Sunday, April 16, 2017

Closing my Parlour Duck Crafts Etsy store

Etsy sent out an email last week announcing that sellers had until the 17th of May to switch to Etsy Payments and the option to be a Paypal only seller was going to disappear.  While I did consider doing so for a few hours, overnight reflection has led to this decision. I will be closing my shop Parlour Duck Crafts on the 10th of May, and having a closing down sale with the code CLOSING15 for 15% off. I've also made almost all items available for shipping everywhere in the world rather than just Australia.

Except this Charlie One Horse hat, as I don't want to have to ship it overseas. 
The truth is, I wasn't happy trying to run the store and have crafts as a business. I wasn't committing to it in the way that I needed to, and I was displaying classic avoidance and procrastination behaviour when it came to my plans for the store. I am absolutely glad that I have tried it and indeed I suspect I needed to try it - I may well have spent years wondering "what if" otherwise. It was an experience I am glad to have had, if only so it could teach me that I'm much happier for crafts to be a hobby. I started because I wanted a flexible income that came from something I did well and enjoyed. Perhaps I also had a sense that because I enjoyed crafts I had an obligation to try to make it into a career rather than just a hobby. I was attracted by the idea of having a creative business.   Maybe if the other paid work I was doing was awful or exploitative or soulless or was making me miserable, I would have tried harder. But it isn't. I love my freelance indexing and proofing and my casual employment supporting various academics. I'm excited by the projects I've worked on in the past year and the ones I'm starting now.
This zinnia hat is a recent creation and I've had so much fun taking photos of it.

I'm keeping it open for a few weeks rather than closing right away to try to sell my remaining listings, which include some lovely crochet and vintage items, several of which have been pictured throughout this post.
This cross-stitch book qualifies as vintage by Etsy's rules and that fact makes me feel old.

The blog will still continue though, under the same name, and will still be a place where I talk about what I'm crafting, what I'm learning and what I'm enjoying. I have some exciting plans for a blog feature starting in July and I'm also eager to push on with my fabric stashbusting and show you what I've managed to create.  And I'm not saying goodbye 100% to making for others - I will still be open to the occasional commissioned piece of work as a freelance contract. But as of the 10th of May, my Etsy store closes.

Friday, April 7, 2017

A busy making time

I have been so slack about blogging, but like many others I've been busy making things.  I blame the New Year and resolutions involving using up my stash and increasing my sewn wardrobe. I have even joined a Facebook stashbusting group to keep track of how much fabric I use during the year. (So far: sewn 9 metres and bought 2.5 metres)

This post is really going to be a round up of selected makes from the last few months

A baby sunhat in cute spotted cotton
 This adorable sunhat was a gift for a friend with a young baby. I'd forgotten (even in the scant few years since my boy was that small) just how little fabric you need for baby items. The hat was made entirely from a single fat quarter. And that is with a fully lined crowned.

Zinnia hat, from a 1962 Australian Women's Weekly pattern

I've been crocheting some 1960s hats from patterns from the Australian Women's Weekly. Above is a 'zinnia hat' - the original was yellow with red flowers and I've made it in a slightly more subdued fawn and burgundy colour scheme. Below is the charmingly quirky 'field flower hat' which I've made in very close to the colours suggested in the original. I may redo the pompoms on this one, as I think I'd like them to be fuller. Both of these hats will be listed in my etsy shop soon. 

Field flower hat
Close up of the field flower hat 

 Several years ago, I treated myself to a 'I've finally finished the PhD present' and went to a ten day embroidery convention run by Koala Conventions. One of the two-day courses I did was on Mountmellick work and I did a beautiful design. Well I have finally made it up into the bolster cushion it was designed to be!

The finished Mountmellick bolster. 

I also, as part of both stashbusting and increasing my 'me made' wardrobe, made a kimono style dressing gown, decorated with lace I got for a ridiculously low sum at a garage sale. The pattern isn't a true kimono, although the sleeves are very close, and it is from a BurdaStyle magazine Plus Size special (E030, for anyone who might want to look, although I've checked and this isn't available online). It really needs an iron, but what doesn't?

Dressing gown. 
Close up of sleeve under construction - and the amazing lace!

 A lot of my crafting and blogging time has been curtailed by actual paid work now that my son is at preschool two days a week. Still, actual paid work has funded the purchase of some clothing patterns that I really, really wanted, so I hope to be blogging about those makes soon.  I'm also having some bad days on my medications, which eats into the time I have too.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Travelling Hat comes to visit!

I have been enjoying a visit from a lovely lady lately - the gorgeous travelling hat, Adelaide - the work of talented milliner and wonderful sister Tanith of Tanith Rowan Designs. It has been a joy seeing Adelaide's earlier stops around the world and so even opening the box and getting my first proper look was exciting. 

Adelaide emerges from her hat box!
I had big plans for my outfit for Adelaide. I'd been wanting to make a 1920s one-hour dress for ages, and using Bianca at The Closet Historian's thorough guide, I set to work. I also had crocheted a vintage collar pattern in a blue that I thought would go with Adelaide's colours. All good, right?

Except I don't like it! The dress style does not suit me very well, or maybe is just too big (as the dress is cut based on bust measurement, and normally I'd do a full bust adjustment on patterns to stop them being too big elsewhere). Whatever the problem, I just don't like myself in it. It may just need a belt. I'm still going to experiment and haven't ruled out trying it again with some tweaks.
However Adelaide is the star of the show, and here I wore her tilted to the side with a black snood.
Adelaide with my attempt at a 1920s one-hour dress.
Now while I adore vintage and am incorporating a few more elements into my wardrobe each year, it isn't a staple part of my day to day outfits the way it is for many of the people Adelaide has visited. So I also styled Adelaide in the way I would be more likely to regularly wear such a hat, were she mine. Here I am wearing her further back on my head, with loose hair, and a dress I'd wear to a wedding or similar formal event.
Adelaide with an outfit I'd wear to a wedding. 
And just for fun, I gathered my hair in a half ponytail, put Adelaide center front high on the head, and paired her with a casual outfit of denim skirt and black bamboo top. The boy decided he wanted in on the action at this point.
Casual Adelaide and a scene stealing toddler. 

I've had so much fun playing around with Adelaide and will be handing her off with some reluctance. Thank you, Tanith, for letting me be a part of Adelaide's journey!

Friday, November 4, 2016

Vintage Snood Pattern reviews: a belated Snoodtember roundup

As part of Tanith's #snoodtember initiative, I wrote a guest post for her blog, giving some quick read-only reviews of some free crochet snood patterns from 1930s and 1940s Australian papers. In doing so, I got intrigued by several and decided to try them.

I have crocheted two snoods before, using patterns that other people had discussed.  I tried the 'Perky Snood', seen and well discussed at the lovely Bonita's blog Lavender and Twill in a white stash yarn and that saw a lot of wear during #snoodtember. I really like this pattern as it has minimal shaping and it is easy to get into a groove.
The Perky Snood during Snoodtember

Back view of the Perky Snood

I made this pattern in black but made the elastic a little too tight so it kept creeping off my head. I decided to use this snood to experiment with ribbon instead of elastic and discovered that I am Not A Fan of that method.  This pattern does require a bit of attention as the chain lengths vary each round, but it does produce a lovely back view.
Back view of the snood showing its centre detail

Having made two different snoods, both fairly basic meshes, although one worked in the round, I was eager to try some variations.

Lacey Snood with Rosettes:
Weekly Times, Aug 6 1947
The snood itself was not that much of a variation from a basic mesh apart from the central curtain ring (I used a 2cm split ring from a key ring I was decluttering) and it worked up quickly. I used Sullivan's Royal Rayon 3-ply crochet yarn and my trusty vintage 'Stratnoid 13' hook (2.25m) The instructions were basically complete, although I decided that it was meant to be worked in completed not spiral rounds and hence needed slipstitching to the centre of a loop to start each new round. (The original was a bit vague.) It certainly looks neat this way.
Lacey Snood, without rosettes yet, and temporarily attached with a ribbon. You can see the foundation 'curtain ring' at the centre back. 

Rosette from the lacey snood pattern, 
I only did one rosette and was actually really impressed with how much volume was achieved from this pattern. With two able to be 'propped' up against each other thanks to the central metal rings, it could give a suitably frilly look. The contrast white bands at the edges of the two layers of frills is very effective.

I only made one as I could already tell that the whole snood wasn't going to work for me. I find the way the metal ring looks at the back of the snood a bit odd and it just isn't to my taste. I can see how it would suit other people though.  (I didn't follow the instructions to crochet over the elastic for the same reason. I think it is there because the pattern says to do the snood in coloured thread, and this way the elastic wouldn't stand out in the very wide edge holes.)
Snood and rosette, flat. What will I do with this?

Snood and Collar Set
Weekly Times, Dec 6 1944
I made three attempts to start this. I did some detailed tension calculations, working out how many rows would be in the completed diameter and taking an average diameter size from several other existing snoods, hence getting a number of rows per inch  -- and I couldn't make that happen. Two different hook sizes with one yarn, and one with a different yarn and none of them worked. I know which way I need to go on hook and yarn for my next attempt but it may never happen as I abandoned it in favour of...

Basic Crochet Snood

This pattern was incredibly basic- make a mesh and follow these size instructions. It didn't even have a picture, as it was an answer to a reader request rather than a featured pattern. In my review I said that as the sizing information was so complete, one could do any density of mesh or even a solid pattern to these specifications and get a good result. I decided to test that by using one of my favourite mesh patterns - a trellis stitch  - and I love the final result.
The trellis stitch underway.
I used yarn leftover from a cardigan I'd made - I remember it was a sock yarn but can't recall brand or exact details- and a 3mm hook. It handily used up all the yarn I had left with maybe 25cm over. Perfect stashbusting.
Back view of the completed trellis stitch snood

I used their instructions for where to put the fullness and gathering, and did the ribbon binding at the top too. I am so happy with how it looks on me.
Finished! I missed doing so in #snoodtember though

The snood on a display head; you can see the ribbon binding more easily here. 
I have a sneaking suspicion that unless I am testing another specific pattern, I'm just going to make up whatever stitch suits me into this size for any future snoods I need. I do at heart prefer working up my own patterns and so this middle ground - taking a workable sized template and filling it with whatever stitch pattern I prefer - suits my crochet style.

I hope these further reviews help if anyone is thinking of venturing into the world of vintage crochet snood patterns.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

On craft days and exhaustion

Since becoming a mother what I miss most for my crafting is the ability to "binge" on a project. I miss being able to spend six or eight or ten hours across a weekend or even a single day just indulging my love of craft and my obsession with a current project or pushing a project to the finish line before a particular deadline. Getting used to crafting in stolen moments of calm and short bursts of the evenings has definitely hurt my sewing, if not my crochet, which is better adapted to being picked up and put down in a hurry.

So one of the joys of the last two years has been a friend's monthly craft days. One Saturday a month I get to leave toddler at home and catch a train by myself and spend the day with other craft inclined people and work on whatever I want. Some months I start lots of projects, getting them past the initial tricky stages to the  point where they are more mindless and can be worked at odd moments. Some months I spend all day finishing projects. Whatever I want! And no little hands wants to "help" and no little voice demands I play instead. Because as much as I love my son and being a mum, I do need the occasional break.

This last month has been very stressful. I got a diagnosis. I got started on medication. And sadly September craft day was cancelled! I hadn't realised just how much I'd been craving that day. Because now I'm not just battling the time and attention demands of my zoomy boy (and all the other work of the house) to spend time on craft. I'm battling with my body and energy levels too. I hate being exhausted. I hate the way the medication makes me feel and can only hope that as we keep looking we find meds that work better for me.  This is just another change to my routines that I'll cope with. I'll work out how to keep crafting despite exhaustion because I can't imagine my life being fulfilled without some kind of craft.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

A choc-coconut obsession: vintage recipe experimenting

Over at the wonderful Jessica's blog Chronically Vintage, she recently shared a vintage recipe (from an advertisement) for chocolate coconut marble bars as a treat she was considering making for her husband's birthday. I liked the look of them and decided I'd try them too.
1952 advertisement featuring the recipe. Original source here; via Chronically Vintage's post here

I made the recipe as written except I used their allowed  substitution of self-raising flour and instead of heating the chocolate, sugar and water in a double boiler I used the microwave, as I generally do for all chocolate melting tasks. I also skimmed over the pan size (inches too tedious to convert) and grabbed my default slice pan.
Take one: too cakey. 
They were tasty but were honestly cake. Does this resemble those flat slices in the advertisement? No.  And the chocolate mix to marble on top was just weird. A horrible consistency. It made way more than I needed for the drizzling on top. It did marble very nicely though.

Take two involved two pans, more in line with the actual specifications in the recipe. I went back to plain flour with the added baking powder and salt. I also halved the amounts for the chocolate mix and did it in a double boiler. This made it much smoother, but now it resembled hot chocolate - definitely chocolatey, but a thin liquid rather than the chunky suspension of version one.
Take two: where did my marbling go?
As a result, the marbling on this version was barely noticeable. These pictured ones have the most distinct marbling of the lot - many squares were just a uniform brown as the chocolate mix was making puddles instead of lines. The height was better but it still didn't seem as I'd imagined.

Take three involved two changes. First, I abandoned the chocolate sugar water mix and just used melted chocolate. Second, I used only two eggs, as modern eggs are generally larger. I added an extra half a tablespoon of milk to help compensate but I was being urged to by my toddler assistant and it could have coped without it.

Take three: so close!
I'm finally happy with the main bar height and consistency but I'm not sure the straight chocolate was great for marbling - it looks amazing on the surface but didn't go into the main body of the bars at all.

So if I made this again, I'd stick with only two eggs, and the two pans.  I might go back to the first take on the chocolate mix, but use half the amount of chocolate and a quarter of the sugar and water.  If I do though it will be in a while - all these experiments have made my household a bit tired of them. When offered a piece, my toddler announced "not that cookie". Oops. Perhaps I have been a bit obsessed.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Hats on display

A rather embarassingly long time ago, having read my sister talking about decorating display heads at our shared Jupiter Hollow blog, I picked up my own styrofoam head to decoupage at a Lincraft sale. I finally got around to doing it over the last fortnight. The small boy helped. With some modest interest in paper choice and ripping but enthusiastically when it came to paste. (We later decoupaged the cut out firetruck you can see in the foreground of the picture below. And a box. He really got into pasting.)
The head in progress.
I selected a range of pink and green card-making papers which I got for free in various craft magazines. 
And now that I have a classy decoupaged display head, I can take better photos of hats.

This cloche in variegated pink wool was I believe made from a magazine pattern that I've since discarded. I liked it because it has a facing, an unusual feature in crocheted hats. This means the underside of the brim is a separate piece, joined at the brim, giving extra weight and a crisp edge. This has been my go-to hat this winter. 
The cloche has a facing which makes for a nice brim.
The other hat I'm showing off today is my leaf beret. The original vintage pattern is from a Coats and Clark leaflet "Hats and bags" (number 74)  reproduced by Bramcost Publications. You can see why the original picture attracted me as I went though.  
Such a jaunty beret!
Their version is all in ivory, which probably gave a very subtle effect, but I embraced the leavy air in green and brown.
My version of the vintage pattern.
I don't think I handled the millinery wire around the edge of the crown very well so it lacks something of the crisp angle of the original. I adore it though. 
The leaf decoration, also wired.
 I had to adapt the pattern slightly and there is one ambiguously worded part of the side crown instructions which I've completed one way here and am trying another alternative in the version I'm making for my mother.  But that's why we love vintage patterns.

I'm amazed at how much difference a display head makes to how the hats photograph. They look so polished! It almost makes me wish I'd done the decoupage a few years ago... except then I wouldn't have the memory of my son proudly showing off the head he helped mummy make in our Skype with my mother. That's worth three years of no decent hat photographs.