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?

“I’ll just pop in for my free pom-pom maker”

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Yeah right…impossible isn’t it?!

There’s a sale on fat quarter packs -they’re half price so this felt like a good buy for £6.50 as the fabric is 100% cotton and has a good thread count. It’s so much easier, and nicer, to sew with good quality fabric. I really wanted a new skein of lime green thread, it’s the colour I’m drawn to at the moment, and the sequins are to spruce up the following.

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I discovered great charity shop treasure on Saturday, when browsing my local shops with a friend. I’ve been looking out for a basket, for crochet and knitting storage, in regular shops for ages. I just couldn’t find one which was lined, which would stop any wooly stuff snagging. This is fully lined with an internal drawstring bag which extends the same height again of the basket. The drawstring will keep everything clean and intact during holidays.

I think I’ve seen this bag in M&S in the past. The silicone packet was still inside and the lining was spotless. I doubt it’s been used much. The only issue was scuffed and scratched sequins, which might have happened while it was hanging on a hook, or in a wardrobe. They spoilt the overall look so I snipped them off – a very satisfying task. I was hoping for red, blue or green replacements, but gold will be fine.
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The bag was £3.50. The free Clover pom-pom maker (leaflet from Mollie Makes mag) from Hobbycraft cost me £8.39 for the visit! Not an expensive shopping spree really.

Have you found any bargains lately? Claimed your free pom-pom maker?

Owl Mug Cosy

The problem with craft magazines is that I can’t think of not keeping them. You never know when you might need that beanie, baby blanket, gift tag pattern. It’s so nice to look through your back issues, mug of tea to hand. However I know there’s a real danger of a future magazine avalanche. When a friend’s Mother sorted her craft room I was the happy recipient of all sorts of mags from the 1960s, 70s and maybe beyond. I can well imagine getting to the same point of couriering them somewhere….anywhere but here, unless I begin subscribing to digital copies…

But the great thing is that at the moment I’ve got a lovely stash to spend time flicking through to find a mini project to satisfy my itchy fingers. When Mollie Makes issue 21Mollie-Makes-issue-21 came out last year I loved the look of the owl mitts and mug cosy, but was all about crochet at the time. On Saturday I spent some time flicking through old issues to find a mini project to satisfy those itchy fingers, and ended up whipping up the owl mug cosy designed by Estonian knitter and designer Tanya Antonova.

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I can see a purl stitch where there should have been a knit, but other than that am pleased with my second ever time cabling.

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I tried these little wooden beads, they are from a bracelet a colleague bought me from her trip to Pakistan. Sadly it broke after lots of wear and was too complex a design to repair, but I scrambled and retrieved all the beads to keep in a tin. They look fine as eyes but didn’t look right when sewn on, perhaps it would be useful to buy some ‘invisible thread’.

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I opted instead for slanty woolly embroidered eyes. They are rather piercing in their own way, though admittedly not half as good as the magazine’s beady version.
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I crocheted the piece together, not leaving a hole for the handle as it didn’t actually fit any of the mugs in the house! I wondered if my tension was way off, though had used the recommended chunky wool (leftover from the chunky seashell scarf) and size 5 needles but you never know. In moments of doubt Google can really be your friend – I found others who had found the same and decided the mugs in Estonia must be significantly smaller than here. I’ve stitched him up and thought I could either wear him as a wrist warmer (eyes were rolled at this) or make a sweet little jar cosy.

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What mini projects are keeping you busy?

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?

The Spring Knitting & Stitching Show, London

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I’ve had a very good day. Very good indeed. I tried not to take hundreds of photos but did bear in mind that quite a few readers have said they are looking forward to hearing about the day.

On the tube journeys to Kensington Olympia I played a little game to guess who would be going to the knitting and stitch show. It wasn’t too hard. Do they have a: knitted/crocheted hat? Knitted/crocheted scarf? Handmade item(s) of clothing? Colourful bag? Flowery rucsac? Anything Cath Kidson? All were complete give-aways. I followed a couple of women for two parts of the journey and then bumped into them by the ribbon and button stall where we had a chat, as you do. I tend to chat to people wherever I am, whatever I’m doing and there were some very friendly people at the show.

In case you’re wondering; I wore my knitted lacy purple scarf, it’s warm but I also had a feeling it’s de rigueur at crafty events to wear something handmade. I was right. I saw a divine cabled top, really nice chunky wool, it just fit and suited the wearer so well. I had to stop myself from rushing up to ask for the yarn details, pattern and needle size. 019021

The lady in purple is Lara (mid cough, oops) the editor of Mollie Makes who was later running a VERY popular crochet flower workshop throughout the day. I tried to find a spare chair, but each time I passed they were all occupied, with spectators standing around too! I’m so glad crochet is so popular. When I said I really like MM Lara seemed genuinely delighted, she seems very sweet. 024Wow. Just wow! A lady and I joked that you’d have one very muscly arm from using these hooks!

025Perhaps knitting would give you an equally balanced upper arm workout?027This is where I made my resolution, yet again, to relearn to sew. Aren’t the fabrics beautiful?

028029The next two photos really, really made me want to visit the Mrs Moon shop which speaks volumes for the beautiful layout of the wools, patterns and samples. The women looked so elegant as well.

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Rowan Big Wool. Mmmmm I feel a snood or scarf coming on sometime, in a berry red or grey perhaps.033

The next two pictures were part of an area with a table of free-form crocheters who, I think, were making pieces to decorate costumes. There were some women in huge dresses, painted faces and high-high-high-up hair, or wigs, like the aristocrats during the French Revolution. The area was labelled The Garden of England Royal Museums Greenwich.The show is turning into a good way to check out new places and visit other exhibitions, rather like following a trail of bread crumbs.035039

I was forbidden to take a photograph of the felting and silk artist Yulia Badian in her Woodland Boudoir fetchingly dressed as a woodland fairy, but drinking a can of red bull. She was quite attention grabbing I can tell you.041042

Deebie Hall’s ‘Lady Spring

I’m always partial to willow art. 044

Sue Stratford’s The Knitting Hut was also one of my favourites. Just look at those chicken kits! Several were purchased as I browsed. I took a photo of her knitted meerkats but sadly it’s a fuzzy one.047

Just when I was beginning to flag I spotted a spare chair at The Knitter/Simply Knitting table, opposite the full to bursting MM crochet area. Half an hour knitting alongside friendly people felt equal to a session of meditation. I can’t describe how relaxed I felt after that pit-stop. I liked that you could take the whole ball of wool, needles and pattern away all for free.

Something funny happened during the session. Eight of us knitters sat around a circular table and I noticed that seven were ‘throwing’ the wool. The eighth was an older woman who knit sliding her hand up and along the needle. The rest not. One of the magazine editor demonstrators complimented the neatness of mine which led to discussing techniques and the feeling that persists which says I’m ‘not doing it right’. All agreed it’s an individual thing; there are many ways to accomplish the same end. All good, all rosy. I’m feeling pretty confident showing off my technique in public while hoards flow around the area, some taking photos of us (eek!) THEN a group of Grannies come along and make quite a deal of the throwing technique and actually take one woman’s knitting away to show her how to ‘do it properly.’

“Look, you wrap the wool round your fingers like this, see? You hold the needle under and do NOT take your hand off…blah blah.” The lady took it quite well but I’m just so glad it wasn’t me.

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This was my favourite quilt from the exhibition, it’s so country home in style.052

On the tube home I heard fragments of people’s conversation:

‘I spend my limit then I stop. Do you remember last year when I didn’t have enough money left for a cup of coffee?”

“He’s expecting me home later than this but will come to get us when I tell him what time the train gets in. Umm NO! I haven’t told him how much I’ve spent!”

“Next time I’m gonna take a wheelie bag to fill, and probably get right in people’s way.”

“Bugger! I’ve got me wool stuck in my zip aint I?!”

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I’m very pleased with my Clover crochet hook, bought from Jane Crowfoot. She’d sold out of 4mm but this was one that was lurking in an under the counter box. She did say she might be in trouble with her Mr for selling too many and not having enough for online customers, but they’ll just have to wait eh? Lucky me!

I’m off to drink a large glass of red wine, finish my bunting with my beautiful alpaca wool, or maybe unravel it to crochet something with my NEW HOOK!

Happy weekend everyone.

Tunisian Crochet

It’s a beautifully sunny and warm Spring morning. I’ve been sorting out a stack of mostly new crafty inspiration.
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So many books, so much to try!IMG_2226The Knitting Answer book is brand new, the other two are library books. I want to learn to knit different types of cables after my first try the other week. But then I also want to learn how to do lace knitting. Apart from a couple of wool scarves I designed a few years ago, one purple for me and a green for my sis-in-law, I haven’t done any lace patterns. In the Knitted Homestyle book there are three lacy sachets designs for lavender bags, I thought they might be a good start.purple scarf

I also want to work my way through the knitted effects section, maybe making a selection of blocks to make into a throw. A collection of knitted leaves appeal too, for some reason. I’ve no idea what I’d do with them.

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The new Mollie Makes arrived yesterday. Cute bunnies but I’d prefer to find a pattern rather than cutting up old jumpers. There must be knitted bunny patterns by the million online.

I always save MM till I have the perfect time to read it, preferably cover to cover without stopping or speaking. Someone else loves the oasis of silence craft magazines create.

The Cath Kidson Stitch book was for my birthday and the Sublime transfer books were Christmas presents. I must find things to embroider on, more linen t-towels perhaps. Maybe I should be going to the Sewing for Pleasure show the weekend after next? But it’s the Spring Knitting & Stitch show on Saturday and then I’m going to the Wool House with Natasja next week. AND I’ve just heard of a new yarn shop which must be checked out.

It’s sooo funny to remember that when I learnt how to crochet a few years ago, because of a childhood ambition, I accidentally discovered the world of crochet blogs when googling crochet techniques. I found Attic 24 along with a host of other craft blogs but still felt pretty solitary during my crafty adventures. Then over the last year or so there’s been an explosion of magazines, new craft shops both on the high street and online, craft shows, knit, crochet & natter groups (did you see what I did there?!) I’m hearing many ‘I think I’m going to become more crafty’ resolutions from friends too. Hurray! I hope this trend for all-things-craft lasts a long, long time and doesn’t fade away again.

IMG_2230I didn’t get on very far with my plan to embroider this cushion,as you see, before going to a workshop at the Make Lounge in Islington, London with my cat mad friend last September. Crochet and other yarny projects have taken over. I must use the Sublime books for inspiration and sew.

Ok, enough of the chatter and stop linking to everything PLeeaAsE….

Last night I dug out the 5mm Tunisian crochet hook I bought last month along with Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Tunisian Crochet and some left-over wool from the jewel baby blanket I’m currently finishing (Stylecraft Special DK.) I’ve been busy with other things but -LAST ONE I PROMISE- Matt’s last blog post prompted me to get on and try crochet Tunisian styley.

My cousin and I often send photos of what we’re up to, here was mine last night at the beginning of my first Tunisian Crochet lesson. (In case you’re wondering hers were of various cats peering into the lap top webcam and pics of her really long Tunisian Crochet hooks. Apparently she had lessons at school and crocheted a stripy neck-tie! I didn’t know.)20130314-115012.jpg

So, here are the four little stitch swatches I made last night. IMG_2238Tunisian Simple Stitch

Easy! Easy and fun. I like making all the stitches so it looks like a knitting needle full, then reversing down to one stitch again. Ingenious. If you can crochet you can do it Tunisian style.  Kim Guzman puts instructions for lefties into each pattern. Kudos to Kim Guzman I say! The book is a goodie. I contacted her to say so and straightaway had a nice reply.

It felt more natural to hold the hook on top, then when I came to this paragraph: ‘When working in Tunisian Crochet, you will always use an overhand hold. Imagine yourself holding a bicycle handlebar” I felt a real flush of pleasure; it’s fab when you just guess a technique and it’s right. Sorry. Getting all giddy again, more photos less chat ahead.

IMG_2243Tunisian Knit Stitch

Easy and it makes such a thick fabric. It would be excellent scarf material apart from the curliness. There is a scarf pattern in the book where you fold it in half lengthwise and sew the seam end of rows, that might be the solution.IMG_2235Tunisian Purl Stitch

I did go to YouTube for extra tips with this one, searching for ‘Tunisian Crochet left handed purl stitch’. There’s a video on there by a woman with a really nice American accent but the filthiest fingernails! Yuck! She was too fast for me to gather how to do her technique of putting the yarn in front of the hook, but I developed my own thing. Not my favourite stitch because of the yarn in front thing.

IMG_2231Tunisian Reverse Stitch

This is basically the Tunisian Simple Stitch but going into the vertical bar from behind. It’s fiddly but I was tired; it was nearly 11pm and I need to try again. It’s probably very easy.

The next lessons are to increase, decrease and change colours. It’s like starting with crochet all over again. Learning those  skills are going to have to wait because I’ve got very achey shoulders this morning. Ooops, but when I’m enthusiastic I tend to go at a million miles an hour.

Overall holding the hook overhand doesn’t feel as comfortable and speedy-easy as crochet but like everything you get faster the more you practice. I’m not sure TC will replace crochet for me, though I like the smooth knit-like look, but it’s nice to have a new skill.

Tempted to try Tunisian Crochet too?

Naughty wool shopping

Tuesday: I’m a terrible shopper, a classic browser who can spend hours in shops looking, touching and picking things up, even restacking and neatening displays, but I’m not actually any good at buying most of the time. Often when I go clothes shoppping I return home with multi-packs of socks. At least now they’re stripey or spotty colourful socks; not the terminal black packs I always, always bought during my non-craft decade.

This afternoon I deliberately left my yarn shopping at Mason’s till the last ten minutes before the shop closed so I would be forced to make a decision under serious time pressure. Well technically it was that, and leaving home late due to the fact that I wanted to finish last month’s Mollie Makes in the bath before moving on to the new issue. The first of my year’s birthday subscription plopped onto the doormat this morning. Ya-hoo! I know I’m very easily pleased: Mollie Makes, a hook and some socks and I’m happy.

There is a LOT more wool/yarn than this, plus fabrics and haberdashery (and two more shops in the town) but I still take very surreptitious photos in shops. It is a tad embarrassing but I thought some of you might want to see what the shop looks like since I know they send international orders.

So what I’m leading up to is that I’ve bought yarn. Better than that I’ve bought wool, proper grown up sophisticated posh wool, Debbie Bliss baby cashmerino. If it’s good enough for the Queen of Crochet Blogs (you know….) then it’s more than good enough for me. I’ve really only ever crocheted with 100% acrylic. I am a fan of the Stylecraft Special DK but seriously wanted to try something different.

It is pricey but it’s gorgeous. I adore the range of colours. I want to put it on my face and leave it there it’s so soft. I also think it’s going to produce a nice sized block for my CAL though unlike serious, sensible crocheters I haven’t been swatching. My approach is to crochet and accept whatever block appears. I’m definitely not working out yarn quantities ahead either, yikes that could end up being scary given I’ve spent lots of pennies. “Look after the pennies and the pounds look after themselves” I’m choosing to think about the pennies and not the pounds in this case.

I’ve chosen a starter range of colours for my initial blocks that are inspired by my memories of our cottage garden style flower beds which were in my childhood garden here in England. I remember red-hot pokers, lupins and delphiniams, plus marigolds, little flowers called pinks, moon-daisies and iris and….

I might add some light pink and maybe a splash of yellow, but I know that I want oranges, purples, some deep dark and bright colours. So that’s everything I suppose, but no neutrals.

I’ve started putting a Cottage Garden board together on Pinterest if you need any pretty pictures to look at for inspiration. It’s a work in progress as I’m still finding my way round the site.

Thursday: I could say I’ve done a swatch, deciding to make a sample and be a sensible crocheter, or I could say I couldn’t wait and I crocheted the first two blocks. (More about that later.) Either way I’ve made a decision about the yarn I’m going to use….

…Any ideas for what I can make with softer than clouds DB baby cashmerino?

DoNT sAy a BlaNKet!!!

Crafty treats & birthday presents

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20120816-160121.jpg> This is a little different but each to their own! It’s probably more comfortable than being carried in a little handbag…20120816-160134.jpg> A few treats 20120816-160141.jpg> A surprise in the post. But this was a disappointment for the one who collected it from the post office and thought he’d won a fishing reel in a competition! The look was priceless when it turned out to be a subscriber gift from Mollie Makes magazine.  So, I get the magazine for a year of birthday present that keeps on giving, and the Amy Butler fabric! Win, win.

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>Stopping to admire my doorstep20120816-160318.jpg> Greek salad for lunch, not craft or a birthday present but a very tasty meal sitting in the sun listening the Best of David Bowie…..Let’s Dance! We could be Heroes….Little China Girl…..Fashion!….Ashes to Ashes…..20120816-160326.jpg> Trying out one of last week’s birthday pressies – my new slow cooker. I had to use pliers to turn the knob round on my last one and like this red model very much. I’m cooking Malaysian beef and aubergine curry for dinner (smelling good!)

The recipe’s from Ultimate Slow Cooker by Sara Lewis if you fancy trying it.20120816-160332.jpg

A PINK parcel!

So exciting to come home to a large PINK PARCEL!

I opened it in a rush and quickly photographed it in the placky bag as I had to be somewhere fast, but here is my new cotton stash! I’ve never bought any yarn in bulk and now look at me, with my yarnalicious rows of DK below and now 13 balls of cotton!

Penny’s blog – Planet Penny – is listed in links somewhere to the right of this page, click if you too would be interested in buying a pack. I obviously can’t vouch for the cotton, yet, but the delivery was super fast! ( I think I only paid for this on Saturday.)

I’ll show some pics of what I create with the super bundle of bright cotton as I go along….

Having a ‘stash’ (this does sound very American to me, but I can’t think what else works so well in one neat word!) does mean that you can try any pattern out there and then, rather than wait to buy a ball of something.

I also am a bit excited about this….

I didn’t even know this magazine existed. The shops I tend to go to for a rummage around amongst their craft magazines don’t stock Mollie Makes. I’m looking forward to a good look at it tonight.

Can you recommend any other crochet / crafty mags?