Sunday, 27 January 2013

The Craft Cupboard

Today I decided that my 'craft cupboard' had actually become somewhat of a hazard. When the door was opened, an avalanche of fabric, yarn, paints, stamps and buttons fell in the general direction of... well, everywhere! Tidying it was actually quite rewarding, as I began to realise I have actually accumulated quite a good lot of 'stuff'. I like it when I have an idea, and then can say 'I have just the thing for that!' Trouble is with that logic, is space. It uses quite a lot of it!
But a few days ago I decided that the Little P and I would make a card for her Gran's Birthday, and I was pleased to say 'I have just the thing for that!' Ok, so getting the crafty boxes out with the Little P was a bit hectic to say the least, and there were only a couple of major incidents, one involving a button spillage and another throwing clear cling stamps everywhere... but by the end we had made a card. I was quite chuffed actually, for a spur of the moment thing. I used Distress Inks to make a background and then stamped the words 'Happy Birthday Gran' on the top. The Little Lady then stuck pretty paper flowers on, followed by buttons. She loved the craft boxes and had a great time wading through stamps and paper and buttons. Hopefully I may pass this craft addiction on to her and we can have 'crafty time' together!
It was good to have a sort out, as the cupboard was getting a bit, well... full. I do love my crafting, obviously crochet is my nĂºmero uno, but I'm dead excited about getting to use these too...

Yep, that's a couple of Lino blocks and equipment I need to have a go at making my own Lino block stamps. I've never done it before, but keen to have a go! I've just got to print off the image I want to try then when I get the time (as ever! - crochet time is priority!) I will give it a whirl.
I finished the owl square cushion last week too, very pleased with it, and so is Little P, who is constantly dragging it around and playing games with it. I love the little owl squares, and the fact I could explore my DK cotton-based stash and use a whole load of different colours. I'm not sure I would like to make a blanket of those squares though, as there are a lot of ends to sort out, it's much better when you can just hide them away! It seems the Mollie Makes crew liked the squares too, as Gathered magazine featured a picture of mine in their 'readers makes' page and Simply Crochet magazine picked it as their 'square of the week' on their Facebook page. Thank you for the owly love! It's lovely to see something I've made liked by people at magazines I really enjoy reading, it's really rewarding. I must credit the pattern to Repeat Crafter Me - its great and very easy to follow.

I've also been hammering the rainbow granny stripe blanket. I'm now on the final colour! So then I need to plan what to do with the edge. I'm not sure whether to keep it neutral with cream, or whether to add colour in with the cream to make it a bit more interesting.

Whilst emptying the cupboard earlier, I found the cushion cover I made at the beginning of the month at the sewing machine course. I thought I'd take this opportunity to show it off! It really is a very basic envelope style cushion cover, and not in my colour choices, but the fabric was already cut and ready for us to use. But it's not about that at all, it doesn't matter how it looks, what matters is I made it! My very first sewing machine project! I really enjoyed the course and learning to use the basic functions of a sewing machine and overlocker. I really did love the overlocker, but it looked so complicated, how on earth do you thread one of those up?! So without further ado, here is my baby -

Notice the ric-rac detail. For a complete novice seamstress, keeping a straight line down the middle of that stuff was very tricky! I never really thought about the construction of things like that before, so it was great to see how to make something like that, and very useful too. Hopefully that cushion cover will be the start of a whole new world of creation. When the course ended, we obviously had to go and buy some fabric to give it another go on our own at some point. We found a lovely little shop and I bought a metre of fabric and a couple of fat quarters (Amy Butler fat quarters to be precise!). So I'm just waiting for an opportunity to have another go at something on a sewing machine - my friend's craft room is up and running, I shall be visiting it later for a sneak peak - and I'll also drop a hint about using her machine! Of course I'd love my own, but current circumstances do not allow for this, and I'm not sure it would fit in my craft cupboard even though I have cleared it up a bit!

Right, must be off, a little hooky time before popping to see the craft room in all it's glory!

Sunday, 13 January 2013

A Year In Crochet

It's now coming up for a year since I first picked up that trusty old hook and yarn for the first time, and tried to teach myself the art of crochet. How I persevered I'm still not entirely sure, as I don't usually stick at things if I don't get them straight away! But something about crochet had me hooked (no pun intended). I was having a look through some of my makes over the last year (see most of them on my Ravelry page)
My first hooky adventure, and where it all came together, was Squiddly Dudley, from Nicki Trench's book 'Super-Cute Crochet'. I had bought 'posh' yarn as I liked the colours, but it wasn't the easiest yarn to get started with! However it was super soft and looked nice - and so it should for how much it cost me! I actually found working in a spiral and seeing the shape forming helped me to understand basic crochet, rather than working straight back and forwards rows of stitches. Considering he was my first project, I was dead chuffed how he turned out. The stitching on of his numerous legs was haphazard and untidy, and ends poked out everywhere, but that kind of adds to his charm. He was my first crochet creation and I was a very proud hooker!

I made a whole host of animals after him. Including giraffes, monkeys, elephants and rabbits. A selection of the few I still have are pictured below.

By this time I also began to understand yarn a bit more. Indeed, I may have started realising not everything was simply 'wool'. I experimented with a few, but soon settled on a favourite, cotton based! King Cole Bamboo Cotton was one I instantly fell in love with, as it was super-soft and not at all 'itchy', and more importantly, came in a range of great bright colours. I still use it as my first choice for amigurumi today. I also discovered Sirdar Snuggly Baby Bamboo - not strictly a cotton, but feels and works like one, and also comes in lots of bright colours. It also works up similar to the Bamboo Cotton, so I often use both alongside each other in a project.
For a while, I only dabbled in amigurumi. And to be honest that was enough. I thought, and still do, that it is amazing how you can turn a ball of yarn into one of those cute stuffed animals. I could quite happily make them forever! I had found something I totally loved doing, and that was a creative outlet for me, something I felt I had lacked over the last few years.
But eventually I was tempted into other forms of crochet. Mainly due to the discovery of the amazing Attic24 blog. Finally I had seen something which summed up what I wanted to do - create bright and cheery items and not wishy washy dull things.
The first things I had a go at from the Attic24 library were the Striped Yarn Bag and the Happy Flower Decoration. I was enjoying learning different types of stitches and techniques, rather than a single crochet around a spiral. I also discovered another cotton yarn which I love - Rico Creative Cotton Aran - widely available in lovely bright colours. A bit splitty, but you do get used to it - but the colours and feel of it are totally worth it - and it's cheap too!

Then came the first blanket. Attic24's Summer Garden Granny Square was the pattern I used. (Take a full look at my blanket details here) I enjoyed this longer term project, hooking up squares, and joining as I went along. I was thrilled with how it looked when it all came together. It's still one of my favourite creations to date, and almost too nice to use!

I got the blanket bug by now, and I moved on to yet another Attic24 pattern - the Granny Stripe Blanket. This time I wanted a big blanket, so I decided I needed something bigger than DK weight yarn or it would take forever. I chose King Cole Comfort Chunky, as that was what was available in my local shop. It felt nice and soft and came in nice bright colours - so that was sorted! This blanket seemed to take forever, but I also had a lot of other smaller projects running alongside it. It was well worth it however, as me and the little lady are always snuggling or playing 'tents' underneath it!

Around this time I also plucked up the courage to have a go at designing my own amigurumi. I started with a long-legged floppy bunny thing, which didn't turn out that great, but I then made my Monty Moo. Totally designed by me - I was very proud with how he turned out. I do plan to put the pattern up on here one day, but need to test it first!

Another blanket made it's way on to the scene - the massive Rainbow Granny Stripe - a birthday present for my Mum (whose birthday was in October) but it's still not finished! I'm plodding along with it, 3 colours to go now, and then the border!

Along the way I have also made some cushion covers, bunting, hats and scarves, and plenty of little animals. I designed Ronald the Reindeer, and wrote a pattern up for him here, and a simple amigurmi strawberry here. I thought, in the style of 'Team America', I need a montage...

So, with my first anniversary of crochet coming up, I can say it has had a huge impact on my life! Finding that creative streak again has uncovered a whole side to me that had got lost for quite a while, and it's great! When I'm not being Mum, my primary role, all I can think about is crochet. It has also spawned a whole host of other craft endeavours. I want to try, when I get time, lino printing - I bought basic supplies the other day to give it a go. I also want to learn to use a sewing machine and be able to whizz up all sorts of things. Me and a friend went on a sewing machine course last saturday, to make a very basic cushion cover. My friend, who shares the same passion as me, got a machine for her birthday, but has never used one either, so we thought a course may be the best solution! And it was fun! I think we both took to the basics of using a sewing machine and my personal favourite, the overlocker, very well, for complete beginners. Great fun, and an enormous sense of achievement that maybe we could actually do this! This meant we had to go buy fabric to try it again - and we picked some lovely patterns to give it another go (however said friend has been somewhat busy with an important essay or something...pffft, but we will give it a go again!) I will post pictures of the fabric and cushion, but light has faded and photography conditions are poor!
So, back to now... I'm still trying to crochet whenever I can, but a dreaded sickness bug struck the little lady earlier this week, and me this weekend, so there's been minimal hooking this week.
A couple of weeks ago I decided to start the owl granny square cushion cover I had been planning for a while. I used a pattern I found on Ravelry by Repeat Crafter Me, and adapted it to suit my needs. I'm alternating the owl squares with plain, basic granny squares, and I'm pleased with how it is coming along!

I also finished the Christmas Tree Skirt - I'm happy with the finished product, and it will be ready for next year. I finished it off with a simple edging and added buttons and a tie to fasten it. The little lady had to stamp on it outside whilst trying to photograph it!

the edging...

the buttons and tie...

the close-up...

the whole thing, without child!

Before Christmas, I also finished the Striped Elephant for my friend's new nephew/niece due imminently. That elephant is still a pleasure to make and the pattern has been worth every penny I paid for it - find it on Ravelry here.

I've just realised, this is quite a long blog - I've been busy typing whilst keeping an eye on the football - my boys won and I'm just watching the opposition in action now. I'm a Manchester United fan and always have been, since I can remember - I think my Dad brainwashed me as a baby, I hope to do the same to my little one - she already has a kit!
Also, I received a great present in the post (a present to myself that is!). I had ordered some yarn from the US at the beginning of the year, and yesterday it arrived! It is Lily Sugar 'n Cream Solids, and is, you guessed it, 100% cotton. It comes in 75g balls and is worsted (aran) weight. It comes in loads of amazing colours! I got mine here, and even with delivery to the UK, it worked out cheap, something like £1.90 a ball including delivery. I bought 14 balls - thought i better make the shipping charge worthwhile. It looks great, can't wait to use it!

Must go, other 'normal' jobs to do now, with maybe a little bit more crochet before the little P returns!