Monday, 17 March 2014

I am not the house-wifey type....but

I don't know what it was - the sun maybe - but this weekend I managed to prove myself to be the perfect wife and mother. Now anyone who knows me will be aware that cooking and cleaning are not my forte. In fact, I will pretty much do anything to avoid both of these things, if I can. Luckily my husband is a great cook and likes to do it and well, the house just gets cleaned as and when it needs it.

But for whatever reason, this weekend I got the bug. It started with an early morning on Saturday. We are Formula 1 fans and the first race weekend of the season started at 5am Saturday morning and we were up and watching. That led to a morning in the garden raking leaves and sweeping up decking. Then the sewing machine came out (while my bread dough was rising!) and I finally made my granny square cushion. A blog on this will be along soon.

Washing was on the go and drying in the, by now, hot conservatory and the afternoon ended with freshly baked bread and dinner cooked for my hardworking husband, who had to finish off a job on Saturday. The evening was filled with glasses of wine and Mad Men on download.

Bring on Sunday... the early start didn't quite happen and the eventful Formula 1 race was watched via the recording at about 8.30am. But that was OK because as soon as it was over, my daughter and I headed to the shops and bought everything you could think of to have a mega-baking session. We managed to make some passable breakfast muffins, an ugly but yummy pineapple upside-down cake and some rather overdone choc chip cookies.

Then it was a full roast dinner with homemade Yorkshires for the four of us, plus my son's girlfriend. The evening passed with my folding washing ready for the school week and then settling down to a few rows of my ripple blanket and Top Gear.

As you might expect I was pretty much exhausted after all that. Bear in mind that my usual weekend is spent crocheting and listening to the I had an early night and watched Mary Beard on the BBC iPlayer and her fabulous lecture on the silencing of women - recommended.

So even the most undomesticated of us can really get some stuff done when we put our minds to it. Strangely, this motivation has continued into this morning and I got up at 5.30am and have managed to get most of my work out of the way before a trip to the orthodontist with my son. You know what? I might even walk into town to meet him...

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Sixties Ripple Blanket

Just a sneak preview of the ripple blanket I am working on right now. In fact the few rows you can see are what I achieved over the last weekend - now there is even more. It uses the basic ripple pattern from Attic24 and the yarn is the Stylecraft Special DK I bought last week. I have limited myself to just using the green, orange and brown as wider stripes, and each of these is separated by a cream stripe. This colour combo gives it a lovely sixties vibe.

I used 227 stitches on my chain which included the +3 for the turning chain. My hook is a 3.5mm and is giving me a slightly firmer stitch which in this case is a good thing. My tension can be a bit loose sometimes. My hope is that this will fit nicely on our double bed or be the perfect cuddle on the sofa blanket. In any case, this is a long term project, because I suspect it will take me months!!

Also poking out from my somewhat over-burdened yarn basket is my completed granny square cushion cover. It is waiting patiently for me to get out the sewing machine and turn it into something plump and gorgeous for the sofa. Maybe this weekend? My aim is to show how I construct the cushion backing in fabric.

So every couple of weeks I will show my ripple blanket progress, just to show how quickly something like this can grow. It certainly is fun to do and perfect for TV crocheting - very little counting involved and very rhythmical.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Happy Valentines Heart

Happy Valentines to all of you. I thought this was the perfect time to share this little interlocking love heart which I made a few weeks back. It has been happily hanging on the shoe cupboard - kind of in transit to its final home (but it might just stay). Mine doesn't look nearly as neat as the original which can be found here and its construction is tricky. But if you love seeing it all come together at the end - this is the pattern for you. If you are quick, you could rustle this up before your other half gets home. Imagine his delight...

In our house Valentines Day isn't really celebrated - that said, I received a lovely text message with a little poem which was cute and funny and just like my husband. I can do without the flowers and chocolate, when he makes me smile with just a few words....

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Lovely New Delivery!

Yippee, delivery of some Stylecraft Special DK this morning!! Even though I usually don't like acrylic - this feels lovely. I chose a number of different shades so that I could come up with a combo for a ripple blanket. Once the decision is made, I will buy what I need - but at £1.79 per 100g ball from The Wool Warehouse, this is a bargain! Don't forget to add your money off voucher from the latest Simply Crochet mag too! 

I am looking at the more muted shades for a sixties inspired blanket - but who knows where the colour play will take me.

Off to do my crochet class tonight and will report tomorrow.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Love Heart pattern and magic circle tutorial

So - we all know it is Valentines day coming up and coincidently, I am teaching a crochet class this week. In that lovely harmonious way, I can marry up my class with my love of all things cute and help my beginners to make some pretty little crocheted love hearts.

I have created a tutorial for them, with some photos included which I will post up here for all to see. The main focus of this is to teach the magic circle (the way I do it, anyway) - but it is also a great way to practise some basic stitches and create something really cute.

The class is actually a freebee for a group of friends and is a great way for me to get back into teaching crochet as I haven't done any for a good six months (events conspired and all that...). There will be six ladies attending and I expect that more cups of tea will be drunk than love hearts made!

Take a look at the tutorial and pattern here:

Tiny Valentines Hearts (using a magic circle)

Make a magic circle: Wrap the wool around your three fingers from front to back.

 Wrap again, this time taking the wool to the left of your original wrap.

Now take the left hand strand under the right hand strand with your hook – hold this in place.

Now take your wool (the end attached to the ball) and make a ss to hold the wool on your hook in place.

Pull the short end of your wool and see how the circle closes. But leave the circle open for now.

The rest of your stitches will be worked around the magic circle over the two strands. The left hand side of the circle.

Now for the love heart!

Work all of the following stitches into your magic circle (apologies for the slightly blurry photos - I was losing light)




2ch This is the bottom of your heart

Pull the magic circle tight by pulling on the short end and ss into the centre using the ball end. Cut yarn and feed it back through the loop to secure. Now knot the yarn with the other tail on the back of the work.

Pull a different colour yarn though the centre and secure with a dc.

Now complete 4dc into first ch 3 space

6dc around the edge until bottom
1dc, 1tr, 1sc into ch 2 space at bottom of heart
6dc around 
4dc into ch 3 space, 
ss into the centre as before.

cut yarn and tie off to the rear. Weave in ends 

Make several in different colours and then a length of chain to hang them on. Use as bunting, on the Christmas tree or wrap around the bedhead for a romantic look! Or just sew onto your hat or glue on to a valentines card.

A lacey thing - Inside Crochet 49

If you are used to crocheting with DK or even thicker wool and your crochet hook collection consists of hooks which are larger than 4mm - you will be terrified (as I was) of trying a light and lacey crochet pattern. But I never let a little terror put me off - after all, what is the worst that could happen?

So a few days ago, I started what might be one of my more ambitious projects - a lace shawl using a 2mm hook and lace-weight yarn. While the pattern which came from the January Inside Crochet magazine (issue 49) is fairly easy to follow, it is all the tiny little chains which worried me. In fact lace-weight crochet is easier than I thought and my shawl (which I suspect will be used as something else) is coming along nicely.

The key to it, I have found, is to concentrate on each individual stitch or cluster and avoid looking at the whole thing too much. So, each and every chain stitch looks the same, every DC is the same and in the right place etc. Then you move on to the next part. Don't try to make sense of the pattern as a whole, just do each part as it comes and once one round is complete, check it to make sure it is right.

As you can see from my pattern above and the piece below, I use markers to make life easier. Those sticky arrow markers (any stationary store) are ideal to move around the pattern and a stitch marker just lets me know when I have reached the end of a round.

Good light is essential too, so this might be a daytime project. Those tiny little stitches can easily become lost so focus carefully. I have also found that making the chains slightly loose where I know I will need to go into them on the next round has made it easier to find the right place.

I am using what I think is an acrylic and lambswool mix fine yarn. It is one of those Ebay bargains I picked up years ago - it is on a cone and has no info about weight or yarn type, but it has already been used to knit a lacey scarf and a hat. So I know it is a lovely wool to wear next to your skin. It is in a dark grey with white flecks. Only problem is that it might be a different weight than the pattern - because mine is smaller than it looks in the magazine. maybe my tension is a little tighter too. Hence the reason for doing a tension swatch....listen to me - don't make it up as you go along, like I do!!

This is going to need some serious blocking as it is doing that puckering thing, but I think that once it is stretched out and spidery looking it is going to be sooooo pretty - soft and silky...aaah!

This project is one of those with no home as yet. It could be a present, something to sell or something to be re-purposed at home. I am not a shawl wearer, so this might become a large doily or even a wall hanging. Who knows? Any suggestions?

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

We all have to start somewhere

This is where I start.

I suppose the best place is to talk about what has inspired me so far in 2014. There have already been some finished projects, some ongoing ones and some which I am already close to abandoning. I struggle with anything which doesn't look like it is going to work out and one cushion cover which I am working on has that trepidacious (is that even a word?) feel to it already...More on that in a bit.

My 2013 inspirations

As this is my first post, I thought I would start with a few photos of my favourite creations, just so you can see things which are already getting a good use in my home already. Pity, you weren't here at Christmas though, because you would have seen my cute little crocheted stockings. 24 tiny ones all in different colours and with a number sewn onto each. They were strung up like Christmas lights and filled with Advent chocolates. Maybe next year when they come out of the Christmas box, I will take a photo or two. Those stockings gave me RSI and I thought my crocheting days were over. I love them all the same.

One of my favourite things is my project bag - made with two strands of whatever leftover DK wool I had. In this case it is mostly Freedom Sincere, kinda brownish wool. I used the tutorial from here and used the large bowl as a kind of template. Then I decreased slightly on each round as I reached the top. later on after I had used it for a while I figured out that it wasn't quite big enough and could do with a handle. So a few more rounds later and a gap on each side to accommodate my tiny hands and - there you have it, a bowly bag thing for whatever project I want to stuff in my handbag!

My husband even helped me with this one - he is just learning how to do single crochet, so this was a great opportunity to have a go. I was suitably impressed!

Then there is my mandala bowl. I used a pattern from one of the Simply Crochet magazines (issue 12) which is super easy to follow due to all the fab photos and then once it was finished I dipped it into a 50/50 mix of water and PVA glue until it was all sticky and gloopy. Then I found a nice round bowl and laid the soppy mess over it (upturned, obviously). I took the time to stretch it out and get it nice and even and then just left it for a couple of days.

Finally after putting it on the radiator, it dried and I was able to prise it from the bowl and it stayed in the shape you see before you. The point was to have something pretty to use for serving sweets for Christmas. Turns out this bowl is fantastically hard to use - but still very pretty. It isn't quite stiff enough and the shape isn't great. However, I love it and it now houses my pens on my desk - while waiting for a better use...another layer of PVA might make it more usable. But that is for another day...

My 2014 inspirations

So far this year (has it really only been four weeks?) I have been working on a cushion cover, yet again from my favourite mag - Simply Crochet. (issue 8, page 41) This time it is a stripey design. I have had to double the size of it because we like big cushions in our house, so it means that I had to improvise the pattern just a little. But is has been OK. The only concern has been the fact I am using a smaller hook than usual for DK yarn.

I usually go for a 4mm for DK, this gives my work a little give and stretch and it sits flat. However this time I wanted the cushion to be really firm, so I used a 3mm. This has made it curl up a bit, so I am worried and losing faith in my idea...But we shall see. I am not going to do the back - I will sew it to a backing in a colour yet to be determined.

As you can see, the sewing in of tails is pretty much a nightmare - but strangely soothing. I have chosen quite bright colours for this, so it should sit well in our living room where pops of colour make a regular appearance - but only within a particular palette. Reds, blues and bright greens feature heavily. I need to do a total of four panels - the second two have different combinations of colours and they sit opposite each other, creating a 3D effect. I am still in two minds about this and feel a bit put off by the finish - but we shall see.

My other current project is a lacey shawl - but I think that can wait for another day too :)

As I am writing this blog for all the beginners out there, I would love some feedback and ideas about what you would like to see and learn. Even if it is new to me, I will still research it and give it a go - we can learn together!