ALL the crafts.

Why is it that when there is stuff you really *should* be doing, like, y’know, packing and cleaning your entire house, sorting, sifting and culling vast amounts of junk and generally getting ready to move house, THAT’s when you most want to just do ALL the crafting?

I’m slowly working on my Stripes Gone Crazy. I’m almost down to the first colour change, which is exciting stuff. I’m not 100% convinced my sizing is quite right – it seems like it might come out a little narrow at the shoulders, but I’m not quite sure, so of course I’m just ploughing on regardless. I haven’t quite figured out the problem of not having quite enough yarn yet either, but I think I can contact the seller I bought it from at some point when I’m more sure what I need.

I had a great conversation over lunch with a friend the other day, who is just getting started on crochet. I think she’s already a perfectly competent knitter, but she wanted a bit of advice on a new project which I was only too happy to help her with. I ended up coming home and immediately casting on (would you say casting on for crochet? Looping on?) a hat for her little man. She actually wanted booties for him, but they can be part of a set, right!?

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I’m also hankering after a sewing project or two now. I cracked my sewing machine out briefly in the summer to do a couple of mending jobs. Firstly I searched high and low to find a new backpack for a trip I was taking and couldn’t find anything that was quite what I was looking for, so I fixed up the tear in the top of my old one. Good as new!  Then I repaired a couple of worn patches in some jeans. I used iron on patches for one area, but got a little more creative on a hole in the pocket.

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I placed a small patch behind the fabric and did some long stitches in zigzags to hold it together. It’s not the neatest thing ever, but I quite like the look of it.

I’m not sure how much longer this pair of jeans will hold up for though, and honestly, trying to find some new trousers or jeans that I like and actually fit me well is proving to be a tough and tedious job. I’m pretty sure I’ve tried on around 20 pairs of trousers in various shops in the last week. Which has got me keen on the idea of attempting to sew myself a pair.

I’ve ordered some fabric online (I’m never quite sure how wise it is ordering something like that online when you can’t accurately judge either colour or texture) and am scouting out patterns. I think the Sewaholic Thurlow Trousers pattern is top of the picks at the moment. I’ve never sewn a garment before, so it’ll be a whole new voyage of discovery for me, but I’m up for the challenge. Well, I will be, once I’ve moved house and unpacked and done all the things that need doing to get the new place shipshape…

And then there’s cake. Pumpkins birthday approaches, so he’ll no doubt request some crazy cake creation once again. I’m definitely not doing Toothless again!

 

Ripple reveal

The ripple blanket for Pumpkin’s teacher is finally finished. She goes on maternity leave on Friday, so it’s done with plenty of time to spare. I used the Attic 24 Neat Ripple Pattern as usual, which is such a simple but versatile and striking pattern.

A blogging bat-hat-strophe!

I suddenly seem to be back on a yarny kick at the moment.

Pumpkin was invited to the super-hero themed birthday party of a girl in his class. I was reliably informed that her favourite colours were also pink and purple, so I hit upon the idea of making a hat in pink and purple, with the logo of a famous superhero, which I imagine is not the kind of combination that is readily available on the highstreet!

I found a charted pattern for the logo on Ravelry, and set to work. I’ve never done colour work before, so that was an interesting new challenge. My tension was a bit shoddy, as I struggled to catch the floats in evenly, and so the final logo was a little puckered in places, but overall not a bad attempt.

Unfortunately, despite thinking constantly all the way through the knitting process that I needed to get a good photo of it for blogging, I totally failed to snap any shots of it whatsoever, so you’ll just have to imagine how great it looked!

Pumpkin was also an utter disaster on the feedback front. He couldn’t give me any indication as to the little girls reaction when he finally gave it to her in class (only a couple of weeks after the party by which I’d intended to have it completed!) . Luckily I stood next to her mum in the pick up queue yesterday afternoon, and she told me it had gone down very well. How nice and reassuring it is to know that your handknits are appreciated!

World Book Day also inspired me to craft. Being the super organised mother that I am, I asked the boys what they’d like to dress up as for World Book Day, oh, about 4pm the day before, so we ended up with rather low-key costuming. Pumpkin went as Mog from the books by Judith Kerr, simply wearing a white T shirt, and a grey zipped jumper and grey trousers. He reluctantly submitted to having whiskers drawn on with eyeliner, but refused point-blank to wear the cat-ears-on-a-headband that his daddy had lovingly made for him. “I’m NOT wearing a headband, mummy!”

Pickle wanted to go as The Little Red Train, from the book sby Benedict Blathwayt, but since I didn’t fancy being up til the small hours engineering a train costume from a cardboard box, nor did I relish the thought of sending the child to nursery in such a costume, I persuaded him to go as Duffy Driver from the books instead. He was amenable, so a white shirt, blue trousers and (mostly) blue zipped top formed the basis of the costume. We dispensed with the necessity for a hat, since Duffy rarely seems to wear his, and the only thing that was required to complete the outift was a red tie. Short on time and short on materials, I settled on crochet as the quickest means of producing a tie. And sure enough, by the end of the day I had this:

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I’m not sure how fashionable a crochet tie might be, but a 2 year old fortunately doesn’t seem to mind, and he looked very smart!

FO: Baby Ripples

It’s taken just under a week, and it is finished!

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I don’t really like working quite so fast – I was hooking in every spare moment I could find, including finishing the edging between scenes at rehearsal last night! – but it’s such a lovely simple pattern that it was easy to do quickly. I found a little ‘hand made with love’ label that I sewed onto the bottom corner which just finished it off beautifully.

Pumpkin gave it to his teacher at the end of school today. It was rather emotional all round. I think he’s really going to miss her.

Speedy Ripples

Pumpkin’s teacher is going off on maternity leave at the end of next week, so I thought I’d better whip something up quick. (Yes, I have known about it for months and I definitely should have started it sooner!) I’ve made a couple of blankets before for Pickle, using Attic 24’s Neat Ripple Pattern and Stylecraft Special DK. Stylecraft is great for baby blankets. Soft and easy to wash, and wears pretty well, and I have plenty of leftovers to choose from. The ripple pattern is simple but effective, rhythmic and relaxing to hook, so the choice was pretty much made for me.

I have no idea if she’s having a girl or a boy, so I tried to pick a fairly neutral colour scheme. I’m not the best at picking colours (though a little better than Pumpkin who wanted yellow, red, purple, pink and blue. Or ALL the colours.) but I think these ones work pretty well together. Yellow had to be included as it’s Pumpkin’s favourite colour, and I think it just lifts the others from being too much in the cool blue spectrum.

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A starting chain of 84 gives a great width for a small car seat or carry cot sized blanket. I began work on it yesterday evening, and a couple of hours this morning has put me at a third of the way through.

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I think I might just about manage to get it finished in time! Paired with a handmade card from Pumpkin, it’ll be a lovely gift.

How do you make colour selections for this kind of project? Do you have any tips or tools that you use to help you?

Unravel 2015

unravel, a festival of knitting, at Farnham Maltings Click for website

unravel, a festival of knitting, at Farnham Maltings
Click for website

Today I went to Unravel at Farnham Maltings with my new-to-crochet friend (we shall henceforth call her ‘Klutz’, to keep things simple!)

I have never been to a yarn festival before and, oh my! what a feast for the eyes! So much gorgeous yarn, and so many stallholders positively inviting us to come in and squish it all. Beautiful patterns, hooks, needles and notions galore, and oooh! buttons! We both felt rather traitorous that neither of us was wearing a handknit anything!

We were tempted by many things.

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Gorgeous grads

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What do you even do with linen yarn?

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Beautiful fibre – no, I am not even looking down the spinning road…

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Rows of rich earthy colours

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Ooooh I want the whole rainbow!

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But we were very restrained. I went armed with a shopping list, and Klutz formed her shopping list over a coffee after we’d had a good look round at all the stalls and consulted Ravelry.

Klutz, though tempted to branch off into knitting territory, very sensibly stuck to her guns and took a crochet only approach, settling on a gorgeously simple scarf pattern from Baa Ram Ewe and some pretty sparkly sock yarn to make it with.

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I forgot to mention to her that skeins have to be wound into balls, but a hand-winding lesson over lunch in a nearby pub sorted that out sharpish.

And here’s my little pile of goodies

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Two skeins of BFL/Nylon Sock in Charcoal, and two of 100% Merino in Teal from Debonnaire for my next project Stripes Gone Crazy, along with a couple of longer cables for my Knitpro interchangeables, and a free hat pattern for good measure.

Now I have a real incentive to get my cardigan finished. I’m not even winding these babies until I’m done with that one.

How do you fare at yarn festivals? Do you exercise restraint and stick to a shopping list, or do you succumb to the delights of aaaalllll the pretties?

Unravel and Sharing the Love

Last week my friend asked me to teach her to crochet. Completely out of the blue. She’s known I crochet and knit for a long time, but I never really thought she was interested in trying it herself. But how lovely to be asked!

So off we went on Friday evening and found a cosy corner in a pub, and got to work. I love being able to teach things that I love doing, to people who are genuinely interested. We started with chains and a bit of single crochet and double crochet, and then moved on to Granny Squares. It just seemed right, since that was what my Granny first taught me when I learnt to crochet around 20 years ago!

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Taking a break from teaching crochet with a spot of knitting while the drinks were replenished.

My friend seems to have taken to it like a duck to water, and by the end of the evening she had a granny square with three very neat rounds. She’s since added several more rounds to that original square and has started work on squares for a blanket. I’ll have to start planning another lesson!

unravel, a festival of knitting, at Farnham Maltings Click for website

Image from: unravel, a festival of knitting, at Farnham Maltings
Click for website

After our lesson, my friend found out about Unravel, a festival of knitting, held in Farnham, which is not far from where we live. I’d heard of it before, but have never been and didn’t realise it was coming up so soon, but we’re hoping to go along together at the end of February.

Are you heading to Unravel? What would you pick as a first project to teach a beginner?

Time for a round-up

I haven’t managed to track down any of the Stylecraft Special Aran that I need for my so-very-nearly-finished cardigan without resorting to online purchasing, which may well be a dangerous game, so I’ve moved onto other things.

Pumpkin requested a scarf, so I’ve mostly been busy working on that.

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It certainly won’t win any awards, but the boy seems to like it, so it’s good enough. It’s his favourite colours, and designed with a loop at one end that he can tuck the other end through, which should help to keep it on better than just having it wound around his neck. I did a sort of horizontal ribbing effect which I thought would make it a bit cushier and cosier around his neck. It actually made it quite stretchy, so it’s ended up much longer than I intended, and the narrower section of 1×1 ribbing that was supposed to help keep it in place in the loop actually overshoots it by quite a long way. Never mind. It’s all a learning process.

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Rather an untidy edge.

Speaking of learning, does anyone know why the edge of my knitting does this strange thing with one large loop and one loop pulled tight and what I can do to make the edge neater?

After the scarf, I ventured back to my crochet hooks and worked on keeping a promise I’d made before Christmas to make an Elsa/Frozen inspired hat for the seven year old daughter of a very good friend of mine.

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I used pictures on google and pinterest for inspiration, but didn’t follow any particular pattern. I’ve not made a hat for a while, and it took several attempts to get the right combination of stitch type and number of increases to get the shape right, but I got there eventually and little Miss Elsa was really happy with her surprise gift.

This cute little ducky fell off my hook next.

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I’m a member of a crochet group on Facebook which sets challenges every month or so, and the challenge for January was linked to The Little Yellow Duck Project (see website here for details).

“The Little Yellow Duck Project involves people around the world handcrafting little yellow duck gifts as random acts of kindness that are left in public places for others to find. A special tag on each one invites the finder to take their gift home to brighten their day and to visit this website to register where they found their gift. We hope that the stories and information found here will encourage them to pledge their own random act of kindness by registering to donate blood, bone marrow, organs tissues.”

So this little guy just needs a tag (when my printer feels like behaving) and then he’ll be sent off on an adventure somewhere.

Now I’m happily settled into the stockinette rhythms of my first knitted hat, and trying to learn the art of knitting without having to watch what I’m doing all the time, so I can watch TV at the same time. Speaking of which, I’m off to watch Castle. Have a lovely evening!

Crochet Christmas Decorations

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As more and more of my friends have become parents over the last few years, I’ve found myself having to buy Christmas presents for increasing numbers of children. As a parent myself, I struggle with the influx of toys my children receive each Christmas and birthday. So, for the last few years, I’ve decided to cut down on the festive toy buying for friends’ children, and have instead given each a small Christmas decoration.

The first year, I supported a friend’s small crafting business and bought some handmade felt decorations. Last year Pumpkin and I did a little crafting together and made homemade salt-dough style decorations, and this year I decided to indulge in a little hooky time to compensate for all this knitting I’ve been doing.

Last Christmas I was given a crochet magazine with patterns for some ‘Scandi Decorations’, so I used some of those and also made up a couple of my own patterns along the way.

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Unfortunately I’d already wrapped some, including my intarsia reindeer design that turned out rather well, before I thought about taking pictures.

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The round ones turned out to be my favourite, so here’s a very quick write up of the pattern for you.

Yarn: Rico creative cotton Aran

Hook: 4mm

Embellishments: A variety of buttons and felt garlands from Hobbycraft

Toy stuffing

US terms

Round 1: 10sc into magic loop, pull circle tight and slip st into first sc to join

Round2: ch1,  2sc into each sc around and join (20 sc)

Round 3: ch1, [*1sc, 2sc in next sc], repeat from * to end of round and join (30sc)

Round 4: ch1, [* 1sc, 1sc, 2sc into next sc], repeat from * to end of round, join and finish. (40sc)

This is your front piece – sew on any embellishments you choose at this point.

Choose a contrasting colour and make a second circle as before, up to end of round 4. Join, but do not finish.

Round 5: Turn, ch1, holding the two circles with wrong sides together, and beginning at the top of the ‘front’ piece, sc around to join the two together, making sure to go through 1 sc from each circle for each stitch. Stuff lightly with toy stuffing when you are about 3/4 of the way round. Join yarn at the end. (40sc)

To make a hanging loop, chain 18-20 st, then join at beginning. Cut yarn with a tail and weave in.

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All that is left now, is to wish you all a very happy Christmas!

Crochet

My Granny taught me to crochet when I was around 10 or 11. Granny squares. For years, all I knew how to crochet was granny squares! I liked the motion of it, the rhythm of counting stitches, the way they grew quickly from one loop to a small square and bigger. It was faster than knitting, easier (I’d never been able to cast on or off when I’d tried knitting before) and there was only ever one stitch to drop.

I made a blanket for a new baby I knew.

Then stopped.

There’s definitely a limit to the number of granny square blankets I wanted to make. Besides, I had plenty of other things to move on to…

Then, in 2009, when I was expecting my first child, I pulled my old bag of yarn from the wardrobe and made a start on a new baby blanket. The blanket grew and was finished. I wanted to do more. Youtube is a brilliant resource for learning just about anything! I made a hat. I made a bootie. I had a baby boy. The hat was too small. The second bootie never got started. The blanket was all the wrong colours for my baby boy. I made one more blanket for a friend’s baby girl, and then back into the cupboard it went.

Granny Square BlanketToo small hat

Roll on 3 years and I was expecting baby number two. I needed something I could occupy myself with whilst sitting down. I found a pattern for a monkey hat on pinterest (another great resource) and fancied having a go, but didn’t have anything like the right colours, so decided to make it as a polar bear hat for my son. I vaguely followed the pattern, but found it easy to understand the construction and therefore easy to adapt the pattern to suit my ideas and my son. By the end of the day my son was proudly wearing his brand new hat and demanded another – a dragon hat! Said dragon hat duly followed, inspired by pictures I’d seen, but entirely my own design.

I browsed blogs and discovered Attic24, and decided Lucy’s ripple pattern would be great as a baby blanket and started work. A cardigan came next, then matching hats – one for a boy, one for a girl as we did not know what our baby would be – a car seat blanket, then a cake for my son’s kitchen toy box, complete with a plate on request and a slice of cake.

Cardigan and hatBoy and Girl hatsCar seat blanket

Two weeks overdue and desperate for anything to keep my brain occupied I started a giraffe soft toy and was invited to join a crochet group on Facebook. Baby boy eventually arrived and time to crochet was limited, but the giraffe did get finished. I discovered Ravelry and learned about blocking and frogging, new stitches and tried new patterns, and there have been a few more projects since then – a second giraffe, a Heidi Bear Happypotamus, a doll’s blanket for my niece and a beautiful shawl that is very slowly taking shape. More hats and boots and even an attempt at writing a pattern.

Giraffe number oneHappypotamusGiraffe number two

I very much enjoy crochet, but I am quite selective in choosing my crochet projects. I don’t have the kind of house that lends itself to rustic, pretty homemade decorations (they’d just get buried under all the clutter) and I’m not always confident that homemade gifts will be appreciated in all quarters, so I largely stick to making things that I know I will use.  That said, there are the occasional projects I’ve undertaken just because I fancied having a go at something a bit different that caught my eye.

I will be keeping a record of items I’ve made – even just writing this post has made me realised that I’ve made more than I thought I had – and maybe posting a pattern or two should inspiration strike.

Let me know how and when you learned to crochet, and tell me what your favourite pattern is and why you like it.