At the weekend

It’s been a lovely weekend, the kind where you pack lots and lots in and enjoy it all. The washing machine is whirling around as I type, the carpet needs hovering and dust is floating but it can all wait.
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On Saturday I went to ExCel, at the London Docklands, with a good friend for the Simply Christmas craft show. I haven’t been before and imagined sparkles, tinsel and decorations galore. It all began with a bit of a bang as we entered the space; a woman with a lot of bags was trying the dodge the staff on the way out. A member of staff was shouting that she couldn’t leave until security had been called. Apparently the woman had been caught stealing a few items and had more bags that hadn’t been searched. When my friend bought fat quarters from a few different stalls none gave receipts, so how to prove you’ve paid for items? We decided you’d need to make memorable comments, or talk with a really weird accent, during purchases just to make sure of being remembered.

The sleigh and everything you see above is made from sugar. The Grotto was full of sugary Christmas scenes and smelt absolutely delicious!

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The main focus seemed to be paper crafts and fabric. Black Sheep Wools had a stand and there were a few other small yarny tables, but not many. It’s probably for the best. Most of the show was just plain stalls selling what they might sell at any other time of year. The majority hadn’t decorated at all and there was a distinct lack of any sign of Christmas. We weaved from the beginning, along the stalls in row A, and so on, and by the middle we found a decorated tree and a couple of singers performing seasonal songs. Things seemed to be morphing into Christmas.Then we saw the sugary grotto and the display of Christmas makes above.

I particularly enjoyed watching some art workshops. Two or three fairly large groups of people sat imitating the artists who stood at the front with a fixed camera showing their techniques as they worked. This was shown on a large screen so the participants could listened to explanations and paint or draw along, using watercolours or pastels. They all ended with their own representations of the same picture, it was rather impressive. I wish I could draw!

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Mmmmm chocolate. But I’m not buying any until we go to Brussels on a jaunt to the Christmas market. I’ve never been on the Eurostar train which travels under the English Channel, it’s going to be fun.

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After ExCel we headed to do the really cool thing we’d run out of time for last time; The Fan Museum in Greenwich. Maybe it’s not the most exciting visit, but there is impressive painting and workmanship. If you’re really clever and concentrate you can name all the parts of a fan and explain how they’re made. As you walk inside the rather lovely town house you can imagine the Upstairs, Downstairs lives played out there in the past.

We’re both a little addicted to Groupon, Living Social and Amazon Local deals so anything gets seriously considered; especially if it’s under £5 or £10. This year we’ve done all sorts of outings and activities, as we take it in turns to book the next thing. My friend bought the Fan Museum deal as it was £2 (it’s £2 if you’re a National Trust member anyway, by the way.) The next deal I’ve booked for us is a Charles Dickens London walking tour. We’ve been on the It’s a Ripper and Ghost walking tours this year, and I figure we’ll need the post-Christmas exercise in January.

We then went for a wander in Greenwich park as the light began to fade and wondered where we fancied going next.
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Generally, if in doubt, a pub is always a good choice. I haven’t drank in The Gypsy Moth for ages. It was still light when we arrived and only 11 degrees, so we sat in the garden looking at the twinkling lights as the light fell. There was more, but I’ve run out of photos and it really involved more tube travel, the O2 and dinner. And that, was another good day.

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On Sunday the Mr and I went to Blenheim Palace to see the Christmas decorations and rather speed walked through the rooms as we’d already seen the Ai Weiwei exhibition. I bet the attendants thought the pair of us were philistines, only there to visit the shop.

The stilt walker was hilarious, Someone wondered how he ties his shoes…

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I wouldn’t mind eating Christmas Dinner at the Marlborough’s table.

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And home for a mug of tea and some crochet. I promised myself that when all the ends were all darned I could download and read the new Inside Crochet. Apparently I always say “Next time I’ll darn as I go.”
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And she’s off….!

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I’d planned to finish the zesty raspberry ripple by the end of the month. I was soooo close. Last night I did darn in the rest of the ends, and trebled along both sides. Tonight I’m going to complete the rest of the border, if it’s only a day off that’s not so bad, is it?

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This was taken last night under a lamp, so the colours are rather muted. It’s so soft and warm, I know it’s going to used lots and appreciated. I’ll do a ‘FINISHED’ post with all the yarn details soon.

How was your weekend?

Homemade compliments

I’ve just read Sarah of Crafts from the Cwtch blog post about how her new knitted Colourblock Shawl has prompted compliments from strangers on the street. This reminded that when I wore my crocheted ribbed scarf to evening class on Tuesday I was complimented on the colours. It’s so gratifying to make something handmade and have it noticed. (For the right reasons!) Shop bought rarely gathers compliments; I guess the colours and designs can be too generic to stand out.
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If you want to crochet a ribbed scarf the pattern’s here. Or, you could dig out your knitting sticks and make Sarah’s cosy shawl.
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Currently I’m rippling away still, full speed ahead. The end is in sight, bar the darning and border. I have about 19 more stripes to crochet and I’m whizzing along to (don’t judge me) Glee: season 4. I gave up on Glee at the beginning of series 3 which was shown years ago here. It was so samey and they looked far, far too old to still be hanging around a High School music room! Series 4 was apparently broadcast two years ago, most of the originals have moved onwards and upwards which makes it fun seeing their next steps. It keeps me singing along as I fiercely hook, hook, hook on the sofa. To be honest I am absolutely dying to make some small fun makes, but I know I have to get the zesty raspberry ripple finished and then go back to the motif blanket. Both WILL be completed in time for Christmas.

What are you up to?

The gloves are on

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What a change from the end of last week. The scarf, hat and glove box is live. Typical autumn weather has returned.

This week one of my new v stitch scarves had its first outing, and I wore my fingerless mitts. Only twice though, then I swapped them for proper gloves. Fingers and all as it’s now dropped 10-12 degrees. I had to laugh, as a lady at the bus stop saw me wearing the fingerless pair and said she’d been wondering about them, and if “they really work.”

It’s a rainy Saturday and the Wales v Australia rugby match is playing out on the TV. I’ve got Bose noise cancelling headphones on, catching up with Liza Tarbuck’s show from last Saturday on the BBC radio iplayer. The music’s so good that I’m sofa bopping as I ripple.

What are you up to?

Fashion and Textile Museum: Knitwear, Chanel to Westwood

Yesterday a friend and I went to the latest exhibition at the London Fashion and Textile museum in Bermondsey. I’ve visited a few exhibitions there before (Kaffe Fassett and Bellville Sassoon.) It really is a gem of a place. Originally founded by Zandra Rhodes in 2003, it’s now operated by Newham college.
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Before buying our tickets a few weeks ago I’d Googled to see if there were any discounts. It’s so worth doing this before buying anything online. The results showed an Amazon Local deal several pounds cheaper, with vouchers for two hot drinks at the cafe. While I waited for my friend I used mine, I’m not sure why I chose hot chocolate as it was 21 degrees by mid morning! This is very strange weather for October – though beautiful.

The exhibition brochure begins: ‘Knitting is one of the most fundamental textile techniques, produced from a continuous yarn and simple needles, yet its origins are shrouded in the mists of time. Early examples of knitting dating from Coptic and Egyptian cultures still exist, along with hats, stockings and knitted undergarments from the sixteenth century…”

Most of the examples of knitted and crocheted garments are from a private collection and the exhibition ‘reflects the emotions we invest in objects.’

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I took this with the wacky and wonderful Jill in mind. At the moment she’s busy crocheting rhino horns for beanies. That seems to be one of her typical working days.

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This is an Edwardian wool petticoat from 1907. Can you imagine wearing it under layers of clothing?

To read some blogs there are current designers and makers who write as if they invented ripple and chevron patterns, but in 1907 (and probably long, long before) women were choosing red and black wool and rippling away. It’s quite humbling isn’t it? Nice too, to think we’re just many in a long history of the craft.

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How old is this crochet dress? When would you date it?
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It’s from H&M and was sold in the 1990s. Did it fool you, like it fooled us?
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Items from the 1940s Make Do and Mend era during The Second World War. There are examples of old dresses reworked into new skirts and garments knitted or crochet from many oddments of wool.
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The exhibition is not without faults I’m sorry to say. Some other women we chatted to felt that there was not enough information about how items were made and they regretted not being able to see garments from all angles. Curiously the displays were standing in what looked like giant packing crates. Signage is rather unclear so it takes some time to work out which garment information refers to. I found displays on top of crates really frustrating. They were at least 7′ up in the air and you couldn’t see them clearly. Why?!

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Wonderful fair isle tank tops. As we read the info the four of us all chorused – before we came to it – “And the Prince of Wales was sent one and wore it to see the GOLF and that’s how fair isle became famous.” It’s obviously one of those tidbits that everyone remembers.

There was much more to see and this is just a taster. The exhibition is there until January 18th. Although we experienced some irritations with the display I would still recommend visiting if you can, as the sheer range of items is interesting. I heard many cameras clicking and comments as people recollected similar clothing they, or their Grannies, used to wear!

Afterwards we walked towards the river. Look at all those t-shirt wearing people. In October! In London! ENGLAND! I was one of them, because thank goodness I checked my weather app before I left home.
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Looking across the river we could see that the area around the Tower of London was busy, but it wasn’t until today that I heard of the surge of people who took advantage of half term’s sunny weather to go and see the poppy installation, a memorial for the British and Colonial soldiers who died in the First World War. Apparently Tower Bridge tube station had to close several times during the day. And now visitors are asked to delay going until next week because of the crowds.
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Isn’t Tower Bridge pretty? Spotted the bird?

Next we aimed to walk to Greenwich, along the Thames path as far as we could go, as we had tickets to visit somewhere really cool (not at all) but paused at The Angel, Rotherhithe for some of Samuel Smith’s Yorkshire finest. Sitting on the outside balcony watching the river craft passing, hearing the water lapping below while soaking up the sun turned out to be a very good thing too. When the sun shines like that you make the most of it. And the other thing will have to wait until the end of the month.

Happy November to you.

Woolly jumpers on!

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It was such a lovely day on Sunday; 17 deg and no need for a warm jacket. We sat on a bench and I was just saying how perfect it was to put your head back and feel the warm rays on your face, when I clonked my head on the back of the bench. I’d like to say this is a rare kind of clonk, but sadly it’s not. At a friend’s housewarming I apparently threw myself down onto her sofa, after unpacking lots of boxes, and hit my head on the bookcase which had been placed behind. I don’t really remember that one. Maybe I concussed myself!

Anyway. the walk, weather and sight of the trees, berries and wild fungi were beautiful. I really LOVE autumn. Always have.

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This is the first one I’d seen this season, on Sunday, but then I stumbled into full-on Christmas yesterday in a ‘room’ in Homebase. I like it in October, that’s when I begin to get little tingles about Christmas, the colourful lights and decorations to come. By December the relentlessness of it has worn me down somewhat, then on the actual few days it’s all fun again. Until the next year…

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The weather’s gone back to typically autumn temps with wind and rain featuring quite a bit this week. But the advantage of autumn and winter blanket making is being able to cosy under them while you crochet! The ripple is over half-way now and I’ve come up with a really cunning plan about the design. More on that another day.

Shotgun Lovesongs - Picador I’m really enjoying my Shotgun Lovesongs audio book. It’s perfect for rippling along to. The four main characters: Henry, Beth, Lee and Ronnie are dramatised by different narrators/actors. I’m loving the the way a couple of them pronounce words like ‘orange’ and ‘mirror’! I’m not sure if that’s due to them aiming to sound like authentic Wisconsinsites, but I likey.

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Tonight I’m making fish chowder for dinner. It’s a Lesley Waters recipe and you can find it here.

 

What are you cooking, eating, making, reading?

Cosy crocheting

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Because I’m fed up of having a really fluffy patch of carpet near my sofa I’ve come up with a cunning plan and fetched something from the kitchen for my ball of yarn. It’s a very stylish yarn bowl, don’t you agree? It’s working well and actually the ball unravels with ease, without constant tugging.

I shall have to get back on to my very good bloggy friend Trish of Made By Patch and see if her father is going to make me a super wooden yarn bowl like he made her. You’d think a lottery winner could buy anything she wanted wouldn’t you?
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So, I finished Brian the v stitch scarf / cowl the other day (I had just 7″ left to do in the top pic) and decided to continue something which would keep me as toasty as possible while I hooked. As I sit writing this in the gloom, at 430pm, I realise that it’s never really become light today, it’s Britain’s infamous iron sky.
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Still, there was porridge for breakfast, homemade butternut and sweet potato soup with crispy bacon pieces sprinkled on top. I may push the boat out and have a low cal chocolate coconut drink next. Comfort food and drinks along with cosy crochet are the benefits of autumn.

Are you warm or chilly? What is keeping you cosy?

I won £25 on the lottery Saturday night. Woo hoo!

CROCHET

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Lately I’ve been whipping up dishcloths. I’ve tried a few different, slightly fancier, versions in the past but apparently the plain and simple trebles give good scrub-ability! I’ve been knitting or crocheting dishcloths for several years now as they’re very popular with a few relatives. One boils hers every week and so it’s been a stringent test of my darning! (Passed. Gold star.)

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I’m trying to get on with the motif blanket now. I’ve crocheted one motif in about four weeks so have to really get cracking ….tra la la la la, la la la la and all that….

I’ve darned as I’ve gone lately, but as you see some of the motifs I began with are not yet; so the middles are a bit pulled out, they’ll be nice and tightly uniform at the end.

Are you crocheting at the mo?

Brian – V Stitch Scarf / Cowl

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A couple of people have asked me what I’m crocheting at the moment. I should be concentrating on my motif blanket, and ripple, but I’m really enjoying simple crochet. I woke yesterday feeling really unwell and today don’t feel much better, and this is perfect. I watched my first Disney film, Tangled, in years yesterday afternoon. Maybe the first since the Little Mermaid? I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed it, that’s a definite sign of my custard brain. The animation seems more like 3D than before, perhaps Disney have had to adapt their technology to keep up with Pixar type films? The characters, especially Rapunzel, looked just like Blythe dolls, all huge eyes and small faces.

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I had some good news – Lang have NOT stopped making Tosca Light it’s just that for some reason I couldn’t find it on their website. I’m so pleased. If you look under Autumn / Winter on their website you’ll see the range of colours. (I know…they should make me a Tosca Light ambassador.) Lang is a Swiss company in case you’re wondering, TL is made in Italy.

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I’ve been looking out for other types of v stitches in my Harmony Guide to Crochet Stitches. I was lucky enough to find it in a charity shop for a song a few years ago. They call this one Three-and-Two Stitch, it’s descriptive but a bit dull…

I’ve run out of yarn as I had only one 100g ball left and my scarves tend to need 150-200g as I like them lonnnng. Time to find some more. If I won the lottery I’d just fill a room with it. Oh, why not a house actually?

I was really pleased to hear that Kate’s (Greedy for Colour) Mum; Mrs A in Australia (Rambling with me) is crocheting a V Stitch Scarf, using my last pattern which you can find HERE. The power of the internet eh – sharing what we’re making with others all over the world. I really love it. I should put pattern links on Ravelry. One day.

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I asked what I could call this scarf and had “Brian” as the answer. Well, why not? I did ask!

Brian v stitch scarf / cowl

5mm hook – if you’d like a lazy, looser type of fabric, but try a swatch and see what you feel. I tried with a 4mm hook and it was nice too, although quite a firm fabric with far less drape.

150-200g DK yarn depending on the length of scarf or cowl you prefer
Lang Tosca Light is 100g/400m a ball 55% new wool, 45% acrylic.

Width: 22cm / 8 5/8ths ”
I’m aiming for – Length: 80″ / 203cm
Will probably be – Weight: 150g -200g

V stitch = 1 tr, 1ch, 1tr (UK)V stitch: 1 treble, 1 chain, 1 treble into same space (UK terms)
ch = chain
tr = treble
v st = v stitch
ss = slip stitch
st = stitch
tch = turning chain
sp = space

Foundation Row: Ch 50
Or a multiple of 6 st + 2 to get the width you want
R1: (Right side) Work a v st into 5th ch from hook. *Miss 2ch, 3tr into next ch, miss 2ch, work a v st into next ch; rep from * to last 5ch, miss 2ch, 3tr into next ch, miss 1ch, 1tr into last ch, turn
R2: 3 ch, *miss 2sts, work 3tr into centre tr of next 3tr, work a v st into ch sp at centre of next v st; rep from * ending 1tr into top of tch, turn
R3: 3ch, *v st into sp of next v st, 3tr into centre tr of next 3tr; rep from * ending 1tr into top of tch, turn

Rep R2 and R3 until desired length. I’m aiming for about 80″/203cm.

If making a cowl join short ends together using ss; bearing in mind before you join the ends that there is a right and wrong side to the fabric. Finish off and darn ends.

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I’ve been meaning to say this for a few years(!) when I get to the turning chain of the previous row I always find it easier to use a 3mm hook to go into and make the last stitch, aiming for the same tension as the rest which I’ve made with a 4-5mm hook. That might be a useful tip if you’re new to crochet and have trouble seeing or feel like you’re forcing the hook through the top of the chain, it depends on your tension and eyesight probably!

Also, when crocheting in rows after I turn I’ve always taken the hook out of the stitch, rather than twisted the stitch. Do you? I’ve always wondered if that’s correct, me being pernickety or just silly?

Happy v stitching your Brian scarf / cowl!

V Stitch Scarf / Cowl

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I finished this last night, while watching Birdsong. It was such a fast make and if you’re thinking of crocheting a C———- gift for someone this would be perfect, particularly if you’re a last minute crafter.
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I prefer scarves because you can wear them lots of different ways, with a cowl it seems there’s really only tight or loose. You can easily crochet, or sew, the two short ends together before fastening off if you prefer a cowl.

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V Stitch Scarf / Cowl

Yarn: Lang Tosca Light DK
55% new wool
45% acrylic
1.5 x 100g ball, 400 m

Hook: 5mm (You want to crochet a fairly loose and lacy fabric)

Length: 80″ / 203cm
Width: 9″ / 23cm
Weight: 150g

V stitch: 1 treble, 1 chain, 1 treble into same space (UK terms)
ch = chain
tr = treble
v st = v stitch
ss = slip stitch
st = stitch

Foundation row: Chain 48
Scarf / cowl can be made narrower or wider by adjusting starting chain by 3 stitch multiples
R1: Tr into 4th ch, tr into each ch to the end, turn
R2: Ch 3, (counts as a tr at beginning of every every row) tr into each tr to end of row, turn
R3: Ch 3, v st into 3rd tr (skip 2 tr, v st into next tr) to last tr, 1 tr into 3 ch of the previous row
R4: Ch 3, (v st into each space of v st of previous row) across row, 1 tr into 3 ch of the previous row
R5: Ch 3, (1 tr into first st of v st, 1 tr into space of v stitch, 1 tr into 2nd tr of v st) across row, 1 tr into 3 ch of previous row
R6: Ch3, (1 tr into 2nd tr and every tr) across row, 1 tr into 3 ch of previous row

Repeat R3-6 until scarf / cowl is desired length. (If making a cowl join short ends together using ss; bearing in mind before you join the ends that there is a right and wrong side to the fabric.) Finish off and darn ends.

Try on and flounce about in front of mirror/your significant other.

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If you make one of these I’d love to see yours, please leave a link below or tag me on IG.

All at Sea Shawl ….finished

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I’ve really enjoyed crocheting this V stitch shawl, I haven’t felt this keen for a little while. You know that ‘I’ve got to do just one more row before bed’ thing?

The pattern’s by Elisabeth Davis de Herraiz and is in issue 22 of Simply Crochet.

I used Lang’s Tosca Light DK with a 4mm hook instead of the lace weight merino used in the mag. You could make a really chunky version too. That might be really snugly for freezing winter mornings, or maybe nights on the sofa when you feel a draft on your neck or shoulders?

My shawl is larger as I wanted it to be big enough to wear around your shoulders, granny/hippy style or like a scarf with the triangle part to the front and the long ends wrapped around the back of the neck. So for R50 I just repeated from R14 onwards until I ran out of yarn after R37 which was clusters. Boo! This was annoying with only 11 more to go to complete my repeat of R14 -49, but I quite like the frilled top edge so I fastened off, darned the few ends and it was over.

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Look at what I noticed as I was unhooking the shawl from a tree…..

And last night on a very old episode of Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads….

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It doesn’t look Grannyish or exactly Hippyish, but I won’t be going out in a maxi dress and big cream shawl anytime soon!

Nine Random Things

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I stopped my subscription to Simply Crochet a few months ago because I was a bit bored, I reckon it’s stuck in a bit of a rut. When they asked readers to complete a questionnaire some months ago I requested more garment patterns. I know I’m not alone in feeling fed up of patterns for small items you don’t want or need. However ( a little positivity coming up now!) I really fancied crocheting the scarf pattern I’d seen Heather of The Patchwork Heart posting pics of on IG. So I picked up a copy last week, there was the added temptation of pretty pins too…but oh! They are mostly rusty – albeit silver coloured rust, not rust coloured, but it’s rust all the same. I can’t use them at all. Boo!
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Ooh now this is a good magazine related bit of news – I’ve been given a year’s subscription to this beauty. I’ll turn into a green eyed monster at times (beautiful homes and expensive lovelies to buy) I know, but I am very pleased.
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This is my catch up reading pile. I asked for my birthday subscription not to be continued for a third year to Mollie Makes, again it’s feeling in a bit of a rut. I really can’t face yet more patterns for felt animals and the target audience feels like it’s for young twenty somethings. That’s fair play especially if it’s encouraging them to develop or learn some crafty skills; I just realised that I hadn’t used any of the mini packs, let alone made any items from the magazine for ages and ages.
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Just because I saw this in a gift shop in Broadway, in the Cotswolds, and it made me smile. It’s one of those things you’d love to say when someone’s being all one-sided me-me-me.
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While I was wondering around Broadway I kept hearing yelping and barking. I ducked down an alley to pop into the Sue Ryder charity shop and saw two pens of hounds. They must belong to the local hunt. I’m a baby where dogs en masse are concerned so this is as close I got.
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I’ve seen these chargers in airports etc before, but how handy to find one in John Lewis (High Wycombe) for free charging.
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My friend gave me a bumper lot of thoughtful presents including this lovely tin. It’s my new things crochet tin as the other was bulging at the seams, especially with a new bigger notebook. Isn’t it similar in design to the Cath Kidson tape measure and needle book? It’s such a good match and right up my street.
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Warning. Warning. Tomato talk incoming! I’m still cooking with my home-gown tomatoes, this time it’s a bacon and olive sauce. Yum. I usually halve the olives but this time left them whole. The house is full of bowlfuls in various stages of ripeness. I never imagined eight plants could produce so much fruit (or did QI state they are wrongly regarded as fruit, when in fact they are the vegetable we all grew up believing them to be? Or have I dreamt that?!)
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I’ve been wincing at sightings of the C word; usually in relation to crafting for ………… but look at what fell out of the new issue of Country Living. With the change of weather and the end of the summer holidays looming it doesn’t feel too early to contemplate booking tickets. Are you going?

What have you been up to lately?

Did you see the ice cream debacle on The Great British Bake Off last night?

In my next post I’ll show you the shawl I’ve been crocheting from the current Simply Crochet. It’s sweet, though I do have a shawl related question: there are so many patterns for them at the moment, they seem to be on trend but……have you actually seen anyone wearing one out? Anyone?

Summer snapshot

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Eating fresh vegetables from the garden on the same day they’re picked or dug, such a Summer highlight! One day visiting family I came away with peas in their pods, beetroot, potatoes, shallots, carrots, cucumber and courgettes. What a haul.

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Baking lots this Summer; I’ve had a bit of an obsession with muffins. So far I’ve baked citrus muffins, chunky cookie muffins and my favourite: fig and marzipan muffins. Cheese and Marmite scones (see BBC Good Food website for the recipe) my own cheese scone recipe, raspberry and amaretti cake, lemon drizzle cake and my weekly loaves of bread. I usually only bake cakes and other treats when I have guests or an occasion to cook for, otherwise there’s too much naughtiness around, it’s better shared! So far this Summer there have been lunches, teas and picnics. Hurray! I’ve always enjoyed being in the kitchen with the radio on and whipping up a cake etc. It probably stems from a cosy childhood helping to bake cakes and mixing a mug of icing at home when little. We would sometimes mix up three mugs of icing and make ‘traffic light cakes’ – pale green, red or yellow icing to top fairy cakes.
The cream tea was my favourite of all the recent occasions. It included a discussion of whether it should be cream or jam first. Mine is the neater looking scones, cream first, but with the far messier (homemade) jammy plate!

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Nerding and walking a lot; about 26 miles in the last week, some of it Geocaching. I’m not a hardcore cacher and it’s taken me years to reach my very low tally, but when I set out to find some it’s fun. They are all around you did you know? If you didn’t its worth having a look at the official website.

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A few friends and I came across this fine fellow while looking at a lovely Japanese garden, after finding a cache. Aren’t peacocks stunning? Apparently some believe peacock feathers bring very bad luck, refusing to have them on the house. I prefer to see them in situ anyway

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Crocheting rows of the ripple blanket in my friend’s favourite colours. It will be a surprise present at Christmas since I’m also going on with the motifs for the William Morris colours inspired blanket. I’ve put the ripple away in the Little Room as I’ve got to get on with the other. I also have another thing to make nearer the end of the month. I’m partly regretting agreeing to that, but we will see!

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Enjoying The House of Illustration Quentin Blake exhibition. If you’ve read Roald Dahl’s books you’ll recognise some of the illustrations on display. You can also stop and play in the magic fountains of Granary Square, Kings Cross.

Picnicking at Cliveden, a National Trust property which was the former home of the Astor family where I met three other girls. Two of them were my little nieces. They are currently obsessed with doing cartwheels and handstands, so mostly I saw them upside down as they twirled around the gardens, apart from when they were eating lemon drizzle cake and marzipan & fig muffins!

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What are you up to this Summer? Link to your snapshot post below if you fancy sharing.

Al fresco crochet

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It is such beautiful weather here at the moment that it just feels wrong to stay inside.

I started a ripple on Monday night but had to order some yarn before I could continue. Luckily I already had two of the greys I wanted to use as they’re the same I’m using for my other blanket, so at least I could make a start. I actually haven’t touched a hook for weeks; a combination of a sore elbow (acupuncture is really helping) and just wanting a break. It was a refreshing break, but I was absolutely raring to go once my plan was approved at the weekend. I’ve offered a crocheted blanket birthday pressie to a special someone as I’ve had her kind of colours in mind for ages, and fancied crocheting another ripple. I’m a little surprised I’m so keen as I became quite bored by the end of The Rhubarb Ripple. My offer was immediately taken up and so I’ve been happily zipping along the rows today. The motif blanket will wait for a while. This is easier crochet; it’s fast to add new colours and decide which next. I tend to need my leg up to join as you go (do you?! Is this just me?!) so it makes it sofa crochet, not al fresco crochet so much.

Hurrah! My new yarn came this morning! I could hear the rustle of the sack arriving from my spot (reading in the bath, hard work these summer hols.) Deramores have been undercut by Wool Warehouse on Stylecraft Special DK by 30p a ball at the moment. I have to say that as both offer speedy service and free p&p when you spend £25 it wasn’t a tricky decision to use WW for this order. 30p less for a ball is 30p saved. Or, spent on more yarn…

The bright pink was always going to be a gamble without actually seeing a ball. It’s not quite right is it? It jars with the scrummy raspberry, the sharp lime green (new colour) and the delicious graphic, silver and grey. The darker shades are midnight blue and emperor penguin purple. Someone suggested I use the bright pink to embroider “Get off, this is Mummy’s!” Ha! I must tell her this when I give the blanket.

My charity shop find basket is perfect for al fresco crochet. It’s very good at standing to attention with the yarn ball in use rolling around on top. I need a yarn bowl really, but it does the job of keeping it off the grass. Can you see I replaced the bag’s sequins? I preferred the scuffed brown originals really I realise, now it’s done. Too late!

What are you crocheting or making? Or are you having a crafty break?

Snapshot II

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Wondering if embroidery in hoops displayed on the wall is much cooler than on tea towels? I somehow doubt cool and embroidery are two words that have ever gone together. I don’t really care. I especially enjoy embroidering something which has a practical purpose. I need more tea towels – I’ve got more ideas. The glasses were from one of my Sublime Stitches transfers books, the writing is mine, scruffy and all.

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Harvesting strawberries! So yummy and surprisingly the birds haven’t gone for them. The other day a squirrel was spotted in a friend’s garden picking their strawbs, holding them gently in both his paws and nibbling away!

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Loving the scent wafting up from my pot as I come in and out of the front door, waiting for the apple blossom geranium I chose as a tiny plug plant months ago, to reveal its flowers.

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Opening a free copy of Garden Illustrated to my best page first! I’ve said:”Really sheds are so expensive but just think; when you move you just roll this onto the back of a truck and take it with you!” to raised eye brows.

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Carrying my blanket yarn in a completely coordinating bag. This was a coincidence but made me smile when I realised. The motifs are now joined in one long strip of about 180cm, this is the length of the blanket. I’m halfway along the second row now. Zippidy do dah.
Reading The Lieutenant by Kate Grenville, only to p.5 so far but it’s going to be a cracker. I read the first of the trilogy The Secret River in Australia one visit.
Not missing resting my injured leg. I’ve washed laundry, hung it out, hand washed my car, washed up, baked 2 loaves of bread, cooked dinner, cleaned walls, hoovered, cleaned the filters, folded laundry and tidied it away, watered all the plants, emptied the bins, cleaned bins, re-potted plants, rearranged outside pots, ironed (the tea towel above ha ha strenuous!) driven – once so far, yesterday, but it was fine with an old lady tubi-grip, food shopped, collected a library book, am walking downstairs nearly normally again. It’s good to be busier again.

How about you, what are you up?

Progress report

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Oh yes, I’m pleased with this joining malarkey. Choose the outer colour, zip around round 3 and join one side of round 4. It feels like a fast way of making a blanket.

I’ve just unravelled the matador red motifs, apart from those with it in the middle. It’s not going to work. It was always a bold colour choice – to match William Morris’s red flower centres – but any more than a little splash is going to set the teeth on edge, especially with so much peach going into the mix too.

Random fact: the curtains were originally chosen, in fact the whole room was coordinated, around a cream and peach tapestry cushion I made years back. I know this probably isn’t that interesting without pics but I’m still under house arrest. I’m going to try driving tomorrow with a heavy duty support on the peg. See, you get all the highlights during these days of being patient.

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I just had the nicest compliment, via the tweet machine this morning, about my last post. It was from Jennifer Reid who is a crochet designer for Inside Crochet and Simply Crochet magazines. You’ll recognise her patterns straight away if you buy those mags and check Ravelry. It’s always a lovely surprise to hear from different people. She’s also a member of the Darning Sisterhood – the leave them to the end club. Anyone else want to join?

Throw another one in the basket

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Friday night’s been G&T time for a long, long time but nowadays Friday night is cocktail night. This week it was mojitos. Mmmmm. I might do a cocktail post of my faves, with recipes sometime. I keep sorely trying someone’s patience while I photograph them before drinking commences!

Fresh juicy cherries and crochet go well.

My Japanese steel snips are incredibly sharp; I have to take care around these. So much faster than grappling for scissors can be, they slide into a plastic cover when not in use. It’s a good job as even the ends are razor-sharp. They were a gift from a posh shop which sells household goods.

I can’t believe how many half completed motifs I’ve done, already. I edge a diddy little middle with a second round and throw it into the basket I rescued from a friend’s jumble sale bag. One (wo)man’s trash is another (wo)man’s treasure.

It’s nearly time to edge some with the third row and join while crocheting the fourth. I’m looking forward to placing the colours and seeing how the overall effect works. It’s definitely a different sort of palate for me.

….Oh and oh yes…the ends. Well I just read Heather’s thoughts about darning, rather than crocheting over them, and realised she’s a kindred spirit in this respect. I groan about them a bit and resolve to tackle the ends as I go but rarely do; getting absorbed in the act of creating. Select the colour, crochet the round, snip the tail, throw the motif into the basket and onto the next. Usually I darn them listening to an audio book, or semi watching a film and find it a soothing activity in itself. This weekend’s film was one I seem to have missed at the time. I really enjoyed the undemanding, sweet, sometimes funny, little story.

What are you up to at the moment?

Zippidy do-dah

Well I never! Zippidy do-dah as in The Jungle Book Disney’s Song of the South (Never heard of it! Is it one to watch?) is actually spelt Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah! The things you find out when checking spelling. I’m sticking with my version.

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I wasn’t planning to write this down, but I actually though I was a bit off crochet. Maybe the huge enthusiasm I’d had for it over the last few years had died down, and that was ok.  But it turns out it was because I last bought a big batch of new yarn in Autumn 2012. Waste not want not, I’ve been using up left-overs, plus I’ve gradually been buying sewing materials. But the pleasure in taking off the bands of brand new yarn – 11 brand new balls of yarn! Using virgin yarn which hasn’t been unraveled, or wound into a smaller balls and put in an oddments bag and in new colours too is so enjoyable.

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I didn’t choose the colours for this project (apart from substituting the gorgeous new Spice for Jaffa, as I found out Jaffa is Nemo neon orange.) I just left my Stylecraft catalogue and picked it up with all the ticks under the shades, but the combination is pleasing. I particularly like the rich Walnut brown, the teddy bear Mocha, orange Spice and Matador red paired together. These have a rather retro, back to the 70s feel. Sometimes it feels as if brown is an outcast, with the current craze for Cath Kidson reds, pinks, pale greens and blues – I love them too. Brown isn’t a colour I gravate to usually, in yarn or clothes, but this palate is somewhat rich and earthy. It’s to coordinate with curtains of a William Morris design, and I’m really enjoying the new colours. I can’t find the WM design on Google images and didn’t think to photograph the curtains. I will next time I visit.

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Why Zippidy-do-dah? Because this is my progress from just two sittings. The first evening I started to crochet I ended up making 44 middles – 4 of each of the 11 colours. I do like the magic loop method. Then before I knew it I’d completed the second round of 22 of them. Last night I completed the second round of all but a few of the other 22. I’m making sure I use all the colours, but also ordered extra balls of camel, cream, silver and parchment so I can make extra motifs with just these to balance out the stronger colours. Matador type red only features a little in the curtain fabric, as the centre of some flowers, so although I’ve discovered I love it and Spice together I must be careful not to overwhelm the blanket.

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Did I mention the mmmm smell of a sackful of new yarn? There’s something new car-ish about it. Oh Wool Only purists please don’t shake your heads like that!

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Here are the colours listed from left to right, top row first, in case you’re feeling 70’s retro inspired (or have William Morris fabric!)
silver :: grey :: walnut :: copper :: spice :: mocha :: matador
parchment :: cream :: camel :: apricot::

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I’m hobbling now, with only a small lurch and can go upstairs slowly one foot at a time, not crawling or one foot, then the other per step. Hurrah! The Goldfinch Audio book has been great company – wow – I listened to 7 hours 43 minutes of it yesterday. Kudos to David Pittu for being about to narrate young and old, male and female voices so convincingly, accents too. It’s 32 hours long so 7:43 is a drop in the ocean. I’m glad because I’m enjoying it so much. AND How to Make an American Quilt is on the way via LoveFilm by post, my last DVD before my membership ends. It’s all looking up.

On the bright side

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I really fancied doing some more embroidery but thought I’d only do a little Thursday evening so as not to aggravate my elbow. I really enjoyed semi watching, mostly listening, to an episode of Lewis (the psychology student/psychics/elephant tranquilliser one) using stem stitch to sew the letters of my personalised tea towel which is to be a gift.

The arm was indeed a bit iffy Friday but hey ho, it was still a great day. A great week in fact, and generally all is going swimmingly. That is until 11:14 pm when the most ginormous spider hurried across the lounge from under a sofa to behind the TV. There was some wine or beer fuelled discussion along the lines of: “But he’s happy, let him be.” “He’s not leaving cobwebs all over my house.” “Don’t kill him.” “Don’t be ridiculous, you know I never kill them…” All this while I’m tipping a nightlight out of a holder and grabbing a postcard (flower fairies – such a pretty card that I carry it downstairs to recycle then end up propping it on the mantelpiece.) This spider is big and aggressive, he’s sassy and won’t be caught in a tea light holder and trapped by a flower fairy postcard. But we both know who’s going to win…

…in the end after a skirmish behind the TV stand it’s actually neither of us. He gets half trapped under the holder after I execute a niffy half turn when he tries to fox me, and head back to sofa-land, and I feel a muscle at the back of my knee go POP!

OMG THE PAIN.

Actually the spider was ok, no broken legs and I’m sure he enjoyed his flight out of the window to the garden.

Today instead of a super day out nerding with one of my favourite friends I’ve been sat on the bed with an ice pack and haven’t gone downstairs once; as I had to semi crawl upstairs last night and can’t bear the awfulness of needing the littlest room and the slow hurry. It’s best to rest it as much as possible too.

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This app is great! Although after quietly downloading it and trying it out with a few good dings, then testing the ring-a-ding-ding function with a good shake Someone marched into the bedroom with a grin and said, “You can get rid of that app for a start.” “But it was my nerdy friend who suggested I get it, to help you know when I need something!”

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The bright side is I’ve listened to a little more of The Goldfinch audio book, watched the first ever few episodes of The IT Crowd, the inflating boobies episode of Mrs Brown’s Boys (thank you free catch up TV and ipad magic) and downloaded some interesting looking free Kindle novels. There have also been a few homegrown strawberries, YUM, some cheer up surprises: mini Reeces, ice cold 7Up and as requested; a yummy Greek salad with pitta for lunch. The service is pretty good, the bedside chat could be improved but it’s tricky to provide uplifting banter when an important rugby match is on in the other room.

So, it’s after 5pm and I’m feeling a bit restless. Can you tell me something interesting, a story, a fact about yourself, a snippet from your weekend, whatever? A good link? Please. Chances are I’ll still be up here tomorrow so anything will be gratefully received.

Because it made me smile the other day when I noticed how tidy the Rhubarb Ripple looks amongst the other unruly blankets in The Little Room…

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Sometimes there is no right way

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Playing with joining as you go the other evening I took this photo as a reminder; because I didn’t feel too confident that it was right, and thought they’d probably soon be un-joined!

After Carina commented on my last post, reminding me that she’s crocheted some of the motifs from Edie Eckman’s fabulous Beyond the Square book, I emailed her the photo above and asked how she would have joined them. It’s the first time I’ve used the join-as-you-go technique with anything apart from granny squares. I was really dithering and feeling unconfident. When I start saying, or thinking, ‘Well, I’ve only been crocheting a few years’ I know I’m struggling with something. It’s not the end of the world, but is an irritating feeling.
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Carina is one of those bloggers that you just know will answer a query and try their best to help. I rushed to work yesterday having fired off a HELP ME! email, and in the evening found not one, but two replies from her. The first saying she’d had a busy day but would get back to me shortly. The second, sent less than an hour later, had detailed ‘This is how I would do it’ instructions and an attached photo. She’d obviously pulled out her BtS book and had a go at joining two motifs. How kind!
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I do prefer Carina’s joining method which replaces the 3 corner chains with 1 ch, 1 jss (joining slip stitch) 1 ch. This was the part I wasn’t sure about. Do you replace all the ch with one jss, or only one? How many jss would you need overall? What about the 5 ch in the middle? Carina had also joined this motif in four places, rather than three.

If the motifs were making up a blanket it would probably be more…I’m struggling for the word….connected? Strong? Less gapy? I just checked the spelling of gapy, so I didn’t type gappy by mistake instead, and asked ‘Is it gay-ai-pee-why?’ I’m tired!’ Taking non-drowsy cough med is so stupid right before bed. Consequently I was wide awake and reading my Kindle after midnight last night. (The book was Necessary Lies, if like me you like to know these details. It was a 99p Kindle deal I bought weeks ago. Diane Chamberlain a new-to-me author but the blurb interested and readers’ reviews and stars were impressive on Amazon. The first two chapters have me completely intrigued already.)
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The point which I’ll try quickly to come to now, I always waffle far more when tired, is that when I popped into the library today I swerved to the fab craft section and ended up having a quick flick through a Crochet Guide by Jane Crowfoot. She writes that joining motifs is similar to free-form crochet; no two people will join them in the same way. I’m really grateful to Carina for her help, will be joining the motif using her suggestion, but also have learnt a good lesson and a bit of a confidence booster on the way. Sometimes there isn’t always a right way or a wrong way. There’s your way and there’s my way.

Productivity

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I was given Beyond the Square for Christmas, but haven’t made a single motif until this week. The other evening I thought I’d play with #118 and figure how to join it as I went. It took five tries and I got it, I think. Others might have sussed it out differently but mine looks like it will probably work. Since then I’ve had a little production line going making middles and am now round twoing them all.

I have no idea what I’m making, or for whom, as it’s been so spontaneous but it’s another way to use up some of my oddments of Stylecraft.

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As I crocheted half-finished motifs, and tossed them into the basket beside me, I realised the colours are echoing those in my bouquet. This is nice, I like it.

Some stack their middles and half-done motifs beautifully, others lay them out in imaginative patterns to photograph; mine are tossed into a basket ends up and bedraggled! It’s all about doing some crochet again, not artful photographs. I can attempt to redress the balance and make sure they’re laid out with a CK mug of coffee in the background (tho I mostly drink tea) or my socked feet in the picture if you like? All the blogging photo cliches by request.
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Stop being silly and go into the garden.
The potato leaves are looking lush and healthy, hopefully the potatoes are too. I can’t wait to dig into the soil and see them.

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So many strawberries for one plant! My friend’s are redder and huge too, I think they get more sun in her garden, but I’m pleased my plant came through our wet Winter so well.
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The first tomato. I bought two varieties this year; yellow Golden Sunrise and Gardener’s Delight, a red cherry.
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The pepper plants look ready to fruit too. I’ve grown extra to swap with family this weekend.

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I’ve baked wholemeal and a white seeded – poppy, sunflower and pumpkin – loaves for this week’s daily bread. The white is a bit darker brown than usual on top, I blame that motif I was trying to whizz around – rather than just putting it down and getting to the oven a few minutes sooner. It’ll be fine though. The bottom and sides are a nice colour.

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For a week I’ve felt under par, waking up in the early hours with a thumping headache and sore neck/throat, had a hacking cough with lots of sighing and a bit of grumping. Today is the first time I’ve truly felt like myself and even slightly dynamic, rather than going through the motions. Three lots of washing washed and hung on the line too. It’s been a good day.

Oh and now it’s raining again, doesn’t that always happen just after you’ve done the watering?!

How are you feeling this week?

 

Oh by the way rather than just staring, hearting and commenting on others’ pics (only in the last few weeks – what can I say, I’m slow) I’ve started to join in on Instagram. Only three pics so far, but there’s scope for more! Let me know if you’re there too. I like the way you can swap quick chatty comments and search for hashtags, it feels like the best aspects of blogging and twitter. However I can’t imagine it replacing blogging, for me, because you’re limited word-count-wise…!

The thing is –

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The thing is that there is a fact which cannot be disputed; even with all the blocking in the world if one crochet square is bigger than the other five, it will still be bigger at the end of the steaming, pinning and drying.

The blanket’s now edged with rows of plum, pomegranate and that pinky pink (‘sugar mouse’ ‘baby doll’ ?!) and has neat corner holes, but that larger diagonally worked block is still straining up, asserting that it’s the biggest and best, wanting to be out on it’s own. Lots of us on the CAL used to moan about these blocks being larger, misshapen and pretty ugly looking.

You’re not going to see a photo of the finished mini blankey. It’s been thrown into a basket ready for giving away. I couldn’t spare the energy even to photograph it I’m afraid. I couldn’t bear to unravel every row and all the DC joins and make a replacement block either. Still, soon it will be covering dolls, hopefully without any design critique.

It’s a lesson for when I eventually join my other CAL blocks: too big and you’re out, or in a special project of your own, as the thing is there’s no way to make you fit.

April showers in May (with a tiny bit of crochet !)

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An impromptu picnic lunch at Blenheim Palace, sitting on a rain coat munching on salad and watching the swans paddle serenely along the lake. The weather is so April showerish still, even though it’s now May, the sky changed so fast from blue to grey. Even the pheasant ruffled his feathers and wandered off for cover, giving up all hope of sharing my lunch.
Time for a train ride?

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Ah, it’s oh so quiet. There’s a new train (‘Winston’ – Blenheim is the birthplace and family home of Winston Churchill so there’s lots about him and now a train too!) and tunnel which I was quite excited about, it will be good for children to go through a dark bit, but for adults it’s actually a long wooden structure (shed) which can be locked to house the new carriages. Oh well, the anticipation has been nice. Serves me right for being such a child!
The overhauled butterfly house is different. The bridge over the water has gone, lots of the green bushy plants have been removed and new brightly flowering shrubs are in place. You can see the butterflies clearer against the new white screens, it will be worth making a special trip when more have hatched later in the season. I virtually chased one up and down the length of the house to try to photograph it; a HUGE bright beautiful blue one, but he was obviously camera-shy.

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This bank holiday weekend we’re meant to be at the coast enjoying some walks and time by the water, the weather had other ideas however…

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We’ve cancelled the hotel tonight and will see if it’s worth going for the next two days. At least I won’t have to water any plants!

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My elbow is getting much better, though I am going to organise some acupuncture as I’ve found a way to get some free again, after a break of 10 years of needing it. Hurrah! Here’s to another ten years without the need?! I’ve had a few days without painkillers and am using my left hand much more to lift heavier things without aggravating it, I’ve noticed, so as it’s such a rainy day I’ve decided to try a bit of crochet. I haven’t done any craft since before Easter when I made the chicken bags. It’s been odd having still hands in the evenings.

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This is not exactly a thing of beauty, it’s just six blocks I rooted out when I was looking through my stash sometime ago, but haven’t been able to join them. When I began crocheting the CAL blocks I made some test ones with Stylecraft Special DK before the posh yarn. I don’t like wasting things so I’ve decided to crochet them into a ‘thing’. Maybe a dolly blanket to give away to children I know or donate to a Foundation Stage class. I don’t know where it will end up, but I know it’s been so lovely to sit on a rainy day and crochet a little bit just for the sheer pleasure of it.

As I’ve been typing Someone’s decided to go fishing because trout don’t really mind the rain apparently, and when you’ve got good waterproofs it’s not an issue for humans either. As for me I’ve declared I am doing “Bugger all” I’m so good at it too, it seems a shame not to try.

What’s the weather like where you are? Are you also curled up and making something today?

 

Huge granny square blanket – finished!

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Otherwise known as the Tilting Granny Squares blanket! Sounds ridiculous, I know, but I didn’t actually notice the tilty nature of the squares until I’d crocheted about six. This was probably due to the cider and chat as I crocheted lots of them in pubs with other crochet and knitty folk. I was momentarily tempted to undo, or worse – throw them away – but then decided just to go with it. The end result is strangely pleasing. We really like the tilting!

I Googled tilting granny squares and it seems it’s very common when you crochet many rounds, or make one of those blankets where they’re basically one huge granny square. Have a look online at granny square blanket pics and you’ll begin to notice it a lot. I did wonder about making a Pinterest ‘Tilting squares’ board as I went, but thought some people might not be very pleased to see their work! Now I wonder if you see a photo of a blanket heaped on a chair, never spread out, then it might be hiding it’s tilty nature! I’ve spotted tilting target square cushions too.

Tilting is thought to perhaps be down to tension. I reckon it’s more likely to just be the gentle drag of the hook as you repeatedly go in the same direction.  One way to avoid tilting is apparently to change direction on every round. I asked a crochet and knitting designer and she said hers tilt too and it’s ‘just one of those things.’ On a forum I read someone had suggested you embrace it and make a feature out of tilting squares, and that’s what I decided to do. At first I considered laying them out so they tilted in the same direction per row, order in disorder, but ignored the thought and concentrated on colour placement of the squares. I joined the squares listening to the final chapters of this bookaudio book cover. I was addicted to the story, completely engrossed.

I wanted to use up all my odd balls of Stylecraft Special DK and I really didn’t ever intend to keep the blanket. I ordered the multi-coloured SS DK packs when I was new to crochet, now I want to choose my own combinations. I’d planned to give this stash busting blanket away, or maybe try to sell it. But with the tilting factor it’s so quirky and fun that it’s here to stay. Last night I felt chilly curled up on the sofa, so it’s been christened already.

Details:

Blanket weighs: 1.362 kg

Measurements: 70″ long, 52″ wide (single bed size, or to wrap self in on the sofa!)

Yarn: Stylecraft Special DK

Hook size: 4mm

Granny square:

There are many similar patterns but here’s the version I like to use:

FR: Ch 5, join with a ss

R1: Ch 3 (= 1 tr) 2 tr, 3 ch, 3tr, 3 ch, 3 tr, 3 ch, 3 tr, 3 ch around, join with a ss into 3rd st of ch 3.

R2: Ch 4 (=1 tr, 1 ch) then in next chain space work  3 tr, 1 ch, work (3 tr, 3 ch, 3 tr) in corner, repeat around and then 3 tr, 3ch, 2 tr and join with a ss into 3rd st of initial ch 3.

R3: Ch 3 (=1 tr) then into same space work 2 tr, 1 ch, repeat along edge chain spaces, (3 tr, 3 ch, 3 tr) into corner spaces. Join with a ss into 3rd st of initial ch 3.

Repeat R3 until you have 20 rounds in total.

Make a dozen 20 round squares, then join as you go using one colour to frame the squares. I think it looks ‘bare’ without a border.

My border: 6 rows of cream trebles (3 tr, 1 ch around with 3 tr, 3 ch, 3 tr at the corners.)

R7: 1 row of DC in cream (3 dc into the corner chain spaces)

R8: 1 row of DC in pomegranate (3 dc into the corner chain spaces)

R9: Dinky pointy edge: * 1 ss into each of next 3 dc, then in next dc (1 dc, 2 ch, 1 dc) * Repeat from * to * around.

Snuggle.

Not quite 10 Random Things

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Oooh I thought when I saw this shepherd’s hut a while back. I parked and walked back to have a peer at it. Actually it’s only got that tiny little window so wouldn’t be a great craft hideaway, which is probably a good thing as in a nanosecond I was already planning where to park it in the back garden and musing about taking it to the seaside. Mad. And no, that’s not expensive at all. Is it? Ha!
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I went to a food and craft fair a few weeks ago with a friend. We were a bit disappointed to find the craft part was really just a few tables with jewellery, homemade cards, decoupage kits although one had these rather lovely vintage fabric owl cushions and things. The food part was redundant as we’d already eaten mystery sausage baps at mine before leaving. Mystery for her as I made her guess the flavours as I chose them from my super local butchers (homemade meaty sausages. Yum) This time they were pork, celery and Stilton. She liked them too.

Tiny confession: The food wasn’t 100% redundant as I bought homemade fudge and I think my friend chose pick ‘n mix. I can’t be sure as my eyes were firmly fixed on my slices of fudge.

We each bought raffle tickets to support the local cause and later she had a call to say there was an arty raffle prize on the way! Lucky duck…not really as it turned out to be an Usborne book on Modern Art, for children. I’m going to give it to my nieces.

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Six rainbow trout freshly caught in a Wiltshire lake. One bartered for cider at the local shop, one to a neighbour, two smoked to be eaten as potted trout or just as they are with salad. Yum. I bought a Fladen home smoker so the fisherman’s experimenting with whisky, hickory and applewood smoking chips. I like the whisky (cask) chips best so far. The other fishes are in the freezer getting in my way as they are solid slightly curled forms so hinder neatly stacking tubs. (Before you leave ‘Urgh’ comments on my behalf about finding trout in the sink, I don’t mind at all. I vacate the kitchen, after opening the window and door then let the cleaning begin. The only issue last Autumn was the windows being left open during the first home smoker test. The house stank of hickory smoke!)
A few days ago the shopkeeper gave us a leg of pork as another thank you for the (unbartered) trout he’s had over the last few years, and the neighbour bought some German Friendship Cake batter around. I love this type of thing!

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My Bondaweb finally arrived so I could have a second go at applique. The blue bird was my first go, then I adjusted the stitch and felt happier with the other, though went a bit off track on his head.
This bag is all ready to applique. I fixed the petals on with Bondaweb, at the same time as I prepared the birdie tea towels, but it doesn’t entirely like the canvas. They’re pinned as well now; just in case I find petals on the floor. I might applique them by hand, it depends how I find the thickness of the canvas. The fabric is from a pack of fat quarters I bought from Amazon. It turns out not to be a good idea to buy fabric online, unless it’s a brand you know. It’s very thin.

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Here’s my unplanned and unexpected find from yesterday. We were mooching around a smallish and not particularly lovely little town we once lived for a year. It was a stick a pin in a map at a halfway point kind of decision then, and it worked. There are so many charity shops now. The vintage style flowers caught my eye, then the 100% cotton label. I bought it purely for the fabric. How about a flowery tote bag for the Summer? It’s thin enough to sew with my little machine, thick enough for shopping or carrying books. It cost £2.95!
I’ve spent several years reading blogs where someone’s visited their local op, thift or charity shop and picked up a real find. Well I think this is mine!

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This morning’s crochet for a few minutes. It’s the final edging row, I’m halfway around and then another blanket bites the dust!
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The tomato plants getting some sun toughening up outside, jogging on the spot and doing crunches (whatever they are?!) before they go into grow bags. Hopefully we’ll have bowlfuls of red Gardener’s Delight cherry tomatoes and some yellow Golden Sunrise. I need a really good crop as I’m competing with a friend this year. Greenhouses are for sissy tomatoes!!!!

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I hope you’ve had a restful Sunday too. If you plan to post your own 10ish Random Things please leave a comment or link below, I’d like to read yours.

Sewing & crochet: needle roll

I’ll admit that I’m feeling pretty pleased about my latest make. I wanted to try the merino that DMC Creative World recently sent me to try after my cheeky request. It’s definitely a nice yarn to crochet, the colours are delicious too. I’d say that although it’s labelled as DK weight it’s more of a baby cashmerino thickness; slightly thinner than other double knit yarns, but that wasn’t an issue.

It’s the first time, I can think of, that I’ve combined machine and hand sewing with crochet. It’s been fun to use several different skills on one item.
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I really like incorporating ribbon into things at the mo. What can I make next with some?
I changed the browny pinky ribbon back to the Mollie Makes chevron ribbon by the way, it just coordinated better I decided on the drawstring bag. (Just in case anyone was awake fretting about it. Tee hee.)
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This challenged my mathematical brain, which is the size of a peanut, as I worked out how large the separate pieces needed to be. The success is part luck and part crossing my fingers and toes.
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I gave the roll a good shake just to see if all the needle tips would fall out, but only the shiny metal Nova tips slipped out. So that’s fine.
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All the lovely sunny days have brought the tulips to the brink of opening. They are so close. The yellow tulips are last year’s pot and look like they’ll be just as pretty. I do love my seasonal pots which are a pretty sight at the front door.

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Thank you very much for all your likes and lovely comments about my sewing on my last post, they really made my day. It’s such basic stuff (especially after watching about Great British Sewing Bee last night – I get sweaty hands just watching them do the most incredibly tricky tasks in a short time!) and I’m grateful for your encouragement.

Joining

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I’m on the last section of joining (as you go method) of my huge granny square blanket. It’s a good feeling to be near the end, especially after all the darning I saved till the end. Never again I say each time, but then get carried away enjoying the crochet.
I’m not sure what to do borderwise. I think it’s best to keep it simple, I’m not convinced a fancy edging goes with the straightforwardness of granny squares.

What do you reckon?

This is what happens when…

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two little girls rush to you before Sunday lunch saying “Aunty Rachel you really need to give us flannels again, our Princess ones are all holey now.”

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You happily lead them upstairs where you have a stash of homemade knitted and crocheted washcloths, far superior to Disney Princess flannels really.
The only problem is that the eldest is very fast thinking, especially when there’s choosing competition, and selects the pinkiest and largest washcloth available. The younger one knows her mind and won’t be swayed, although yellow was the top top fave colour a few years ago, it’s now definitely pinky purple combos which catch the eye. It also needs to be of equal size and dimensions to the other, a smaller one for a “cutie patootie little face” is not going to cut the mustard.

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All the possibilities

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The postman left three parcels today, one was for me and as I haven’t ordered anything lately I was intrigued. Then seeing the enclosed delivery note I remembered seeing a photo of a gorgeous ball of cotton and a very cheeky communication I’d had with DMC Creative World.
I’d said it looks scrummy, a few crocheters replied that they love using it and so I threw out a ‘You can always send me some to try, and review. Anytime.’ And DMC Creative World have!!!!! How cheeky was I?! And what a surprise to receive NINE balls of cottons and merino.

What shall I make? Shall I look though my vintage patterns and try using one? Shall I see what comes out of my own brain? I need suggestions as my head is happily filled to the brim with the JOY of having finally darned in all the ends of my huge granny squares. I’m now joining-as-you-go like crazy, and loving every minute of it.

Cottoning on

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A few weeks ago Natasja of CrocheTime blog asked me if I would like to do a review of yarn she sells in her Etsy shop. I’m always happy to play with yarn, especially one I’ve never used before so was just happy for Natasja to send me a selection of whatever she wanted me to try. When she told me it was Vinnis Colours Nikkim cotton, and sent me a link,  I changed my mind quickly – the colours are so delicious! This is my selection.
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Cloud Blue

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Fern
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Plum
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Red Violet
This was one I took to my knitting group one week, it was admired and fondled rather a lot!

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Information on the ball band: “This yarn is hand dyed and balled by women from an economically depressed rural area of South Africa. The scale of this product has empowered them and brought economic benefits to their community. Hand dyed yarn gives your garment a unique marbelled effect. Colourfast. Made in South Africa.”
The knit group nodded and agreed that yes, it has been hand dyed as you can see the variation in colour. Finally I could carry on knitting, but wondered if the ball might be best put into a bag at my feet as I worked – just to avoid distraction!

It’s DK weight cotton, comes in 50g / 119m balls. The recommended needles are 3.25mm-4mm and hook size is 4mm.
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Natasja said she’d noticed that my blog has gone to the dark side lately (! *mhah haha ha!* !) and wondered if I would knit something to test how well the cotton works with needles.
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I really like making practical knits so decided to try out a few different stitches and knit some washcloths. I’ll include my patterns in case you fancy taking up the knitty sticks and practising the dark art of knitting too!
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Moss Stitch Washcloth

24cmx24cm / 9.5″ x 9.5″
I’m pretty sure I used 4.5mm needles for all three cloths as I was using my 4mm set for my lace knit scarf. Either is fine as tension is definitely not critical for a washcloth. It’s such thick cotton that you could even use a 5mm needle (or hook.)
:: Cast on an odd no. of stitches. I cast on 49
::R1-4 Knit
::R5 –: K4 at the beginning and end of row, K1, *P1, K1, repeat from *
Repeat this row until the washcloth is 23cm / 9″” then K4 rows. Cast off and darn ends.

I’ve always really liked moss stitch – it’s got such a cute nubbly look and makes a nice textured washcloth.

The cotton is beautifully soft to touch, the colours please and there was not a single knotted piece in any of the balls. There is one issue however, it can be very splitty. This was particularly frustrating with the first ball I tried (fern.) There is very light twist to the cotton which means that you sometimes have 7 little strands lying over your needle, rather than one. Undo a row and you’re really in trouble because you’ve loosened the twist even more.

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A smaller version of the above, I cast on 39 stitches for this one. This washcloth measures 20cm x 20cm / 8″ x 8″.

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OOoh my favourite stitch, but do not try this pattern when you’ve had a G&T as it’s a bit tricky and you have to concentrate on some rows. I realised I had knitted a row, then undone it a few times and couldn’t work out the problem until I realised I’d just had my Friday early evening drink!

Vinnis cotton gives good drape; the knitted material has lots of movement giving a good flow. Obviously this isn’t important for the items I’ve made but I reckon it could be a very good yarn for cotton garments. Just be sure to do a tension swatch and check your gauge before you begin.

Basketweave washcloth

23cm x 23cm / 9″ x9″

::Cast on a multiple of 8 stitches plus 5 extra. I cast on 48 + 5 = 53 stitches in total

::R1 (RS) Knit

::R2 *K5, P3, repeat from * to last 5 stitches, K5

::R3 P5 *K3, P5, repeat from * to end

::R4 As R2

::R5 Knit

::R6 K1, P3, K1 *K4, P3, K1, repeat from * to end

::R7 *P1, K3, P4, repeat from * to last 5 stitches, P1, K3, P1

::R8 As R6.

Repeat R1-8 until square or the desired length. I cast off all but the last stitch, whipped up a 3.5mm hook and double crocheted all around the cloth. By this time I was yippeeing after all the knitting!

This stitch would make a super scarf in a chunky yarn on big needles, I can just imagine it. I enjoyed looking through my stitch bible for something new and this was a good find. Just don’t tipple while you do the latter rows because you’ll probably come a cropper like me.
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I really wanted to try crocheting the cotton and wondered if the splittyness would be better. It is, but you still have to keep your eye on the yarn as the hook can get tangled up, or you miss strands, resulting in rogue loops. I used my thicker Clover Amour 4mm hook (rather than my slightly thinnner 4mm metal hook) and thought it produced a lovely chunky material. Cara Medus’s potholder pattern caught my eye in issue 15 of Simply Crochet so I gave it a whirl.
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Vinnis cotton is good for something like a potholder when a double layer of fabric produces a very good thickness. I’m pleased with this make and it’s going to be in use tonight when I toss pancakes! Happy Shrove Tuesday all.
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I was already feeling a bit guilty for straying from my knitting brief but an old proverb came to mind ‘might as well be hung for a sheep as for a lamb.’ Excellent! In that case I was going ahead and making Hannah’s (Not Your Average Crochet blog) sweet Springtime hat pincushion from the lastest issue (16) of Simply Crochet. (Available in the UK this Thursday.)
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The flowers are in King Cole bamboo variegated cotton, I made my own leaf as I wanted a nice juicy looking one.
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I sewed on the leaf and flowers and darned all ends before filling the hat with stuffing.
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I just filled it with toy stuffing. I figured if my sewing’s going badly and I stab the pincushion violently I won’t be breaking the pins on coins or weights at the bottom!
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If you’re keen to try some Vinnis cotton you can buy some from Natasja’s  Etsy CrocheTime shop, she will give a 10% discount to the first ten people to order using the following code: LITTLEROOM.

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Helloooo to my new readers following Simply Crochet’s Edits magazine. It’s very nice to have you here. I’m loving seeing people’s curly twirly flower brooches appear, the first photo I was sent was from mrspip (the link should take you to her FB page.) It’s lovely.

My flower brooches in Simply Crochet!

I came home late last night from London frozen to the bone after a three hour Jack the Ripper tour in the East End, a long wait for the bus then a frozen car windscreen which I needed to de-ice. My feet felt like two big ice cubes! But there in a prominent place propped up on the stairs was my new issue (16) of Simply Crochet. All thoughts of feeling cold vanished!
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In January I was contacted by Tanya, the Commissioning Editor and asked if I would design a brooch for a Springtime feature in Simply Crochet. You can imagine my surprise and pleasure at being asked, especially as I’ve bought the magazine since it began. I was sent these lovely balls of cotton and given completely free rein to design whatever kind of brooch I fancied.
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I really enjoyed sitting here in The Little Room playing with different stitches and colour combinations, it was a great way to banish any post-Christmas January blues.
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I came up with a curly twirly flower brooch to pin on a bag, to add a bit of pretty.
20140302-145729.jpgThey work well if you pin the petals out (dry) for a little while, as you release them they ping up and curl delightfully around. Alternatively you can block them and leave them flatter as the magazine have done.

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As this would be my first ever published pattern (I’m beaming as I still can’t believe it, I’m sooo happy about this unexpected event) I was a bit nervous that it would be gobbledegook and asked Kate of Greedy for Colour to check it. The rush of having someone else, particularly such a crochet clever clogs, test your pattern and come back with a gorgeous version of their own (2 lots of delicate light pink petals on the top,  a white set at the bottom and a pale primrose middle) and 100% positive feedback was immense.

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I had thought I probably shouldn’t show what I designed until the magazine is in the shops or online but today see that others have shown photos and are talking on social media about the feature, so gave myself the go-ahead! It’s way too exciting not to!

20140302-145820.jpgOoh on the front cover of the supplement!!!!!!!!!

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Lovely styling. That’s MY crochet, crocheted here in this Little Room in my house! Wooooooo! Boom! (As Claudia says on GBSB.) The opposite page has the brooch pattern, a few other photos and bit about my crochet, thoughts on blogging and inspiration.

I was in stunningly good company as most of the other blogger designers are those I’ve followed for a few years. But you’ll have to buy the mag to see who they are, as I’m not spoiling any more surprises. Well, except one! I have to, I just do…

I met this blogger last Christmas, just over a year ago, as she was visiting England from the USA. We talked and talked, a coffee turned into a day of wandering, lunch and sight seeing. We discussed yarn, crochet, craft shops, blogging and our fave bloggers. I never expected us both to be featured in this top, top crochet maazine together! (I’m allowed to sprinkle !!!! liberally in this post. It’s my 15 seconds of crochet fame after all.)

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It’s the lovely Hannah from Not Your Average Crochet. I’m so making this Springtime hat pincushion.
20140302-145904.jpgNow I’m off for a refreshing glass of wine!

Happy weekend all.

Simply Crochet (16)

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Next week, if you get a copy of Simply Crochet, you’ll see what I was doing with these beautiful cottons in January. It’s been hard not to mention anything – it goes against my nature not to talk about exciting things!

Small make medicine & The Great British Sewing Bee

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Feeling like a quick crochet make would refresh and revitalise, after hiccups with a bigger project, I decided to start a little something. It’s so satisfying a way to banish the crafty blues; starting and finishing an item in a few hours.

On another tack, did you watch The Great British Sewing Bee last night? I’m loving it. Absolutely enthralled. It’s so good to have a crafty series on peak time tv, twitter and Facebook were buzzing about the episode until late last night. My friend and I were chatting about our faves well into the early hours. This usually turns out to be my reading time, despite knowing I should sleep I end up reading just one more chapter.
Another, replying to my “OMG wish I could alleviate clothes woes by whipping up a top for a do hours before!” (like GBSB contestant Heather) gave a lovely compliment: ‘I think if you turned your crafty skills and energy towards sewing you’d soon be able to do just that :-)’ It’s just starting isn’t it? I need to find an easy pattern to make an item of clothing, my first since a couple of pencil skirts at school!

In progress

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This second pair of mitts are still waiting to be sewn up, the first are being worn and appreciated during the chilly school run apparently. I’ve had a request by one of my little nieces asking me for “white pink with purple bits, like Mummy’s but…oh no I mean light pink with purple bits.” (Awwww, so sweet.) As I’m told they’re superb at losing gloves I’m heading in the direction of a good quality acrylic, not Rowan tweed like these!
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The cabled yoke cardigan has been renamed ‘that stupid cardi’ I’m sorry to say. The time it took it took to figure out the cabled strip has rather soured the project. Well….I guess I have to be honest and admit that’s not absolutely it. Don’t start dipping rags in oil and sharpening your pitchforks but I’m not so sure about the actual look of it. Knitted clothes look so smooth and elegant, crocheted clothes particularly in chunky dcs like this just look coarse somehow. Know where I’m coming from? It needs to be edged, sleeves crocheted and button-band added so I might be more impressed after it’s finished. Maybe.It could be the yarn, I wonder if a different colour and quality of yarn would help too. I chose to use my Stylecraft meadow as I thought it would look lovely, and it’s washable so is practical for children’s clothing.

Oh and also I’m worried that the neckline is tiny. Overall I worry that it’s a bit small. I really, really should try a tension swatch before new projects.

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I’m going to be knitting this feather and fan scarf until I die I fear. Last year I decided I’m going to live to be a hundred; so I’ve got a lot of time to carry on, but might die just after completion and so not get the benefit!

It’s probably far more practical to use a non-fluffy brand for lace knitting. It’s not tricky to undo or knit, but another would show the lacy holes and repeats making it easier to see mistakes and just act as a guide. I’ve tried using pony stitch markers but those little plastic rings are going to scratch my birch needles, they’re getting in the way a bit too. I’ll maybe have a try at placing yarn markers. I accept this scarf is going to be a long-term project and don’t mind really, not now I’m adding lifelines!

I must get on and darn some more of the ends of those granny squares. It’s actually not so bad once you get going, it just starting that’s the issue.

Also I’m knitting up something for a yarn review and that is another story…

What are you up to this weekend? Hopefully not splashing about in flood waters like these poor ponies were, gradually more green patches are appearing though as the water slowly drains away.

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14:37 Mitts now sewn up & ready to wear. This post was a good motivator!

By jove I think she’s got it!

Here is a reminder of why this is a big moment! Today was the very, very last time of trying to get this cable crochet yoke for a cardigan right. If it didn’t happen the book was going to be (gently) thrown across the floor, then sold.

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10 random things

This morning I saw this post from Kate of the bloody excellent Foxs Lane blog and it inspired me so much that I grabbed my iphone and took some very random photos during the rest of my day.

I relate when Kate writes from time to time that she’s doubting the whole blogging thing and wonders who’s interested, why she does it and feels that it’s purely self-indulgent. I often feel the same, pause for a bit, then whack a post out into the ether and get busy in real life again. The often interesting, lovely and thought provoking comments which come back from you guys, plus all the connections I’ve made in the bloggy world, make it feel like a totally good thing, and so those feelings pass again for a while.
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What I didn’t mention when I was rhapsodising about my porridge habit the other day, was that even though I leave it cooking on the lowest setting I often burn it in the pan. I’ve got the knack of stirring it, very carefully if that’s happened, and pouring it out so there are no black bits in my bowl! I must look out for a small non-stick pan.

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I love daffodils and buy lots of bunches every year. These were a present from the market on Saturday. I always think they’re smiley happy flowers, a bit like pansies who have the cutest little faces.

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The knitted poncho has been used plenty. It’s so good for pulling on when I feel too lazy to go upstairs and get a warmer clothing. But the rhubarb ripple hasn’t really ever been used since it was crocheted. It’s been folded with other blankets at the end of the bed in the little room because it doesn’t really ‘go’ at all downstairs. The other day I decided to grab it because it was so chilly when I was sitting knitting and watching tv. It’s now downstairs to stay this Winter – so soft, warm and big enough to snuggle!

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This book is so British!

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A very small section of the many books in The Works which is becoming the place to browse and actually buy craft books, as opposed to looking elsewhere and going home to order more affordable copies online. They have Kat Goldin’s Crochet at Play (it’s where I bought my copy,) Lisa Comfort’s Sew Over it and The Great British Sewing Bee book (NEW SERIES begins next week) as well many other well-known and not-so well-known titles.

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I had to choose a plant for my summer pot for the porch so it can slowly grow on. It was nice to contemplate fuchsias (last Summer’s choice) lilies and geraniums.
I opted for this beautiful apple blossom geranium. I’ll chose some complimenting trailing plants nearer the time of potting up. Some gorgeous verbena (aztec dark pink magic) plants have caught my eye. They’re definitely on the short-list.
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Annoying! The back door is jammed, the lock has a fault now for some reason. A guy came to fix it last week and broke the key off in the lock. I came home to half a key on its keyring on the kitchen worktop, which made me giggle despite myself. Let’s hope he does a better job of sorting it out on Friday!
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You’ve seen this meadow here many times, but it’s never been this flooded in all the years we’ve lived here. It’s now turned into a lake really, especially further out. I’m glad to see there are still green bits showing as there’s still somewhere for more water to go. (Not thinking about the water table.) I read recently that if it hadn’t done such a good job as a flood plain over the centuries the centre of the city would have been under water many times.
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A cheering end to my 10 random things: my Winter pot of violas with the bulb shoots showing through. Despite the appalling weather it’s actually very mild here, snowdrops and other Spring flowers are appearing early. We’ve had up to 80mph winds and battering rain here, this pot sits in the front porch which is not enclosed, but these fragile little beauties must have a hidden strength!

I hope this hasn’t been too random to read. It is definitely self-indulgent but is the most fun I’ve had in a while making a blog post. Do you feel like doing one too? I’d love you to link to it here in the comments, or just let me know if you have.

Lately

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Look at those gorgeous cottons, I really had fun with these. You’ll see what and why soonish. It made me feel very happy I can say. I stopped and took the photo of the little room’s bed in full use to the side of my desk because it was so colourful and busy looking. I banned myself from using smileys in the middle of posts ages ago, but picture a winking smiley here.

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Spending Christmas money is fun. The 5 year journal is one of the things I treated myself to (from Amazon.) And, it’s fab. You can start anywhere during the year and fill in a few lines in answer to a question posed at the top. Sometimes it’s an easy question, such as: list three foods you ate, what is the oldest item of clothing you’re wearing or what was the most peaceful part of your day today? Others are quite a bit more thought provoking, especially as you have to write succinctly. The trickier questions include: What makes you ‘you’, are you holding a grudge? About? And if you were starting a company what kind would you choose? It’s fun, takes no time at all to fill in really and could be interesting serving as a future aide memoir to where you were, what you were thinking, dreaming, eating, drinking, watching, listening to etc back when you began.

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I had a mini Christmas yesterday with my cousin and her partner. We ate roast lunch, cake and opened presents. It was fun and, like a friend said, there should be more of these pop-up Christmases! Look at my lovely haul – especially the beautiful fabric, ribbon and the lovely coloured owls. They’re going to have to be used for something very special.

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Crafty wise I’m not allowing myself to start another knit until I sew up the fingerless mitts. So, no knitting has been knitted for a few weeks. Boo. I’m visiting a new knitting group this week and think I might take knitty sticks, rather than crochet, so they’ll have be sewn before then. Crochet..? Oh boo as well. I love crocheting in the evening, when the tv, audio book or radio’s on, but dislike darning the ends in as I go as it stops the whizzy crochet. So now I have 12 completed huge granny squares with many ends a flappin’. That’s 480 ends…..

Have you any Christmas presents that you’re really loving and recommend?

This morning

We’d run out of bread yesterday so I decided to mix up the ingredients for another artisan loaf last night.

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This time I used strong white bread flour and left my Kenwood mixer bowl in the airing cupboard overnight as the residual heat is greater than leaving it in the, unheated, dining room overnight.

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We’ve just tried half a slice and crust. It’s got a crispy, chewy crust and soft texture. Wonderful! But how can I take any credit when you simply mix, leave, shape and bake? I don’t feel like I’m doing anything.
If you missed it here’s my first loaf with links to the recipe.
I won’t go on about my bread anymore. Promise.

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Right, back to the little room where I’m sipping peppermint tea, listening to
The Great Gatsby soundtrack and crocheting. What a nice Monday!

Knitted cactus pin cushion

Inspired by a cactus pin cushion I spied in a craft shop in the Summer I decided to have a try at making my own version after my table got a bit scratched by my new pins the other week. They’re too long for my 20131111-102229.jpgpin cushion which I reckon would be termed ‘vintage’ now as the material dates from the 1970s. I’m wondering if these are really millinery pins?

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I glued a circle of felt to the bottom of the flowerpot so it wouldn’t scratch the table. I bought a new terracotta pot although you’d never know with all the glue marks I’ve left. At least I didn’t superglue my fingers together, though I did ruin the trousers I was wearing due to glue blobbage as it set firm in a plastic disc. Oops.

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There’s a lump of polystyrene at the bottom of the flowerpot, then some toy stuffing so the cactus sits at the right height. Next time I might try using rice or similar just because of the huge mess the polystyrene made (see photo on my Facebook page…) when I tried to saw a chunk from a piece I’ve been hoarding.

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How to knit a cactus

I used Stylecraft Special DK Meadow Green, with 4 mm needles.

Cast on 30 stitches for the main body of the cactus
Rows 1 & 2: Knit 2 rows of stocking stitch (that’s 1 row in knit stitch, the next row in purl stitch)
Row 3: Knit a row of garter stitch (that’s all knit stitch)
Repeat these 3 rows until you have a nice tube – check this by keeping the knitting on your needle and folding the rectangle in half until it’s the diameter you’re happy with.
Don’t cast off, just cut the thread leaving a length to thread a needle and gather up all 30 stitches tightly, fasten off securely and darn in the ends. That’s the top of your cactus.

Cast on 15 stitches for the ‘arm’ of the cactus (I probably need to look up cactus terminology?!)
Repeat the 3 row pattern, as for the body, until you’re happy with the tube you’ve made. As above, gather up the stitches and secure.

Crochet some earth!

FR: Chain 6, slip stitch into a circle.
R1: Treble 6-8 into the circle (depending on your tension)
R2: Chain 2, then DC into each treble of the previous round
R3: Chain 2, then DC into each DC of the previous round, increasing into every other stitch
R4: Chain 2, then DC into each DC of the previous round, increasing into every third stitch

Continue rows in the same way increasing into every fourth, then fifth, sixth stitch etc until the circle fits nicely into your pot.

Sew the arm onto the body of the cactus and then sew the cactus onto the earth circle (sounds New Age?!) Use superglue with care, sticking the sides of the earth circle to the pot.

Stab the cactus with an assortment of pins and darning needles until it’s suitably spiky.

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Here it is in use last night as I began preparing to sew a Cath Kidson pattern – a large tote bag.
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It’s an anniversary today – 2 years of The Little Room of Rachell. How time flies! When I look back I’m amazed at how much I’ve made, with lots of learning curves. I really didn’t think I’d still be blogging beyond learning to crochet, which was my goal for the New Year of 2012, but it’s been fun making crafty connections with others and sharing what I’m up to online diary style. So I carried on day by day, week by week without a plan. I just looked at my stats and this is my 305th post! Admittedly I’m rarely short of something to say, both here and in real life! Thank you for reading, especially if you’re part of the little band of followers who’ve been here since the beginning. And thank you for leaving so many great comments (2,374!) I always really appreciate it when you stop to type your thoughts, or respond positively to a post. As many of you know I often reply with an email, it’s been fab batting chatty messages back and forth.

The blog’s definitely evolved and is not solely crochet focused anymore. This year I’ve been dabbling in all sorts of crafts, although crochet is still a big part of how I spend my spare time. I joined a knitting group in the Autumn and find it far easier to crochet while I chat and get to know the group. I don’t have to look at what I’m doing all the time, and I always take something simple like the huge Granny Squares so there’s no counting or complicated pattern to follow. Several of the group are also both crocheters and knitters which is cool.  I have to say that it’s nice to watch someone else also wave a hook and a glass of wine around!

Have a fun New Year’s Eve! Enjoy reflecting on the past year and looking ahead with crafty resolutions, learning goals or just anticipating lots of creative fun to come in 2014. :-D xxxx

2013

A selection of this year’s highlights. (Top of my list for 2014 is to enjoy putting the CAL blocks together, after a refreshing break. You should know I’m basically pre-empting comments here!) I’ve got many, many more photos of craft events, exhibitions and shops I’ve been lucky enough to visit too, probably enough for another gallery times ten. What a fun and creative year.

Meeting other crafty peeps has been a highlight, I see I wrote the same on last year’s gallery 2012.  I’ve always loved meeting new people and not being a shy sort find it all a bit of an adventure. Putting on some music, the radio or an audio book and settling down to make something is one of my favourite ways to relax, apart from reading, cooking or baking. But I have to say that there’s nothing like meeting others – having a good chat and seeing what they’re making. Social crafting seems to be one of the best ways to meet people too. I reckon if you’re shy then joining a crafting group works well as you can always focus on what you’re crocheting, knitting or sewing or whatever to calm your initial nerves. If you’re stuck for conversation just ask what kind of yarn (or whatever) they’re using and generally you’re off!

Have you joined any new crafty groups this year? Taken part in any workshops? Do you enjoy social crafting, or prefer it to be solely during your alone time?

Left-Handed Crochet

I’ve been meaning to put my post on Left Handed Crochet here for ages. I originally wrote it for Kat Goldin’s Crochet Camp on her Slugs on the Refrigerator blog way back in the Summer but wanted to put a copy here also for any fellow lefties who might be passing.

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Leftie crochet

After a quick Google of the percentage of left handed people globally I’ve found that figures vary between 10-15%. This illustrates a fact that I’ve always known – there really aren’t very many of us around.

It’s interesting that there seem to be slightly more men than women who are lefties, fewer who crochet though no doubt. I’ve also read statements that say left-handed people produce an above-average quota of high achievers. Bring it on! Alexander the Great, John McEnroe and Billy the Kid are listed as notable lefties in one article, which discusses how left handers are better in a fight because of the element of surprise (!) but perhaps we’d better stick to crochet for now shall we?!

When I’ve crocheted in public I’ve had sometimes comments about looking “cack-handed”, been told it “looks really odd like that” and I’ve also been asked “Don’t you find it hard – doing it like that?” The last one just makes me laugh. Actually I like being different to the majority, although when I was learning to crochet it was a different story as I grappled with instructions and illustrations where the hook was always shown held in the right hand. I tried to squint and imagine it all reversed, but this wasn’t very successful at the beginning.

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Useful resources

In the end I found a small range of teaching aids. The best one was a smallish booklet I found on Amazon called Crochet Unravelled by Claire Bojczuk, which is for complete beginners and uses illustrations for left and right handers. I can’t tell you how good I found this simple straightforward guide. To be honest I credit Claire Bojczuk with teaching me to crochet. I don’t know her, we’ve never met or corresponded but I think I’d give her a bunch of flowers if we ever did!

YouTube videos showing left handed demos can be really useful as they’ll show you ways of holding the hook and how to scoop the yarn in a clockwise direction (as opposed to the righties who scoop it up anticlockwise.) When I was learning I watched sometimes, just for the pleasure and encouragement of seeing another leftie. I don’t know any other left handed crocheters and sometimes just watching for a few minutes can set you on your way; especially if you’re having problems visualising what to do, don’t know where to go into a stitch or are just feeling a little fed up of instructions written for a right hander.

Simply Crochet magazine has a how-to section at the back every issue which includes a photo tutorial for some stitches for left and right handers. This approach seems to be pretty rare compared to most crochet and craft magazines.

There are several Ravelry groups for left-handed crocheters, where I’m sure you would be welcome to ask questions and seek advice.

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Equipment

Although I do use left-handed scissors when cutting lots of paper or fabric, I haven’t found that I’ve needed any different tools for crochet. If you do know of something crochet related for lefties I’d love to know about it, please.

Crocheting in rows

If you’re left handed you’ll be crocheting rows from left to right. When you begin your first row (called the foundation row) you’ll be working along the chains from the left to the right.

When a pattern tells you that the foundation row is the right side of the work remember that’s the side where the cut tail of the yarn will be hanging down on the right hand-side. If the foundation row is the wrong side of the work the cut tail of yarn should be on the left. Just so that I remember I usually don’t darn this in until the end as it reminds me which side I need to darn into and which to leave.

Crocheting in rounds

As a leftie you’ll be crocheting around to the right, or clockwise. This is worth remembering when you are more experienced and start using symbol patterns. These types of patterns show the stitches going to the left for right handers, but you will be doing the same stitches in the same order but going around to the right. Are you beginning to see why the moral support of YouTube videos, books and tutorials for lefties can be so encouraging at times?

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Final thoughts

It’s just a case of remembering that the pattern will be written assuming that you’re right-handed 99% of the time. Most of the time this doesn’t matter at all, but just pause and think about the instructions before you begin. For example: if you’re going to try some colourwork you might need to reverse the instructions, unless the design is symmetrical. So, if you’re told to follow the chart with odd numbered rows going from right to left, just remember that your rows are going to be from the left to the right.

Is all this confusing? As clear as mud? Don’t worry – once you’ve got the hang of crochet as a leftie everything will become second nature and you won’t think about it too much, apart from sometimes when you might find yourself saying ‘Oh these crazy right-handers….!’

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How about you?

 

Simply Crochet: Filet Crochet Hearts

Something new…

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I’ve fancied trying my hand (hook!) at filet crochet for ages, so when I spotted Anne Egan’s sweet hearts in Simply Crochet issue 11 I had to give it a whirl.

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Sweet don’t you think? Easy too!

I can see all kinds of possibilities for Valentine’s Day projects too…

Soothing Granny Squares

After a really really frustrating week, craft wise, with faulty knitting needles, the wrong size cables for my new KnitPro Symfonie interchangeable needle set (bought with my crochet commission ) and a pattern I can’t seem to get to grips with (does it work for lefties???? Is it me???? I’ve turned to the designer for help and will hopefully see what’s the issue next week) I’ve turned to my soothing easy-to-do-with-your-eyes-closed (I’ve tried) huge granny squares.

I’ve just arrived at a hotel and am in the room waiting for my weekend with the girls to begin. Roll on wine, chocolate etc as well as some longish bracing seaside walks, we hope! Meanwhile I thought I’d show you how my huge Granny Squares are going along. Last night I crocheted the rest of the squares’ centres as it feels downhill from there if you know you have all the pieces in progress. It works for me anyway.

I like these cheery squares but have to admit that I feel I’ve used this combination of colours enough now; which is why I wanted to use up my leftovers and move on to others in the future.

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20131129-151103.jpgThe number of times I’ve changed the title of this post is laughable – Granny love – sounds a bit dodgy to me today, Granny therapy – err no, Soothing Huge Grannies – hmmmm not! Think I might need the clarity a glass or two of wine will bring…

Have a fun weekend all. See you on the other side!

Crocheted Raspberry Scarf

The pattern by Rebecca Jackson can be found on Ravelry: Claudia scarf. It’s been in the making for several months as it wasn’t a crochet project to spend long periods making. It’s crocheted in 4 ply using a 3mm hook, so takes a bit (a lot) of time as I found it to be a little fiddly. It might have something to do with the hook I used. Perhaps Father Christmas might bring me a Clover Armour 3mm hook?

Details
Yarn: Sirdar Country Style, 4 ply – a wool blend
Raspberry – shade number 0527.
Quantity yarn used: 100g – exactly 2 balls
Hook size 3mm
Length: 67″
Width: 8″

I didn’t follow the pattern exactly as I couldn’t really see the point of breaking off after 85 rows and joining to the initial chain, so I carried on crocheting until it was the length I wanted, or until I ran out of wool. Happily both of these happened at the same time!

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I always thought the scarf might be a gift, but wasn’t entirely sure. When I tried it on I found it just slightly too scratchy. I think I’m sensitive to some wool or blends. A relative came to dinner earlier this week and tried it on. You know it’s meant to go to a person when she says “This will go really well with my black jacket, and my new coat.”

After a very chilly walk I’m dreaming of knitting a new hat next, chunky yarn here I come….!

Really nice shopping

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Supermarket, butchers and fabric shop… I know which was more fun by far!

I’ve bought a few metres of each fabric for my next make. I’m planning to work through my Cath Kidson Sew! book as I like 99.9% of the makes. Of course it might be saved for the next girl’s sewing day as my friend and I have discussed making a different bag every time we get together . You can never have too many bags, right?

On the crochet front I’m still working my way through hooking up mini bunting as a commission from my local shop.

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What crafty items have you bought lately?

Commissioned

Look at this lovely lot of colours…

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I’ve been asked to make some crochet samples to put in my local shop, around their new yarns as samples for customers and perhaps provide a little colour inspiration.

I have to say that my mind is spinning with possibilities: flowers, perhaps crocheted together hanging down on the shelves, a little seasonal family of hedgehogs? Some mini bunting….?

I’ve been offered some money per hour for the crochet, and a completely free rein to make whatever I want. But when you get an exuberantly warm welcome, enjoy a friendly chat with both the Mr & Mrs and always leave smiling how can you charge for doing a favour, especially when it’s something you love?

Oh and they’ve gratefully received rainbow trout on several occasions which really puts them high in my estimation. (You really can have enough trout.)

No more chatting….I’m off to create.

Inside Crochet magazine

At the end of last month I was contacted by the Deputy Editor of Inside Crochet magazine, the message said “Hope you don’t mind me getting in touch, but we’ve been enjoying your blog here at Inside Crochet and we were wondering if you’d like to be interviewed for the ‘Our Favourite Blogger’ feature we run every month in our news section?”

I don’t think I need to describe the feeling at being contacted by such a quality magazine like Inside Crochet do I? But I can tell you that I did some of my Zebedee bounces which I reserve for very special occasions.

I tend to chatter freely, but I must admit I have uncharacteristically stayed schtum for weeks and weeks, waiting for the magazine to come out. Well I’ve had some tweets and messages over the last few days saying my blog has been spotted in the magazine, so in case you haven’t seen a copy of issue 47 yet…

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Grannying

Making room in the Little Room for my growing pile of sewing supplies I decided to make big granny squares to use up leftover yarn
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It’s been so nice to pick this easy crochet up and treble around without any thought or counting, apart from making sure I stop at twenty rounds…

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Inspired by this BeAUTiFuL blanket it’s such a cheery way to use up oddments. I had three bags of yarn ready – tiny little wound lengths, small and medium balls from last year’s blanket making. Perfect for granny squares.

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I’ve hurt my left hand so the Clover Amour hook is the best thing to use. I’d like to say it was while doing something glamourous – perhaps during a break in Brad’s filming of Fury around these parts – but actually it was last week trying to unscrew the liquidiser jug from the base after making spicy butternut soup. D’oh! I’ve stuck to sewing and knitting lately to give my fingers a rest, but I’m missing the gentle rhythm of grannying now.

Wool Window

As part of Wool Week last week John Lewis set up one of their windows as a plainly decorated room and invited various knitters and crocheters to take part in a living display. Passers by could watch them sitting knitting and crocheting, which must have been fun to see as well as being a bit bizarre for both sides.

The yarny creatives gradually yarn bombed the area  (silly term isn’t it? Decorated seems more apt.) I watched it all develop through photos during the week on Twitter which can be an excellent news-service, you often find out about events long before seeing them elsewhere.

I stopped to see it before meeting Emma on Sunday and took so many photos because I found that every time you looked you noticed more woolly items! I found it genuinely inspiring and particularly loved the flowers in the vases, the cat and the covered pink chair. Somebody’s moving pretty fast this week – I think he’s worried he might be covered with crochet or knitting if he stays still for long.

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Crocheted pumpkin

It’s been the first Saturday in weeks and weeks that we haven’t had anything planned. We both got mundane jobs – house cleaning, haircut, butchers, market for veg for family lunch tomorrow (the butchers, the bakers, the candlestick makers……!) Sainsbury’s for other things – done first thing and have basically lazed out this afternoon. Bliss!

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Gah!!! As Bridget would say – I got to the end of the crochet on version two and realised again that I’d forgotten to crochet into the back loops. It would really add some texture. Again I was listening to Bridget. Oh well, I was just trying to be seasonal.

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After a comment about having invented a raspberry yesterday I thought I’d get a better colour than the Stylecraft shrimp shade of DK which obviously wasn’t cutting it. I popped to one of my favourite local yarn shops and bought some proper Halloween orange (cheapo Hayfield Bonus DK, bit squeaky but fine.) Afterwards I tested the colour against real pumpkins and plastic items in Waitrose, just to make sure it was bright enough, this attracted some looks which I ignored.

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It’s cute though I have to admit. I might try making version III sometime with added texture, probably not while listening to an audio book!

If you want to have a go at crocheting a pumpkin you can find the pattern here on the Planet June craft blog.

Count how many different shades it looks with the shifting autumn light levels….!

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I blame Bridget!

This is what happens when you are excitedly listening to a brand new audio book released yesterday – ‘Mad About the Boy’ Bridget Jones 3 – while crocheting a new pattern, too late at night and not fully concentrating. It’s a minor crochet disaster.

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This is the bottom

:: You forget that you’re meant to only be going into the back loops.

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This is the wonky top

:: You make running stitches as instructed, but through both edges of the ‘tube’. If you thought about it you’d have worked out that they are supposed to be around the edge, then drawn up into a circle, not a wonky bumpy line.

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You complete it, while chortling about head lice, odd shoes and painful school parents then take a proper look and realise it’s pants!

You could crochet camouflaging leaves but decide to crochet mark (Darcy?!) II soon instead!

Simply Crochet bobble mitts

We were heading off on holiday a few weekends ago when the postman arrived at the door with what looked like an armful of magazines, so of course I had to leap out of the car and take them with us…

One was the latest Simply Crochet, issue 10. I had packed my craft bag very carefully with things to carry on with, or complete. Not new projects to begin. These were the hot pink crochet scarf…20130912-102346.jpg and the sewing up that really needed to be done on the little red knitted jumper and that cat (I know, I’m bored of mentioning it – so am sure you’re bored of reading about it!)

The trouble was that the bobble mitts designed by Hannah Reed really caught my eye. I’ve never made fingerless mitts before, thinking that they looked a bit dull as most I’d seen are made with simple doubles or trebles, but Hannah’s lovely pair are in one of my favourite crochet stitches – bobbles. The only spare yarn I had was a ball of brown I’d packed for embroidering for the cat’s nose. I don’t wear brown, it’s just not my colour but I know a lot of people who do. So, before I knew it the Clover soft-touch hook was in my hand and I whipped up the mitts during spare moments in the apartment. It just had to be done.

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I wrote some notes in my little book after I crocheted these which I’ll share in case you fancy making a pair…

:: Make sure that the stitch count is 33 still after making the 5 chain thumb-hole, otherwise it throws out the following bobbles

:: I adapted the pattern to make a longer piece of crochet so did 11 rows of bobbles then 2 rows of double crochet at each end

:: I also double crocheted around the thumbhole to finish them off. Don’t do this! Unless your thumb-hole is big and a bit gapy. Mine were perfectly sized and now are a little bit snug. They’re wearable but the dc row and darning tightened them up rather. I’ll have to give them to a friend with slim thumbs

Simply Crochet issue 10 has some nice items this month, I recommend you have a little look at a copy.

Have a good weekend! Maybe I’ll bump into you at Yarndale? :-D

Jewellery workshop

Last month a friend booked us both on a jewellery workshop with Stones of Isis in South London. She’d seen a Groupon offer for a beginners class for 3 hours at £22 each, it’s very good value and if that deal is still available I’d recommend you book if you can. We went to The Old Biscuit Factory in Bermondsey (spell check wants to change this to ‘spider monkey’ ha ha!) on Saturday. Gok Wan uses a studio there to photograph his collections apparently – there’s a random fact for you.
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I’ve never made any jewellery before, unless threading painted pasta on string counts?
You can see how my attempts improved, though there’s still a long way to go.

So, in a nutshell this is what the equipment’s called and how you make a rosary bracelet Oops, I realise I can’t name the equipment with confidence at all! I need to check the pdf that’s promised to all who attended the workshop.

20130922-161055.jpgIt’s fun, time flies and you realise how very slow you’ve been when you’re racing to complete the earrings by the end of the workshop. A slight downside is that your thumb and finger of your other hand throb by the end of the session, your dominant hand is holding the pliers and fares much better. I expect you toughen up after more sessions, or adjust your technique and this isn’t an issue as there’s no condition, as far as I know, called jeweller’s thumb…

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This is the work of the graphic designer who sat opposite, we both loved her colour choices, repeating pattern and neat work. She insisted she’s never made any jewellery before and we veered between envy at her talent and thinking she couldn’t be new to it at all because it looks so good. Her pearlyish beads on the floating bracelet inspired me to add two to the end of mine.

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Sandwiches, tea, biscuits and cake were provided but to be honest I think we were mostly all too busy to stop and eat much.
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Here are my finished items. As Bola and Mary, the teachers and owners, said you can spend a fortune in Accessorize on similar bracelets. I don’t wear necklaces but have a huge bowl of bracelets so making my own really appeals but I’ll probably need to arrange a follow-up crafting session with my friend Sarah who creates the most lovely jewellery, for a bit of a refresher.

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Next we crossed the river and went to north London to Islington. There’s no way you can really go there without a little visit to Loop. After my recent thoughts about Noro wool feeling too scratchy we discovered they make an absolutely gorgeous variegated cotton. I was soooo tempted to buy some but first need to finish my Rowan and Planet Penny cotton.
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I have a giftcard to spend at John Lewis sometime, plus I’m busy using my Black Sheep Wools haul so didn’t buy anything. It was hard not to buy a ball of each colour combo of that Noro cotton, but I stuffed my hands in my pockets.

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Lush yarn isn’t it? I believe you can just tell looking at these photos. Some is £20 and upwards for a skein, so I’d definitely need to feel more confident about my knitting before I bought enough for a garment.

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Seeing stacks of beautiful yarn is really like heroin for crocheters and knitters isn’t it? OR, is that just me?!

Yarn Along

My current read is an audio book. I’ve stopped reading printed books so much in the last week or two. Hopefully buying a new bedside lamp will change this; I’ve broken so many of those glass Ikea lamps that this time we’ve gone for a metal type from elsewhere. Fingers crossed! (No, I’m not hurling them across the room, the leads just get tangled and a yank on the hair drier results in smashing glass. This still happened even when I changed things around. But if it’s breakable I’ll get it! Oops.)

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It’s not quite the crime fiction, set in London, that I was expecting. In fact I gasped when the first unexpected thing first occurred. I’m enjoying the book, but during some chapters the reader swallows and licks his lips really loudly! Either other audiobooks edit this out, the recording technology is better, or they are more experienced readers but it’s really distracting and very irritating! Fortunately it doesn’t happen too often; it’s just when the character is being thoughtful and reflective so the pace of the narration is slower.

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I’ve started using my new gift card yarn. This Sirdar Escape chunky wool blend is really nice to use, pretty too. I’m not too convinced about the Bergere de France poncho pattern right now, it might end up being undone and used for chunky ribbed hats and scarves, or whatever.

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It’s one extreme to another with hook and needle sizes this week. I go from 6 mm needles to a 3 mm hook. I changed over to the Simply Crochet hook just because it’s a better grip than the thin metal one. I’m expecting this scarf to be a long term project because it’s not a whip-it-up-in-a-week-crochet-project. 4 ply and a smaller hook slows you down. That’s ok, there’s no race to win.

The changing light levels now autumn has arrived is affecting the colours in photos so much. Can you see the difference between the not-so hot pinkiness of the colour of the yarn today, and the photo I took when it arrived at the weekend?

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I loved the high temps so much that the sudden onslaught of cooler weather, when I was expecting a bit of an Indian summer, has really taken me unawares. I’m amazed at how drastically I want to eat much more and just feel generally a bit fed up. I’ve banned myself from buying cheering up marshmallows because last winter they and hot chocolate were my absolute downfall. I was trying to see how many I could cram into my pint mug of hot chocolate, and it wasn’t far off a large packet – with a few extra to eat while I was making it of course.

What’s the weather doing where you are? Are you craving certain foods or drinks too?

I’m joining in again with Ginny. What are you crocheting / knitting and reading at the moment?

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And another one

It’s suddenly changed into autumn weather here, so welcome to dodgy photos and cold toes once again.

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Dishcloths / washcloths are just so fast and satisfying to crochet. They make really scrubby cloths and the morning I went out with a glowing red face is proof enough.

Again I’ve used the same patten as for my last – the pink aran cotton cloth which can be found here. Basically it’s chain an even number of stitches, 1 dc and 2 tr into the 3rd ch. *skip 2 ch and 1 dc, 2 tr into the next ch and repeat *…ending with 1 dc in the last ch (st on subsequent rows.) Remember your 1ch at the beginning of rows for your turning chain, which does not count as a stitch. If you know the name for this stitch I’d like to know please.

I’ve started my chunky knitting and 4ply crochet, but the sewing up has to be done for the potentially deformed cat one evening soon because the Cats and Kittens book (by Sue Stratford) needs to go back to the library this week. Ho hum.

Thanks for your comments on yarn snobbery, Noro and sewing up, its always nice to hear from you. :-)

Crochet wash cloth

I suddenly got the urge to crochet something in one go last night, so ironically sat up until too late making this while watching a tv programme about sleep problems, yawning my head off.

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Isn’t the stitch lovely? I’ve been looking though my Vogue Stitchionary and Harmony Guide to Crochet Stitches to find out its name, but can’t find anything similar. Lack of sleep can affect your cognitive skills so I might well have missed it… Basically it’s 1 dc, 2 tr into a ch, miss 2 ch and repeat to the desired height.

Strictly speaking it needs blocking of course, some of those curly round corners need the spa treatment, but since it’s going to spend half of its life wet it seems pointless.

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I used this pattern by Kara Gunza. Do you recognise the cotton? It’s the ball of Rico aran creative cotton I bought the other week during my visit to Guthrie and Ghani. I’ve never used aran cotton before. Actually I’m not sure I’ve used aran anything before. It was a bit splitty but worth it for having such a soft cotton cloth at the end. I wanted a nice close texture so used a 4mm hook and chained about 32 to begin so it would still be a decent size.

I forgot to report that the last washcloth hasn’t made my face yellow. The Planet Penny cotton is great. If you want a cloth with good scrubability that’s the one.

Now I have a random picture of some garlic a relative’s grown. Isn’t it impressive? It looks just like it does in the shops!

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Fibreworks, Oxford

Do you remember I blogged about the scrummy yarn shop Fibreworks, Chipping Norton back in March? Well now there’s a sister shop in Oxford. I went for a look-see last week, ended up chatting ten to the dozen with the lovely owner Natasha, stayed over an hour and ended up having tea with her.20130903-104516.jpg It was fascinating seeing all the different people who popped in during that time. You never knew who would come in next and what they would ask. I loved it!20130903-104524.jpg There was a woman who asked for a knitting starter book as she wanted to make something for her baby (v v cute.)20130903-104533.jpg A guy who works along the road who needed a yellow nose for a toy his g/f had made. I suggested felt which he bought. He also ended up buying a Creepy and Scary Creatures to Crochet type book. We were both saying how cool crochet is and how there are many male crocheters and knitters. Well, sort of there are I think?

A woman who wanted to donate wool she bought years ago to knit an item for her child, now an adult….

A foreign student who wasn’t sure how to cast off her scarf. She’s just learnt to knit and was making a beautiful double stranded scarf for her boyfriend. The combination of blue and white DK yarn with big needles worked soooo well.

What I loved was that some assumed it was my shop too. Maybe I’ve found an alternative career? After all a customer in John Lewis, Oxford Street in London did tell me last week that I should be working there and was a ‘natural’ when I answered his questions about ipads which the employee had failed to answer correctly. A craft shop with a teapot on the go all the time, and all sorts of people to chat to on a daily basis sounds pretty appealing. Not to mention the yarn, books and patterns.20130903-104547.jpg

Last week I met a friend for an evening in the pub. It’s been a little while since we met so there was plenty to catch up on. She was saying how she’s taking horse riding lessons and doesn’t find it easy, plus the instructors are pretty hard on you. She ended up crying one week. The guy she knows in the class pretended not to notice which was very tactful, but then the following week he ended up in tears too! Well! Can you guess what I’ve told her she must do? CRAFT. CREATE. RELAX. ACHIEVE with no tears. I suggested looking for crafty workshops to do together, or perhaps we could join a knitting group, not as an alternative to the horse riding, if she wants to carry on, but another more relaxing and confidence boosting option. Hey presto I just happened to hear about a few local knitting groups and we’re joining one on Wednesday. Knitting/crochet and alcohol. Perfect combination (ish) so I’m taking something super simple, otherwise I’ll be showing you a cobweb next time!20130903-104603.jpg

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It’s a really lovely shop isn’t it? If you’re near Oxford anytime then I suggest a visit. Here’s the website for info about workshops, classes, groups and opening times etc etc.

In progress: That cat needs sewing up. Still. I’m knitting the second sleeve of the garment. So soon you’ll have some pictures of actual craft I’ve been doing. It’s been happening, but I’ve just not taken many (any) photos lately.

Buying: I’ve finally chosen what to buy with my Blogger of the Month gift-card and placed my order this morning. I’ll show you the contents of the parcel when it arrives. Exciting!

CAL NEWS: The JAL of the CAL will be nearer the end of the month from my POV, but please go ahead if you’re itching to begin the massive blocking and joining fest. Can you believe it’s been a year since we started, I see my first post was actually a year ago today!

My next project

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Straight after winning the Blogger of the Month award I had an email from Coats Crafts with lots of lovely flattering compliments about my blog. They asked if I would like to receive a free kit to make a crochet necklace, and maybe mention it in my blog. Now I’m not into turning down a freebie, whatever it is, but when it’s crochet there’s going to be a definite YES!

I’ve been knitting a garment and feel as if I’m missing crochet, so this will be a nice change.

I want to write ‘watch this space’ but it’s pointless because you are already reading anyway so I won’t. ;-)

Cable crochet

Firstly thank you SO MUCH for all your lovely messages, here and elsewhere, about the Black Sheep Wools Blogger of the Month award. You’re all very kind, I definitely had warm fuzzy feelings last week!

After seeing a cable crochet notepad cover pattern in issue 8 of Simply Crochet I decided to have a go at some cables over the weekend during spare moments.

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It was different using a 4.5mm hook, any bigger than you’re used to initially feels like you’re wielding a hockey stick rather than the usual toothpick!

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My tension’s a bit bleugh at some points, but I reckon it isn’t bad for a first time.

Oh at first the pattern really gave me a headache, like they can do when you’re not sure why and how and where you’re going. I’ve never crocheted triple trebles (ttr) before and had to make sure they were front or back post (FP/BPttr) crochet. That’s not actually particularly tricky after the first row and you see the pattern developing; so can see where it’s all going and what to do next. The trickest thing for me would maybe be the simplest part for you, after skipping stitches and making the twisty ttr cables you have to treble behind these into the third skipped stitch. What a fiddle! But it’s fine after a few times.

My life’s not missing a crocheted notepad cover so I’m not completing the pattern but it’s been great trying a completely new stitch combination and techniques. Next time I’ll try a smaller hook and see the effect but the chunkier one was a nice change too.

I’m typing this on my recent surprise birthday present; a new retina display ipad (crystal clear photos bloggers! Your stitch definition is looking superb!) Lucky lucky me. Now please excuse me as I have to go and try some of the latest stock of Belgium chocolate.

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Harry the flirt

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So, as I mentioned yesterday, I’ve tried out a new crochet mouse pattern provided by the organisers of the Mile of Mice fundraiser in aid of The Alzheimer’s society and attempt to break a Guiness World Record for a Mile of Mice.

I crocheted Harry using some Stylecraft Special Dk and a 3.5 mm hook as someone had said the pattern came out rather big. As long as he measured 9″ from the tip of nose to end of tail it didn’t matter, but I fancied using a smaller hook for a change from the usual 4mm.

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He is undeniably not quite as elegant as Gerald and the rest of the knitted crew, but Harry seems to have bags of personality.

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In fact as I tried to get him to pose sensibly he seemed to be flirting a tad.

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But then he looked as if butter wouldn’t melt. You need to keep your wits about you with Harry around.

If you’d like to crochet a flirty mouse, or knit his elegant cousin, see the Facebook group (link above) for the free patterns and details, or look for the ‘KAL: A Mile of Mice’ group on Ravelry which I set up in support of the project. I’d LOVE to see your meeces.

Ribbed scarf

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I’ve enjoyed picking this crochet up at odd times and doing a (long) row accompanied by my audio book, or listening to Aggers and Vaughan gently mocking Henry’s threads of the day, the beery state – or not – of the watching fans and waiting to see if Mrs Aggers has been up on the roof again lately. Anything they say, apart from the actual cricket, is fascinating and strangely soothing. I admit to doing an air punch when we won last weekend. I even might have had a teary eye in fact, but I’ll cry at anything.

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I’m so pleased with the yarn. I picked it on a spur of the moment – dashing away from the till while the shop assistant totted the total on the back of an old envelope, like they do there. It was reduced to half price-ish and seemed refreshingly different to my yarn choices so far.

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Crochet rib is cunning isn’t it? Just like its knitted sister it’s springy and creates a thick cosy type of fabric, just perfect for a scarf. I really liked the ribbed square that we crocheted for the 200 crochet blocks CAL earlier in the year. I’m going to keep experimenting with different variations.

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Do you want to make one too?

Ribbed Scarf

2 x 100g balls of King Cole ‘Wicked’ (shade – 728 – Dye lot – 67886) or any DK yarn

4mm hook

Scarf width 5 1/2″ – length 77″

The scarf is worked horizontally so I loosely chained approx 371 stitches to make the length I wanted. Periodically I stopped and draped the chain around my neck. I prefer long scarves that I can wrap around my neck once or twice but obviously you can make yours shorter by making fewer chains.

Foundation row: Half-treble (UK) into the 2nd chn from the hook. HTR into each chn to the end. Turn. (Sip a G&T – it’s been a fiddly job.)

Row 1: Ch 2, HTR into the back loop of each HTR from the previous round to the end of the row.

Row 2+: Repeat row 1 until the scarf is the desired width. (Or in my case until you run out of yarn!)

+++ If you HTR into the back loop the rib looks the same on both sides. You can also alternate rows: making a HTR into the front loop on row 1, then making a HTR into the BL on row 2. Repeat these two rows if you want ribbing on just one side.

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Take it easy and crochet this in shortish bursts as it takes a while to do a whole row. I found it left my elbow a bit wincey if I did too many HTR at one sitting. If your hands are getting tired then stop and give them a good wiggle. Be prepared to be mocked though – I was standing over the sink (for some reason) “Why? Why are you practicing starfish shapes with your hands? Is it for casting spells at the witch Olympics?”
They just don’t get it, do they? So silly, just so silly.

Yarn Along

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Despite lovely hot temps  – 28oc here at the moment woohoo! – I’m crocheting a thick ribbed scarf for winter. It’s unseasonable but I know I’ll really feel the benefit when the weather changes. Please god it’s not next week. I’m not ready. Hanging out the washing and having it dry in an hour, or less, is fab and I love the way it smells. Plus I’m enjoying feeling warm to the bone, eating salads, homemade burgers, cool leafy evening strolls, G&Ts and Pimms. Oh dear, the spell check wants to amend that to pimps. I am not enjoying pimps, thank you very much.

I’m reading Everything and Nothing by Amarinta Hall (what a name) that I got from the library last Wednesday and have started a new audio book: The Cuckoo’s Calling by a new and aspiring author Robert Galbraith (ha ha! But why not, good for J.K.)

The Mollie Makes are going to be my dipping in and out reading for the next few days. I usually pounce on these as soon as they thud through the letterbox, but lately I’ve been a bit caught up browsing my haul of canal non-fiction.

I’m joining in with Ginny’s Yarn Along again. What are you reading and crocheting/knitting this week?

Yarn Along

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It’s summer this week in England and the weather’s beautiful. Last night we walked around the village inhaling the scent of roses climbing cottage walls, elderflower and many BBQs!

I’ve started to crochet a very unseasonal item – a swirly scarf from Nicki Trench’s Cute and Easy Crochet book. The yarn is King Cole ‘Wicked’ which I bought last week. It was a reduced bargain price so I bought two balls, as you do. I like not knowing what colour’s going to appear next as I crochet (living life on the wild side.) It’s a bit of a different choice for me but I like the tweedy but bright mix.

The books are new today, from the library, and look like pretty good Summertime reads. ‘Everything and Nothing’ is a thriller and described variously as chilling, suspenseful and disturbing on the blurb. It seems a super-nanny has come to look after a family’s two children, but all is not as it seems. The other novel drew me because of the cover recommendation from Kate Atkinson, she’s one of my favourite authors. It’s the tale of two girlhood friends who are inseparable, until one goes missing. I must be in a mystery frame of mind this week, maybe influenced by my audio book. I’m three-quarters of the way through  Sweet Tooth  by Ian McEwan, it’s a great book to crochet or sew along to (I’ve been x stitching lately.) As a wanna-be be spy it’s a fantastic book and the 1972 London setting to the story is interesting.

Yarn Along

I’m joining in with Ginny’s Yarn Along. I’m always making something and read at least a book a week (I also have two audio books on the go at the moment: Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris and Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan) and love to see what others are up to, so this is a perfect –along.

Spotting the Granny Chic book, written by bloggers Tif and Rachelle, at the library made me very happy. Even more so when I discovered they include a string bag pattern, that’s very good news for my current obsession.

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Kate Morton’s The Secret Keeper begins on a Summer’s day in rural England, in the 1960s, where a picnicking family are celebrating a birthday. One of the daughters has slunk away to the tree-house to daydream. The seemingly idyllic story is shattered by a horrific incident, the reasons for which are explored in later life by the witness. The book shifts from the 1960s, back to the 1930s and to the present time, so far it’s very good; one of those stories I find hard to put down.

 

Provence Summer String bag

While browsing through a collection of string bag photos on Pinterest I noticed one that kept turning up. The pattern’s by Kathy North and is available free from Ravelry, it’s called the Provence Summer String bag.

So, that’s how String Bag no. II came about. It’s easy and fast to crochet in trebles and double trebles. Again I used more of my Planet Penny cotton with a 4mm hook.

Yesterday I pinned and then steam blocked it to gently pull it into shape.

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After a visit to the library, and a really nice book find, I’ve seen another string bag pattern which I’m going to try. I hadn’t planned to crochet another so soon but they say good things always come in threes, don’t they?

To the person who Googled and somehow found this blog using the rather sad search phrase: “feeling so fed up and worried will doing knitting and crochet help me….” the answer is YES! I really hope you feel happier soon.

Weekend days

20130701-100431.jpgThe hunter-gather came home with a smaller haul than usual, but another good catch from a morning fishing session. Caught with a may-fly which is late for this time of year apparently.

20130701-100439.jpgSunny morning x stitch, starting a kit I bought last year from Liberty of London.

20130701-100451.jpgI fancied a spot of baking and had the ingredients to make an Olive, Onion and Basil scone. It was just baking when the fisherman arrived home with uncannily good timing.

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20130701-100520.jpgInstead of the usual (rather dreary) DJ one of my favourite comics stood-in, while the other was at Glastonbury, on Saturday afternoon. When we saw Rhod at a comedy gig last year I laughed so much I cried. I crocheted with cotton while I chuckled along to the radio.

20130701-100530.jpgAnother walk along the canal, but in a different direction this time, to look for some geocaches. We chatted to a local character who has noticed many people wandering up the nearby lane off the canal to peer into the underground, looking for caches. The we helped a woman with a swing bridge as her husband passed under on their hired narrow boat. In return for answering my quick-fire narrow boat related questions we heard all about her son’s recent graduation and future career plans. Funnily they were from the area of Yorkshire where we should have been for the weekend.

20130701-100537.jpgQuite stunning tree fungus. I imagine there’s a troupe of fairies who live around this ivy clad tree.

20130701-100546.jpgYou may coat the ground with concrete and with gravel, but we shall not be deterred from flowering.

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20130701-100602.jpgAll those heads ready to sprinkle their seed for more poppies next year. I must remember to walk here again.

20130701-100618.jpgIt’s unclear, but through a gap in the hedge next to the canal I spotted a white sofa and glass coffee table. It looks like an outside shoot for an interiors magazine.

20130701-100629.jpgThe lambs and sheep were going bananas in the field opposite. What a din!

20130701-100637.jpgAh, there are a shepherd and his lad shearing them.

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20130701-100703.jpg“Rachel, if you carry on stroking her too much she’ll follow us all the way home.” It’s so hard though, she’s a very young cat with friendly curious eyes, and a funny way of leaping in front of you for more love.

20130701-101350.jpgBack home to finish the last few rows of string bag II. It’s now ready for steam blocking.

Gentle fun, ended with some glasses of Pimms and a meal at a local pub with a friend. Happy days, after the disappointment of cancelled plans.

Slightly fuzzy photos of many treasures

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Snapped with my iphone which never takes great photos when the light levels are low; but I really like the colour combination of this crocheted blanket.

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I remember reading the same edition of Heidi when I was little, it was given to me by a relative who had kept her copy from when she was a young girl.

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There are crocheted, knitted and embroidered items dotted around, you never know what you’ll find.

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Treasure trove!
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So delicate and pretty

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And home to start crocheting string bag v.II. I’ve been pinning things for ages but just this week really, finally, understood how useful Pinterest can be after finding an assortment of string bags with links to FREE patterns.

This was my first trip out since getting ill. It was on Thursday and I was more than ready to leave the house, feeling fairly confident that all would be well. It was, apart from getting caught in a rain shower and slowly (quickly) turning into a drowned rat clothed in a jeans and a light Summer top. Then I passed someone I haven’t seen for fifteen years but the moment wasn’t right to call out a hello, with looking half drowned still and standing in pouring rain. Oops!

I was meant to be at Lucy’s Attic 24 open studio day today, but then for various reasons we had to cancel our weekend in Yorkshire. Ever have a few weeks where events you’ve really looked forward to don’t happen, as if on a roll of blah?

I shall cloak myself with optimism, put my happy (ier) face on and set out to find something cheering this morning. If it’s worth sharing I shall report back later. Wish me luck!

What are your plans today? I hope you have a good day.

Week 43: CAL Blocks #205 #209 – THE END!

IMG_2540#205 Hourglass

5 1/2″ W 5 1/2″ H But —- will fix that I hope! (Fill in the blank; y’know what I’m saying by now!)

IMG_2533#209 Marigold

5 1/2″ sq.

What a lovely one to end on!

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So, 43 consecutive weeks of crocheting blocks and we’ve reached the end. :-D Well done everyone, it’s been fun. I’ve enjoyed being introduced to new blogs and seeing all the photos on the Ravelry CAL group project pages.

Thanks for joining me. I’m glad I didn’t plough through the book alone. It’s been fun comparing colour combos and seeing if others have the same issues with patterns, or like the same designs. My pattern reading skills have really developed because of the CAL. I’ve also learnt some new stitches and discovered how much I love (bobbles) or hate them (popcorns, kind of!)

Now we’re on Summer hols (ya hoo!) until September when we can post about blocking, joining, what we’re planning to do with our 128 blocks (!!!!) and share any issues or concerns etc etc.

*Grin*

The mystery item revealed

20130625-065305.jpgI’ve fancied making a string bag for a long time for some reason, I’m not entirely sure why as I’ve never owned one. I noticed Bill’s were selling brightly coloured ones as I brunched with a friend a few weeks ago, and it kind of reassured me that they’re not seen as grannyish now, but rather green and eco-friendly.

20130625-065325.jpgThe pattern is from Simple Crochet by Erika Knight, though I adapted it slightly to increase the number of rounds before the decreasing began. Mine is crocheted in mercerised cotton bought from Planet Penny, using a 4mm hook. Erika Knight’s bag is made from polypropylene string, but she recommends trying all kinds of materials including leather thonging, cottons, linen knitting or crochet yarns and natural string.

20130625-065341.jpgI have to say that this is a pattern where I didn’t notice any mistakes at all – it was really refreshing! This is going to stay our new bag-bag.  I might try another pattern I have and maybe make one for my brunch friend.
Well done Athlyn for guessing correctly!

Week 42: CAL BLocks #193 #197 #201

Here are my unruly blocks in the penulitimate post of the CAL for the September starters. It feels good! It’s been great fun, and good for my crochet skills in lots of ways, but I’m really enjoying the freedom from the schedule of making 3 blocks every week.

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#193 Textured Stripes

5 1/2″ sq-ish. with a bit of tugging out at the sides. You already know that I’m going to say how much improved all three will be after blocking, right?

I like the texture of this stitch. It might be a a good one for a dishcloth.

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#197 Fretwork

5 1/2″ sq.

I like this, there’s a good contrast between solid and openwork crochet.

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#201 Zig-Zag Bobbles

5 1/4″ W

5 1/2″ H

R4&6 have a missing *. I just made a dc into 7 st then MB again.

I didn’t read the pattern in reverse so my bobbles are more Zag-Zig, but I don’t think it matters for the sake of avoiding the aggravation of reversing everything. I increasingly feel that designers should include pattern details for lefties too. Why not?

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I’m amused, and a bit pleased, to see that new joiners are still coming to the Ravelry CAL group, despite the threads being silent for a long time. Check out the projects page to see lots and lots of blocks, people have posted some beauties.

I must dash now and eat lunch, then go shopping this afternoon. It’s my MA Graduation Ceremony (feels like it needs to be in capitals!) tomorrow and I need to get a few things to look smart when I wear the cap and gown. Did I ever confess that starting the CAL was a complete distraction from the study, and writing, I should have been doing for my research dissertation? Probably not. But both have been completed. ;-)

Cotton baby bib

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Crocheted for the baby to whom I gave the Jewel baby blanket. We visited the hospital the day after she was born and now unbelievably she’s already just over 2 months old, whew doesn’t time go fast?! Today a friend and I are going to visit her in London on the canal boat which is home.

I fancied making a little follow-up gift and feel liberated to try lots of new patterns now I have that end of term feeling, after the schedule of making three CAL blocks a week since September. Ya hooo!

The pattern is from Nicki Trench’s Cute and Easy Crochet book. I used the specified Rowan Handknit DK Cotton with 4mm and 3mm hooks. It’s really easy to make and is crocheted in the same sort of way I used for Prachi’s bag.

Have you made anything for family or friends lately?

Making something new

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Since a trip to Nottingham a few years ago, when I stayed in The Hilton right next to the John Lewis store, I’ve had some balls of Rowan handknit cotton. It was impossible to resist buying even though I was a total crochet beginner and didn’t know what type and size of hook would be best to use with it, or what I could make. But I did know I liked the colours very much. This was the first time the yarn shop bug bit hard.

The verdict about whether it’s a good new something, or not so good will come…..

Week 41: CAL Blocks #181 #185 #189

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#181 Begonia

5 1/2″ sq.

I’d cut down on the chains on R1 next time. Maybe 3 rather than 4 with my tension.

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#185 In the Pink

OR: In the pink & blue!

5 1/4″ – 5 1/2″ – will be when blocked. I’m glad this is the last corner squiffy sized block now.

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#189 Willow

5 1/2″ sq.

Such a nice design. I’d like to experiment with this block using chunky, super chunky and very fine sparkly yarns.

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These are nice sort-of relaxing colours this week in contrast to the sometimes chaotic colours of other trios.

I predict that come September when we all begin to join and border our CAL blocks I’ll wailing into the ether “Why WHY didn’t I block these each week as I went along?!!” It’s been dawning on me gradually that this would have been the sensible thing. Ouch.

I’m pretty sure I can’t do the facial steam method which I used for the Yarndale Bunting, can I? It’s got to be pin and spray then leave to dry for woollen yarns?

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I really thought someone had thrown a gherkin over the fence when I saw this yesterday!

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