Thursday, 30 June 2016

The Daddy Umbrella

Going back a couple of months to the beginning of May, May Day weekend saw us visit Clun for their Green Man Festival. Sadly, Dave's umbrella was a casualty of the battle between winter and spring. The weather was bad, with heavy rain and strong winds. A gust took Dave's umbrella, pulling it inside out and snapping the struts holding up the canopy.

M noted the loss and promised Dave a new umbrella for Fathers Day.

So began operation Daddy's Umbrella.

M and I talked, discussing what sort of umbrella she'd like to give to him and before you know it, M's talking about decorating an umbrella to make it special. This meant I had to swing into research mode, working out how she could decorate an umbrella without affecting its practical use.

We took to the internet, spending some time looking at pictures, M sketched out ideas and together we came up with a plan. M would paint an umbrella for Fathers Day.

The only issue was trying to find an umbrella!

Trying to find a plain white or blue umbrella locally proved impossible. We did buy some plain umbrellas for practice, but nothing that suited M's plans. In the end, we came across the Jolly Brolly website, M approved and two weeks before Fathers Day, the umbrella was delivered.

In the meantime, I'd also bought acrylic paint and fabric medium. Acrylic paint is normally water resistant, but it doesn't apply well to fabric. It is too thick, changes the consistency of fabrics and is prone to cracking when dry. Fabric medium can be added to acrylic, thinning it and reducing the impact of the paint on fabric. The plan was to use a 50/50 mix of medium and paint, allow it to dry and then fix it using an iron. Naturally, I'd use a pressing cloth to protect both the iron from the paint and the umbrella from excessive heat. I'd also taken care to avoid acquiring an umbrella with a plastic canopy as that would have resisted the paint and most likely melted at the sight of an iron.

M and I agreed that we needed a stunt umbrella. A semi-sacrificial umbrella, that she could paint to test the technique and prove it would result in a usable brolly where the paint stayed put. M decided that she would paint the Northern Lights coming across mountains. We looked at many pictures of the Northern Lights and M got started.
M paints her first umbrella.
Two hours and one painted sock later, we had an umbrella covered with swirls and dramatic mountains. It retired to the shed to dry for three days and then I ironed it. M volunteered to stand under it while I used a watering can to test how waterproof the paint was. Thankfully the paint stayed put and M was dry, at least until it was my turn to stand (or crouch) under the umbrella while M tested it with a watering can. M learned that water runs off an umbrella and if you are standing close to the overhang, will pour all over you.
The Northern Lights umbrella.
Satisfied with the result, we set the umbrella aside to dry and M worked on the design for the Daddy umbrella.

Several sketches later, M told me she wanted to paint the word DADDY around the rim with hearts above it. She would then paint pictures of Dave in various weather types above the hearts.

We had a plan and got started. I mixed the paint/fabric medium, M painted. I grabbed a brush and applied a second layer of paint, following M's lead. It took a long time and we started with the DADDY and hearts. The umbrella was a full sized golfing umbrella and huge, which presented problems for M who is not very tall and would be leaning over wet paint. I suggested we allow the hearts to dry, then paint in the Daddy's a couple of days later. M agreed, but this meant the umbrella was not finished in time for Fathers Day. We also decided to use sharpie pens to draw the outlines for the figures and pick out the edges of the hearts.
The finished Daddy Umbrella.
Finally however, after four days of drying time it was ready. I ironed it, we tested it and declared it done.
I think anyone seeing this will know it's owner is a Daddy.
As you can see, it is a sizeable umbrella and Dave should be very recognisable as a Daddy when out and about in the rain.
A very happy M who is pleased with the result.
M is happy and we may need to paint more umbrellas in the near future.

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Saturday, 4 June 2016

One last time

About a week ago, I finished the blue cotton cardigan I started for M back in March. Considering I swatched for this project in February, this means it has taken me over three months to knit a garment to fit a nearly six year old. I really am not a speedy knitter these days. Fortunately, M had asked for a summer cardigan so my timing is impeccable.

After a lot of thought, I decided to make the Sirdar simple cardigan one more time. I've already made this pattern twice before (last year and in 2014), so it was a familiar make. I wanted to make the cardigan in a size bigger than M, so for a 7-8 year old, which presented a challenge as the Sirdar pattern only goes up to 6-7. I was all set to rework the numbers, but started with my swatch and no matter how I tried I could not get my chosen yarn (Drops Muskat) to come out to the specified gauge of 22 stitches x 28 rows in stocking stitch gives a 10cm square.

I had two choices:

3.75mm needles 21st x 28 rows = 10cm
4mm needles 20st x 26 rows = 10cm

I could have tried dropping needle size again, but was worried about drape and ending up with a cotton cardigan which was too stiff.

After working the numbers, I decided to knit this cardigan with 4mm needles. The resulting gauge made the piece a couple of centimeters bigger across the chest, bringing the expected size closer to that needed for an eight year old, which was what I needed.
A finished cardigan.
Having made this cardigan before, I decided to mix things up a bit by adding stranded colour work to the bottom of the body and sleeves. This was a new technique for me and keeping tension even proved tricky, but I was pleased with the effect which was very pretty.
The back view.
I was astonished at how quickly this cardigan ate the Muskat. The pattern predicted seven balls and I'd bought eight. By the time I'd finished the back, I knew I'd be in trouble as I'd gone through nearly three balls! By my estimates, I'd run out of yarn on the second sleeve... So I hastily bought another five balls of the same dyelot, because I wanted enough left over to add to another project. I am so glad I did, as this project used nine balls of the main colour and one ball of the contrast.

The original Sirdar pattern calls for a knitted border, but the first time I made this I found the border wouldn't lie flat and the collar was messy. I much prefer a crochet border, so I decided to do my own thing.
Getting adventurous with the collar.
Stranded knitted colour work, with a spiked treble, eyelet and scallop edging.
M wanted a ribbon and a turquoise scallop to match the turquoise stranded work, I fancied doing some tiny scallops and spiked stitches, so we ended up with all of those things incorporated into the bottom hem, fronts, collar and cuffs. While I enjoy knitting, I'm more confident with crochet and as such I'm happy to experiment. At one point I was afraid I'd overdone it, but after the last stitch was placed, I decided the crochet finish brings the final garment alive. Finally, M chose the button to match during a trip to the local yarn store.
Collar and front.
The end result is a very pretty cardigan. It is deliberately too big, which is why it currently sits more like a jacket, but by this time next year I think it will fit my daughter well. She may even get a third year out of it!
A happy little girl.
M loves it, so everyone is happy.