Saturday, 16 February 2013

Homely Touches

Some years ago I went through a period of designing and knitting miniature novelty tea cosies to fill a dresser I had left over from another project. Very few remain in my collection as they sold quickly at the fairs I used to do before my children were born. As any parents of young children will appreciate, I haven't quite found the time since then to replace them! The dresser is, as it ever was: empty.

Recently though, I discovered some wonderful tea cosy patterns designed by Jan's Minis. Inspired, I bought the lot and set to work. So far I've knitted them all but only had the time to make up and finish a few of them.

I bought the teapots from The Dolls House Emporium and, to be honest, they are a bit on the large side. Quite a lot on the large side actually. I had to knit the cosies up using bigger needles than those stated in the pattern to make them fit. One day I plan to re-knit them all as written and will make sure I purchase smaller pots this time! But it does mean that perhaps that dresser might at last get filled....Still to finish are a hedgehog, a snowman, a mouse, a penguin, a rabbit and an elephant. I also found a whole booklet of tea cosy patterns by Mini-Mad Mates of Australia. Again, I have knitted (adapting them also to fit those confounded teapots!) but not yet made up a wonderful pineapple and cupcake.

I don't know about you, but although I can knit things quite quickly, even in semi-darkness, I do find it irksome making them up. I have to be in the right frame of mind for a start. Which excludes most of my waking hours since becoming a parent! And it gets even more tricky after that Saturday night glass of red wine when it somehow becomes more difficult to focus....For a long time I struggled with just my eyes and daylight when I could grab it. Which was not very often. So the pile of Things To Make Up began to grow. And grow.  I progressed to magnifying glasses and a floor-lamp but wearing strong glasses I don't need made watching anything on TV at the same time an impossibility. So I kept knitting and not making up, to the point where I would look at the pile of randomly shaped tiny bits of knitting with all the long ends tangled up with each other in my knitting bag and wonder quite honestly what it was intended to be in the first place.

Then I discovered my wonderful MightyBrite floor lamp with LED lights and adjustable magnifying lens. Hallelujah! I can watch TV, drink wine and make up all night long if the fancy takes me. Now I just need the fancy to take me.

In between tea cosies, I have knitted and crocheted several bits and pieces for my dolls house. Some of my favourites were these draught excluders by Buttercup Miniatures:

Another of Frances Powell's patterns was this wonderful Poodle designed to conceal a toilet roll in your smallest miniature room in a tasteful way....

Cute she may be but oh! how I struggled to stitch, turn, stuff and stitch in place those teeny tiny paws, ears, snout and top-knot. Just as well there is only one bathroom in my dolls house.

I always think that a few homely touches add realism to any dolls house or scene; these are some blankets I crocheted for the dog baskets in my house:

They are crochet at its most basic but I am particularly proud of these as I am entirely self-taught when it comes to crochet. The first thing I ever crocheted was the afghan rug made up of tiny granny squares. It took me an absolute age to make using a size 0.6 crochet hook and tatting cotton. It is so stiff it literally stands up on its own, although it does fit nicely into the dog basket I made for it. I use silk for the dog blankets I make these days but back then I didn't know any better.

Another attempt at crochet was this doiley:

Again, not knowing any better, I used cotton thread so it's a little thicker and stiffer than I'd like it to be. But one day I will make a matching one and crochet them together to make a pretty cushion. Who was it that said the road to Hell is paved with good intentions?!

I think knitted doileys work and drape much better; this is a two-needle version designed by Margaret Sitch and knitted by me using the same cotton thread:

I'm not entirely happy with my attempts at blocking these two doileys but blocking is right up there with making up when it comes to choosing how to spend my Saturday evening!

Enjoy yours....until next time
Kathryn x

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Displaying Miniature Knitting

So far in my posts, I have shown you some of the stand-alone pieces that I have knitted. It's not always easy knowing what to do with them once they're finished. I like to be able to see the things I've made but, as they are made from silk and cotton, I need to protect them from dust and moths. Not to mention the attentions of my two cats who like to interfere with anything originating on two needles...preferably while it is still ON those needles! How many times have they swiped my tiny ball of yarn and scampered off with it, leaving a mess of unravelled work behind them?! Anyone who knits and has furry feline friends will have come across that one - and trust me when I say it's never the just-started or straightforward work that they take. Oh no. Frankie & Jess have exacting standards when it comes to entertainment; Knitted lace and Fair Isle work are particular favourites of theirs.

Neither do I want to fix my work permanently using glue. Grip wax is also a no-no as you can never satisfactorily remove the stuff once applied, even if items can be repositioned. But as I often take my work out and about to exhibitions held, or talks given, by the Dolls House & Miniatures Club of which I am the Secretary, I needed a way of both fixing and protecting my work.

This toy shop was a dolls house fair purchase some years ago. I made all the toys myself, some from patterns designed to be knitted up as miniatures, but most using full-size patterns that I scaled down (see my previous post). As you can see, they are behind glass so they stay clean and moth-free. The glass is removable so there is nothing permanent about the arrangement if I wake up one day and decide to change things around a little (I do that a lot). But all the toys are fixed in place using a method which I devised myself.

I buy one of those packs of jewellery findings which contain the blank posts and butterfly backs sold in craft shops for making earrings. I take one of the posts and insert it into the leg (or other appropriate place!) of my toy/critter. I then use grip-wax to fix the round disc attached to the earring post to the shelf in my shop (the posts come with small discs or larger ones attached; the small ones will be adequate in most cases). My work never comes into direct contact with the grip-wax, it can be repositioned endlessly or removed completely, leaving my work undamaged. This method holds everything firmly in place, even on car journeys.

Pleased as I was with this solution, it doesn't work for everything. Flat pieces such as items of clothing need a different approach.

These are three themed displays that I made using those cheap brown cardboard trunks you can buy at dolls house fairs. I lined each trunk with dolls house wallpaper and covered the outside with pieces of leather. The joins are covered with braid. The purpose of these trunks was to display a collection of things which I had made. Again, I needed to fix my things in place without damaging them.

 The solution here was simple: double-sided sticky tape. I find that it is not actually as sticky as you might think, so it holds things in place but - crucially - it will peel away from miniature knitting leaving no residue or staining. It tends to be either white or transparent so is discreet, and you can use pieces as big or small as you like. It can also be removed from hard surfaces by rubbing it with your finger until it goes "gummy" and comes off. Incidentally, I have a miniature teddy bear shop where all my bears are held in place with double-sided tape and they can be removed and repositioned without having their bottoms waxed smooth in the process (something we're both happy about).

This tree is around 12 inches tall and each decoration measures less than an inch .

This Christmas Tree is decorated with tiny toys knitted from Jean Greenhowe's full-size patterns. I put it on my mantelpiece every Christmas. Neither earring posts nor sticky tape was appropriate for this project so I used invisible sewing thread to attach each toy to its branch. It works pretty well and is completely reversible, leaving both surfaces undamaged.

You may have noticed that I tend to group similar items together so that they have maximum impact. It's just a preference of mine. I don't tend to build traditional room boxes; the scenes I build are chosen solely because they will display my work effectively. Below are some more "grouped" displays of my knitting.

The panelling in this scene is made from lolly sticks, stained using black wax boot-polish.

The knitted tea-cosy is another of my own original designs.

These two scenes were built inside glass-fronted shadow-boxes which used to be sold by IKEA. They're just a basic kitchen scene and potting shed scene, right? Well, yes; but what if I was to tell you that all the fruit and vegetables you can see, as well as all the cacti, are knitted using my own designs?

Truth is, I got a little tired of knitting all the sort of stuff people expect. Baby clothes, hats & scarves, blankets, that kind of thing. Sure, it sells, but I wanted to keep things interesting. These two scenes are displayed every year at the Dolls House Club's summer show and most people who see them don't even realise that they're looking at knitting. I kind of like that.

Until next time...
Kathryn x