Saturday, 7 January 2012

Holiday crafting: part 4

It's a truth just about universally acknowledged that it's more difficult to think of gift ideas for men than for  women. Is it just that society induces girls and women to be more receptive to pointless stuff - make-up, decorative cushions, sparkly bags and purses, scented candles, thermally-irrelevant scarves, ornate stationery, novelty hair-clips? Or that men are not allowed to be interested in certain areas that can have value and usefulness - crafts, home comforts, bags and purses, attractive stationery?

If my dad's asked about what he'd like as a gift, his stock answer is, "Something for my computer". I do have a distant, pre-online-shopping memory of Mother, Sister and me traipsing around the techy heaven/hell that is Tottenham Court Road, armed with our computer's vital statistics scribbled on a scrap of paper, shopping for a little MIDI controller keyboard. The recipient was very pleased but none of the givers was keen to repeat the procurement process. (One subsequent year Father told Sister, "Something for my computer, or soap", so he got soap.)

Having used up my Good Idea* for the year on his (significant) birthday a few weeks earlier, I was still wondering what to give Father for Christmas on 15 December, when we were on a train journey together. The computer was along for the ride too, of course, but Father had forgotten his earphones. He rummaged in his rucksack and checked in all his pockets, but they weren't there. And so it was that I remembered the earphone pouch tutorial that I'd seen on one of Sew Mama Sew's excellent gift lists...
Not that this will prevent the earphones from being left behind (although maybe the clip will help with that?), but it should reduce the chances of them being shoved into a pocket or rucksack in a tangled mass. The tutorial by Erin of Dog Under My Desk was very clear and easy to follow. I paired the sew-in interfacing with the lining fabric rather than the outer, because my outer fabric was heavier. At the point where Erin tells you to sew all the way around the circle (right sides together) with a 3/8" seam allowance, I used a 1/4" allowance instead; she tells you to trim it to 1/4" later anyway and I didn't want to make the pouch any smaller than I had to. I also overstitched across the top of the zip in the last sewing step. I would look neater when closed if the zip pull could go all the way to the very edge, but I wasn't happy about those raw zip ends inside the pouch. The ends still show on mine, but I put a few hand stitches through them and the last few zip teeth on the outside, and that seems a bit more secure to me.
This was another project for which I already had everything in my stash. The navy babycord fabric is Fairtrade and organic cotton, from the Organic Cotton Shop. I bought a metre to make a skirt; I haven't made the skirt yet but the fabric's quite wide so the tiny bit I cut from it for this shouldn't be missed. The striped lining is also organic cotton, bought several years ago from a now-closed shop in Stoke Newington Church Street that was called Texture. I might have found this sheeting in their closing-down sale because usually their stuff was too expensive for me. This one's very wide so there should still be plenty for Boyfriend's long-promised pyjamas. The zip is from a large bundle - some unused and some reclaimed - that I bought from a de-stashing crafter on Ebay. I never throw away keyrings; when the decorative part is worn out or broken that goes binward but the ring itself is kept. The sprung hook thingy was salvaged from an ID card holder that Father had for a college course. The sew-in interfacing is still coming from that original metre, but a soft scrap of fabric would have worked here too, I think.

Have you had success with handmade gifts for your menfolk? Do you have a reliable source of brilliant present ideas for them? Please email me with links!

*: OS map centred on my parents' house; FSC-certified frame (from B&Q); recycled and refillable whiteboard markers so routes can be plotted and notes made on the glass of the frame and then wiped off.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Holiday crafting: part 3

At about 15h00 on Christmas Eve, Boyfriend's present looked like this:
Uh-oh... I have a bad habit of giving him fabric or yarn as a gift plus a promise to turn it into something, and then not making good on the promise (yet!), and I was determined to present him with a finished item this year. So I knitted like mad and it was finished in the wee small hours of Christmas morning - when the whole wide world was fast asleep, except, I suspect, for quite a few crafters.

And then, at about 15h00 this afternoon, it looked like this:
Yes, I unravelled it all.

It was knitted in brioche stitch, in the round. I was a bit worried that I was going to have to say that Elizabeth Zimmermann was wrong, but in fact I don't think she said that brioche stitch couldn't be worked in the round, just that it wasn't suited to it. I followed some online instructions and it seemed fine to me (I did get a little twist at the start of each round, not sure if that was my fault or not). It's such an attractive stitch, and only slightly less simple to work in the round than flat. The yarn is lovely too - single-ply organic merino wool (a discontinued Sublime line).

But the hat looked silly on. Possibly the soft fluffiness of the yarn brought a grannyish, tea-cosyish element to the design. Boyfriend has quite a large head and he'd asked for a hat that didn't fit too tightly or look like a swimming cap. I think I went a bit too far the other way - brioche stitch makes a very thick fabric - and it looked enormous. I unravelled it part way to eliminate the turn-up edge, and re-knitted the top, and it did look a bit better. But then the hat kept growing every time it was put on! Is that normal with brioche stitch? Did I knit too loosely? Or was it the yarn? Anyway, now it's just balls of wool again and Boyfriend's search for The Perfect Hat continues.

I tell you all of this mainly in the spirit of the very welcome festive crafting honesty that has been floating around the blogosphere recently. And here is how our kitchen table looked one day last month when the Christmas crafting was at its most frantic:
The camera was mixed in with all of that until I picked it up to take the picture. The sewing machine had not long been put away. Needles, Sellotape, quilting ruler, calculator, raffia, laptop - all at the same time?? Note the bits all over the floor; you can't see the thread but it was there, too. And the mess was by no means confined to the table, I just couldn't get the whole room into the shot!

By the way, I did knit Boyfriend a Maltese fisherman's hat (from EZ's Knitter's Almanac) some years ago, and he says that one is perfect but the world just isn't ready for it yet... In fact, I wore that hat out to do my last minute food shopping on Christmas Eve, and it attracted quite a few looks. I think the world was able to accept and even enjoy it on Christmas Eve, because it looks very elf-like, but it might not be entirely suitable for non-festive wear.