Adding Gold to Our Rainbow

Archive for the category “family”

Knitting Alan Dart’s Nativity Collection Part 1


This is going to be knit as an ongoing Christmas present for Nephew (soon to be Nephews). We plan on doing 3 figures a year. First year was a bit of a cheat because one of the figures was Jesus.

Sorry for the lack of decent pictures. It was finished, I took the photos at night and wrapped them up to be posted to Sydney the day before Christmas Eve. Was so pleased they got there in time.

Nativities are not our thing but it seems to go down pretty well with family and means we don’t have to struggle to find a present each year.

The pattern is the Alan Dart Nativity Collection published in Sirdar 285. Alan Dart has three Nativity patterns. Nativity Set, Christmas Wishes Nativity and the Nativity Collection. We chose the Nativity Collection because it is bigger and much more detailed.
Here is our Project page on Ravelry http://ravel.me/dindalay/tnc2
These are all being knit in acrylic and we are avoiding the cardboard because Nephew was 18 months when the first figures arrived and new nephew will be born by the second Christmas so we wanted figures you could chuck in the washing machine if you needed too and ones that didn’t have anything sharp in them.

Ruth has knitted all the pieces and I’ve been sewing them up. As is usual for Alan Dart stuff they look great but the making up instructions are useless and I basically have to make it up myself from looking at the picture.


Ruth thought about knitting it all in the round to stop so many of the pieces but I decided it was better to do it in pieces so I have more control over how it is stuffed and can make the changes I need to to make it work.

2011 –
We decided to knit just Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus this year as we started really late but we also liked the idea of the nativity growing each year. When we’ve finished we may even start on the Noah’s Ark. If we’re crazy enough by then.

The pattern knits up okay. It’s a bit fiddly and there are lots of pieces but it’s not massively difficult. It’s once you try and follow the making up instructions that I had trouble.

It wasn’t quite as hard to follow as the Thomas The Tank Engine making up instructions but when I followed the instructions my figures didn’t look anything like the ones in the pictures. The heads sagged, their faces were covered by the headscarves, they wouldn’t stand and they just looked really sad.

There is no way a thin strip of knitting was going to hold up the head.
And even if you did put the cardboard in the bottom of the gown, once you add feet to the front of that how does the figure stand?

I took all the pieces apart again and just made up my own way of putting them together. Unfortunately I’m writing this a year later so I’m not sure I can remember everything but I’ve just put together one of the Shepherds and it’s mostly the same technique.

First up I stuffed the gown. I felted some of the polyfill stuffing together into a disk shape for the bottom edge as I didn’t want to use cardboard. It made it a bit more stable. I just rubbed it together in my hands. Using the felting needle was just too time consuming for this but you could get a much firmer felt with it. I was just on a time limit.

Then I tacked the arms on with spare yarn so I could make sure they were in the right place. So many times I’ve sewn limbs on and then found they are in the wrong place. I wanted to make sure that the seam of the gown was at the back. This wouldn’t be an issue if you knit the gown in the round.

I put the head on after the arms as it’s easier to get it to line up. To get the neck to stay upright I had to change the way I sewed it on. I didn’t want to use a toothpick or pipe cleaner as I wanted to make these safe for babies.

(Excuse the dodgy drawings. I’ll update these once I’m well enough to sit at the computer)

I sewed the neck piece to the head and then sat that almost totally inside the neck hole of the gown.
I threaded a piece of yarn the same colour as the gown around the neck hole in the gown and pulled it tight around the neck piece. I then used yarn the same colour as the skin to make sure the neck was sewn to the gown well and threaded it up to the had and back down all the way around the neck. This makes it thicker and stronger. You could also use thicker yarn for the neck


I think all the figures have beard/headscarf/tabard thing to cover the neck except Mary and she has that collar thing too so you don’t really see it.

Make sure with Mary you put the collar thing on before sewing the neck into the body piece though.

 I had to add way more hair for it to show up under Mary’s headscarf and I decided it looked better down in a ponytail at the back rather than tied in a bun where you couldn’t see it and it just made the headscarf bump out oddly.


As a lot of people have said, the headscarves are usually too big. I ended up tacking them on in places to make them sit right. I also threaded more yarn of the same colour around the bottom edges of the headscarves to try and get them to stay flatter.
I think in the end just tacking it to the body at the bottom and around the shoulder area on both sides was more successful.

I didn’t embroider the eyes until I had the headscarf stitched in place and the nose sewn on. I then just did them where they looked good rather than counting the stitches because the headscarf took up much more space that it should.

Ruth used the same normal yarn for the beards as we didn’t haven anything fuzzy. They came out pretty massive and I had to thread more yarn through the edges and pull it tight to get a better size to fit on the faces.


After about three goes at Mary’s eyebrows making her look odd or like a man I ended up doing three small stitches in a curved arc rather than the straight stitch. Women have more curved eyebrows. It really made the difference. I also gave up on trying to give her a mouth. She looked better on mine without one.


The feet I also stuffed with semi felted stuffing. I still had to sew them on many times before I could get the figures to even stand up some of the time.
I can see why people added something at the back to make these stand up right. Once you sew the feet on to the front they rock back and tend to fall over.
I sewed them as far apart as I could and with very little sticking out the front of the figures. They stood up okay.

(This year when making the next figures I used some foamboard to cut out the circle at the bottom and the feet pieces in the pattern. This has made them a little more stable but they still aren’t as upright as I’d like. If you weren’t making them to be put through a washing machine then beans or rice would help a lot to stand them up. I think you could also easily leave the feet off.)

Once I’d finished putting Mary and Joseph together I
decided that they were too plain. I know that Mary and Joseph were meant to be poor but if you make your own clothes you can embroider them cheaply to make them look better.

I chain stitched in yellow around the edge of Mary’s headscarf with some straight stitch details on the front and and a flower in straight stitch on the back.
I just did running stitch around the edge of Joseph’s headscarf.



I couldn’t do the twisted cord for the belts and around the headscarves so I used what I’ve always known as fingerknitting. It’s basically like chain stitching in crochet but you pull it tight after each stitch and I do it with my fingers. I’m sure it has a proper name somewhere.

I then unspun the ends of the cords once knotted on Joseph and as I wanted it a bit neater on Mary I knotted it up and I think I used the felting needle to make sure it all tucked in there.

I will write up about the next lot of figures once Christmas is over because family wants them to be a surprise. I’m taking more photos this time. We started much earlier.



A closer look at my Tiny House series

Tiny HouseIMG_6878
Tiny House

I have three houses in the series completed so far. They are all  for sale in our Etsy shop. Click on the houses to go to their listing.

Part of the reason I’m interested in tiny houses in craft is their cuteness and part of is the fact that I live in one. Actually our tiny house is smaller than the first two of these. Two years ago we ended up moving to a four room house in the middle of nowhere.

Trying to go from a two bedroom, reasonably small house with a garage to four tiny rooms was not easy. We still have boxes up against the walls because there is just nowhere to unpack to.


The bedroom and lounge room in the cottage are much older than the other two rooms. They date back to before the 1870s gold rush. In 1872 – 1874 it was used as the first police station in the village and at some point in 1874 to the mid 1880’s it was a telegraph office.


In the 1930’s it was bought, along with Hosie’s Store (now Hosie’s B&B) by Ruth’s Great Grandfather and  they built a kitchen on. In the 1970’s the house was taken by National Parks and Wildlife and they added an indoor bathroom/laundry.

We’re on tank water rather than town but at some point we’ll have to get reconnected to town water again because the tanks just aren’t big enough for people living here full time. We don’t have a phone line and we had to get satellite internet installed when we moved in.
We don’t have a postal delivery, we walk to the Post Office to pick it up and we have to take our own rubbish to the tip. The nearest shopping, doctors, hospital, chemist etc are an hour and a half drive away.


It’s something we’ve managed to get used to but coming from Newcastle where everything was less than 20mins drive away it was a bit of a lifestyle change.

There are some fantastic benefits to living out here. The main one for us is the fact that it’s cooler here than on the coast. We are over 800m above sea level and we are often 10c less than where we used to live.
Neither Ruth or I do well in the heat at all so it’s lovely to not get above 30c often in summer and most nights have it actually cool down to about 12c.
We do get much colder winters but we have an open fire place, a small lounge room that we can shut off, walls that are about a foot thick in the front two rooms and an electric blanket so we keep pretty toasty.
Not to mention the fact that we both knit and have a lovely collection of wool hats, gloves, jumpers and socks to keep us warm.
So far though we’ve only seen it snow one day each year and not for very long. As much as I love the look of snow and it’s a real novelty here in our part of Australia I really don’t want to be driving on it.

snow in Hill End

snow in Hill End
(used one of the Pioneer Woman Actions on this)

Another benefit to living here is the amount of fruit trees in the village. Because the village used to be so much larger and it was at a time when people had to be as self sufficient as possible because the journey to Bathurst was incredibly slow and dangerous there are fruit trees all over the place.




We also have lots of Kangaroos that hang around the village


There’s also silence. I’ve never lived somewhere so quiet most of the time and the stars are amazing  but I don’t have photos of those.

Tiny House
I think this one is my favourite. It is partly based on a Hobbit hole but also partly on the Nissan Hut we used to live in. 

Tiny House
Tiny House
These two are based more on traditional simple drawings of houses.

Coming soon will be some more traditional cottage shapes along with some mushroom and toadstool houses and some more fairy tale based ones, even some tiny castles. I have some sketches for now. Just need to sit down and stitch some more and then wait until I can afford more hoops.

A family visit

This last week was spent off visiting family and friends. We mostly had a great time but it was exhausting. The hours and hours spent driving, the sleeping on other people’s beds or on a mattress on the floor, just being around people takes it out of us. We both have health issues that cause fatigue and I had just started back on pain patches which make me tired (and make me even more likely to pass out on standing for the first few days, which I did.)

It was good to catch up with people. It’s hard to see family so few times a year. It gets so expensive with dog boarding and petrol for us to go more often. It’s also a 7 hour drive and I’m not always well enough for that.

Managed to find time to get some embroidery done though. I finished embroidering the picture of Hosie’s for Steve and Susanne’s wedding present and got most of the work done on the pony picture for a friend’s birthday. Just have the text to finish on both of them now. Hopefully I can get them both done by the end of the week.

I had trouble getting the text in the right place and making sure it was centred and all. I played around with it on Photoshop today and will trace it on tomorrow. Tried to do it by holding the fabric over the CRT monitor but I can’t see a thing through it. I’ve done it on the laptop before though so I’ll have to use that tomorrow. I know it puts a lot more light out of the LCD screen than the CRT does.

Ruth is knitting up some more Wooly Wormhead hats and I’m making up a couple of shepherds and an angel for this Christmas’s installment of Alan Dart’s Nativity set for the nephews. Thankfully we’ve not left it until the last minute this time.

Now we’re home again we’re getting out around the village for our evening walks and enjoying the quiet you just can’t get in the cities.
An Iris came up in the flowerbed under the bedroom window this year. We had a few tulips as well. We’ve been here two years and haven’t seen any sign of them before.

White Lilac
The White Lilac near our front gate is blooming again. About a week later than a lot of the others in the village. Our plants are often behind. We’re in a bit of a hollow and don’t get as much sun. It smells wonderful.

Over the fence
Our cottage in the background

Old Girl

One of our nearest neighbours, other than the geese and ducks.

Denison St
Denison St while we were out on our walk. We were a bit too early for all the kangaroos this day. We saw over 30 on Post Office flat the other day and more in an empty paddock.

Catholic church
The church is being done up by Hill End Arts Council for use as an art space.

I love this gateway and the wisteria is gorgeous.

Fallen tree
This tree fell over years ago but it’s still growing.  


 This quote really spoke to me. It is from the free issue of Entangled Magazine, Rachel Rayner’s article Hope Chest. It’s a great magazine. Do check it out.

“Fibre captures that feeling of hope better
than any other craft I’ve tried. the act
of creation is always kind of a talisman
against bad luck and broken hearts. I’m
here, it says. I’m a person with a voice and 
I can make things. Whatever else that’s
going on, whatever bad things happen in
this life, I can make things. this little piece
of my soul that I’m putting into what I’m
making will keep on keeping on whatever 
I do and can reach out to people when i
cannot.  “

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