Tag Archives: wool

cutting cords

In my mid-30s, I resigned from a well-paying but highly stressful middle-management position with an internationally-recognised tertiary institution – to open a needlecraft shop! I bought and renovated a little cottage in Rosebank and had the business (which was called Threads) for seven years. While I will never ever even consider having a shop again (for reasons too numerous to go into here), I don’t regret the decision I made at the time. I learnt about bookkeeping, how to think out of the box, how to handle stupid and/or rude people in a way that didn’t release toxins into my system, and about never giving up – until the writing really was on the wall in bright green neon letters (when it was no longer about giving up but about being realistic and doing the necessary). I didn’t learn how to get rich or how to achieve a healthy balance between work and family life, but, hey, you can’t win ’em all.

One of the things I did was organise workshops – cross-stitch for children in the school holidays (gak!), freestyle embroidery, tassel-making, beading, etc. I’d run the kiddies’ workshops myself but found a few lovely people who were experts in beading/ crewel work/ fabric painting, etc., to run courses from my shop, thereby bringing in more customers. I learnt about tassel-making from a wonderful textile artist called Marie (I can’t remember her surname now) and one of the tricks in her bag of wonders was a cord-winder. Traditional passementerie required one to make one’s own cord for wrapping the head, and since I had got bitten big-time by the tassel bug, I had to find a winder for myself.

Above is one of the first tassels I made, which I found at the back of a dusty box in the garage marked “kitchen stuff”. As you can see, the cord wrapped around the head is coming loose, but the idea is to show you how essential it is to have a cord winder for making cords of different widths and in specific colours.

I believe it’s not difficult for a handy person to make a cord winder from some kind of rotating piece of simple machinery and four cup hooks, but that person isn’t me. There was a company in the UK at that time that manufactured the winder pictured above, and of course that was the one I had to have. 23 years ago it wasn’t as easy to order things from other parts of the world to South Africa as it is today, so Plan B was to ask my then sister-in-law (who lives in London) to order one for me and bring it with her on her next visit to Cape Town. Her visits were frequent and regular, and within six weeks I had my new baby. I seem to remember that it was priced around 30 quid but Elaine generously refused to let me reimburse her.

Many hundreds of tassels were made until my enthusiasm ran out. I had a retired neighbour who had a lathe and he would make wooden tassel heads for me in shapes I liked. Here are some that I still have left over.

Where is this post going? you’re wondering. Does it have a point or is the crazy old bat just meandering around lost in her craftmaking memories?

The point is that, since I’ve started making fabric beads for my own necklaces, the idea of using handmade wrapped cord keeps popping up in my head. Here’s experiment #1:

I used some fuzzy blue yarn, some orange bamboo cotton and a novelty pompom yarn with greys, oranges and creams. I bound off the ends and turned them into tassels with beads. I did this when I should have been doing household chores like washing-up, vacuuming the rug and scrubbing the shower tiles. Over 24 hours later and those things remain unattended to….

Grommit

I’d been on the lookout for another head for a long time, and eventually found Grommit in a funny little shop under the train station in town. Rob christened her, and the name just stuck.

carol and grommet

We’re still working on getting her the right hairdo, but in the meantime she’s still happy to be in front of the camera.

carol and grommet 2

You know what they say – two heads are better than one.

PS. Excellent and free pattern for crochet peak cap found at ValliesKids

Back soon x

baby Ella

The Ella hat was big news for me this winter (purchased from etsy here).  It’s a great pattern and, surprisingly to me but then who am I to judge?, two Ellas have been bought by men. For themselves.  Young men, guys really, not big burly rugby player types.  How cute is that!?

wed 3   wed 6 wed 5     bothasig2    judy3

Anyway, when Nicola asked me to make two baby bonnets for her 6-month old niece in Durban, I thought I’d try the same pattern but using thinner yarn and a smaller hook.

Ta-da! Worked perfectly:

ella baby 2   ella baby 1 (pompoms still to be attached when I took these pics).

And on the magical little person herself:

baby ella

I mean, look at that face!!!  I should be paying that girl to model for me :-)

Back soon x

hats to the left of me hats to the right here i am….

Winter’s a-coming here in Cape Town and it’s getting chilly, so I’m sitting at my desk right now with A BIG FAT BRIGHT GREEN BONBON on my head! Nice and warm, and helps to keep the energy flowing (hopefully).

Just a brief update on the crochet lessons – my first lesson last Thursday went really really well, no whiskey required. I have the loveliest ladies in the world and we all got off to a good start. Tomorrow is Lesson #2, and I should be seeing some completed or almost-completed scarves, which will get jazzed up with a crocheted flower brooch. We’ll move on to the half treble and treble stitches, and get started on the fingerless mitts. Homework will be granny squares. (Yes, I give homework.) We had tea and Oreos – I didn’t have time to bake my own cookies. Who am I kidding, like that’s ever going to happen!

I had a lot of requests from people who want to learn crochet but can’t make a lesson during the working week, so I’m starting a new group on Saturday 7 June. Already fully booked! (I don’t want more than 5 learners, it’s nice to be able to give individual attention).

And in other news, I made my first delivery to A Real Shop yesterday, of penguin beanies and Ellas. I’m really hoping they do as well there as the owner seems to think.  The shop is called This Shop Rox, by the way, and it’s in the Hout Bay harbour area.

I’ve also been snowed under making hats – Mindys, Ellas, newsboys, men’s hats and caps, BonBons and stinky fish. Yip, a LOT of stinky fish. Here’s darling Kate in her new rainbow stinky, and the larger one pictured below on Carol is a special order from Kate’s mom as a birthday gift for a friend.

kate pic  wed wed 2 wed 3 wed 4

wed 5 wed 6

It’s overcast and a bit drizzly here, so Carol kept yelling at me to hurry up with the pics because I insisted on taking them outside. Consequently, some of them are rather poor. I think she forgets who pays the rent around here!!!

Back soon x

BonBon update

I have a market at Kirstenbosch this Sunday, so Eunice delivered five fresh BonBons just in time this week.  (At my last market, the green and the caramel BonBons were the first items purchased, one with and one without a pompom). She’s done another sterling job, but this time I lured her into spending the afternoon with me (I think it was the custard danishes that did the trick) and teaching me how to make a BonBon myself.

bonbons

eunice 3

eunice 1

eunice 2

She needed a lot of patience with me. Luckily, she has enough and some to spare.  I got about an eighth of the way through a BonBon before realising that this particular stitch used in this particular design is too much for me. It takes TOO LONG. I will lose interest less than halfway into the making of it, and then there will be half-finished BonBons all over the place.  So, I’m going to stick to being the PomPomist and Eunice the BonBonist.

She is also now officially Jam Tart #2, whether she likes it or not — but I think she does. On Saturday night, around 11.30, just as I was drifting off to sleep, an sms came beeping in: “Jill, how’s your crocheting going? did you finish the pink hat?“.  Blimey, just what I need –  a slave driver…

caramel bonbon

The texture of these hats is really soft and squwooshy. Squoochy? Skwooshy? I don’t know, none of those look right, but you know what I mean.  FYI one hat (plus medium pompom) weighs 156 g, and we’re using the Pure Gold Double Knit and a 4mm hook.

bonbon cream

Want to make your own BonBon? It’s dead easy and I’m busy writing up Eunice’s instructions for you, will post a bit later.

Back soon x