Children’s shoe bags for birthday presents

Birthday present shoe bags

Children I know have so many toys that when birthdays come round few of us want to add to what they already have. I made a little utilitarian shoe bag for the grandson last year when he started nursery and for a year it hung from his peg clearly declaring his name in red felt – a visibility very useful when another pair of trousers were needed…possibly quickly. Daughter No 1 liked the bag  and – in a double desire to avoid the path of ubiquitous plastic and embrace the individuality of the handmade –  has  commissioned me to produce some for birthday presents.

Birthday present shoe bag with appliquéd and embroidered felt

Detail of appliquéd and embroidered felt

Here  are the first batch of 3. All are made from heavy weight cotton I already had – either woven ticking or printed cotton duck. Cotton duck is a heavy weight cotton with a close weave which keeps its shape well but can be a bit of a devil to get a needle through. That extra bit of body in the fabric helps the bag to stand up to wear and tear and to keep it looking fresh for longer. Not sure little boys will be all that enamoured by ‘a bag’ but their mums will probably happily find a use for them.

Birthday present shoe bag with appliquéd and embroidered felt

No point in gracing such a practical item with too much hand embroidery, so I used appliquéd felt which speeds things along. Double stitching either side of the casing means the stitching is as sturdy as the fabric and double nylon drawstrings with knots secured by stitching means the cord can’t easily unknot itself and wander off.

Birthday present shoe bag with appliquéd and embroidered felt

Bug detail on birthday present shoe bag (appliquéd and embroidered felt)

Lots of birthdays coming up so must rustle through my fabric chest for more suitable pieces.    We’re enjoying the bugs – must do more.

Birthday present shoe bag with appliquéd and embroidered felt

Birthday present shoe bag with appliquéd and embroidered felt

Birthday present shoe bag with appliquéd and embroidered felt

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Train journeys and a pale blue cardigan with Fair Isle yoke

Cardigan with Fair Isle yoke (based on pattern in Debbie Bliss: Baby Cashmerino, 2002)

I enjoy train journeys and we are lucky to have a regular through service to London – my suitcase is always so full of wools, pattern books, fabrics, scissors of all sizes, picture frames, my trusty laptop, cables, chargers, etc., etc., that changing trains, especially if subways or bridges are involved, is unwanted and unwelcome. The Cheltenham train is remembered by the vicar as The Cheltenham Flyer though for some reason today only one train on the timetable goes by this name.

Cardigan with Fair Isle yoke: back view (based on pattern in Debbie Bliss: Baby Cashmerino, 2002)

Anyway flyer is certainly a misnomer for the first part of the journey which jogs into Gloucester station (leaving the same  direction as arriving – confusing for novice travellers) and then saunters through picturesque Cotswold valleys, Laurie Lee country, stopping at Stroud, Stonehouse and Kemble. Honey toned stone houses – artisan cottages to grand mansions – ascend green and often wooded slopes on either side of the train line while in the valley bottoms by the river, more substantial stone buildings stand four square. These, formerly woollen mills, recall a time early on in the industrial revolution when almost every fast running river in the area was harnessed to the fulling of cloth (a process by which woollen cloth was thickened for additional warmth and waterproofing by being pounded – by feet and later mechanically – with water and fullers earth). Stretches of countryside along this bit of the journey are eye-catchingly attractive and often, distracted by things to see, my needles cease clicking and fall idle in my lap.

Knitted samples of Fair Isle bands (top one chosen)

Once at unlovely Swindon, the train picks up speed and really does feel like flying. It is so fast between Didcot and Goring that I have to look hard to pick out  the fields with their distinctive L shapes behind our former home in Ipsden. If you know where to look the white mass of Rowan Atkinson’s new house still appears as a bit of a scar on the hillside, although the surrounding land has healed over since the house was finished. (Sadly, Rowan’s marriage ended during building and he has never lived there.)  Out of habit, I scan the platform at Goring and Streetley station in case there’s someone I know standing there but it’s hopeless, we’re going far too fast. From Reading it is just under 30  minutes into Paddington. I catch the bus just outside Paddington station and one easy change and a two minute walk later finds me at daughter No 1’s front door (powder blue with a bumble bee door knocker.) Easy.

Front of yoked cardigan (Fair Isle band found in 200 Fair Isle Designs by Mary Jane Mucklestone)

Back of yoked cardigan (Fair Isle band found in 200 Fair Isle Designs by Mary Jane Mucklestone)

But this time the return journey was not so simple. I wanted to be back in Cheltenham on Sunday for a talk and lunch on Monday given by Friends of the Wilson (formerly known as Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum) so  I decided to brave Sunday train travel. Rashly I had lumbered myself with my sewing machine (planned to be kept in Islington but my old Pfaff was still being mended and sewing jobs were stacking up), but I was early at the station with plenty of time to catch the next through train to Cheltenham.

Detail of yoked cardigan (Fair Isle band found in 200 Fair Isle Designs by Mary Jane Mucklestone)

Fifteen minutes before departure a cancelled message appeared.  I retired to a coffee shop with a good book to wait for the next through train 2 hours later. When this too was cancelled (it was suggested we take a Bristol train and CHANGE AT Swindon), I had had enough. I had already walked back and forth across the station concourse several times and my sewing machine handle was cutting into my palm.

Sleeve showing Fair Isle band

Almost £50 later (£12.50 to leave the sewing machine in left luggage and £35 for a black cab fare – it was the end of half term week end and the roads were packed), I was delighted to be back in Islington with a splendid plate of bangers and mash with herby carrots in front of me. My family were sure I’d only come back so as not to miss the Sunday evening Strictly (Come Dancing) results – as if I would! But it was infinitely more pleasant sitting in a comfortable living room watching that and then the first of David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II than it would have been dragging myself between platforms on a cold evening in late late October on the very day that the clocks were put back. I am fortunate, weekends can go from Friday to Monday. I must remember that and live acordingly.

Graph paper sketch working out where the Fair Isle band should begin at the front edge to be symmetrical

My work on this cardigan has suffered from a series of stops and starts due mainly to not thinking clearly and making insufficient notes of when I departed from the pattern. (As with the pink cardigan it was based on that in Debbie Bliss: Baby Cashmerino, 2002). For my own future reference I’ll just jot down alterations made to the pattern:

Fair isle cardigan in baby cashmerino yarn (pattern from Debbie Bliss: Baby Cashmerino, 2002)

  1. Using a design for a Fair Isle band from 200 Fair Isle Designs by Mary Jane Mugglestone (it is important it is worked over nine rows – the same as that in Debbie Bliss’s design) map out the design on graph paper to find out where the pattern falls at the beginning of the front edge. – see diagram above.
  2. The sleeve – instead of increasing gradually –  which would have caused problems with the pattern on the Fair Isle band, increase stitches cast on from 44 to 60 stitches immediately after ribbing (knit 3, inc  1, to the end) and then increase at both ends of  a couple of single coloured knit rows just before and just after using colour so there are now the required 64 stitches. The sleeve now looks fuller and more blouse like.
  3. For less tight front bands, increase cast on 67 to 76 stitches.
  4. 3 further lines of Fair Isle fit well below the main band on the yoke.
  5. Both here and on the cuff bands the centre of the mauve flowers is done in Swiss darning.

Now back to embroidery.


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