in the park, trees blown over by the storm… This is, of course, after  the daily battle over the exceeding amount of clothing and knit wear we have to put on before rushing out the door. Personally I’m excited about the opportunity to wear more and new knitwear, and to explore new colour palettes.

Antony Gormley sculpture - Water of Leith

I am particularly excited to finally, finally, dig out the skein of 100% merino fingering weight yarn that I have been harbouring in my stash since early spring. I dyed it as part of a dyeing workshop at my friend YarnPony‘s studio. With its’ autumnal browns, greens and rusty reds, I knew this would be an autumn project.

One fascinating aspect of the dyeing process is that one is never quite sure what the outcome will be. Even less so than the completion of the knitted garment or accessory. This skein was the result of all the left overs from the other skeins I dyed simply being chucked in the dyeing bath, and I love the result. I don’t think I actively would have chosen these colours, autumn not being my colour, and therefore I seem to enjoy it even more.

I think I will turn it into a pair of socks, possibly Nutkin by Beth LaPensee. I am not usually a sock knitter, but I have cold feet. I think the pretty leafy pattern in Nutkin will provide enough interest to keep me going while knitting and manage to keep my feet warmer than a more lacey pattern.

Ps The top photo was taken in the Meadows, Edinburgh, last autumn. I never got a chance to speak to the artist putting up the installation, so if you know anything about it I am curious to know. 🙂

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