Sunday, 20 October 2013

Unfit for Purpose

Ugh. I am sitting here typing this whilst snuggling under a big granny stripe blanket and eating some pretzels. They are my 'ill' food. Whenever I love my appetite, I turn to the humble salted pretzel before anything else. I always have done, since I was little. They are the only thing I fancy when I'm ill, and I'm afraid that time is now. In fact both I and Little P have had a poorly weekend. She was really unwell last night, but seems to have bounced back a bit brighter than me today! I wish I had her resilience!
I know when I'm unwell as there are certain key signs - I get dry lips, itchy eyes and I don't crochet. Yep, I have hardly even looked at any woolly goodness the last few days, and it's rubbish. I've been thinking about it a lot though, when I can put my self-pity to one side for a moment. I've been scheming, planning, getting my head round new ideas, but no making. I have mustered up a row of chainless foundation single crochet (I found a great tutorial by Futuregirl here). It's a new skill for me, but I'm pretty sure I'll never go back to the dreaded chain for starting blankets etc now!
Before the dreaded illness struck me down, I was happily crafting away any spare moment I had. First up, I have finished my mandala rug using Hooplayarn - a t-shirt yarn available in a whole load of yummy colours. Of course I went bright! I got mine through an Amazon seller (Rachel John - Extreme Textiles) in 3 colours, Sea Green, Dark Peach Melba and Bright Violet. Beautiful...

I then worked them up into a rug using the wonderful Mandala Rug pattern by A Creative Being. I had to order another 2 bobbins of Hooplayarn to get there but now it's finished, I love it!

It was prone to ruffling when I worked it up, but when the edge went on, it seemed to flatten out a great deal. It sits proudly on the floor of my room (I can't take a picture of it in situ as the light is so bad, so I made the most of the October sunshine!) I do love it, and so does Little P, as it has pink in it. I want to make more, but have no room for another one at the moment (although I have another half completed one in an assortment of colours that I had previously started, and maybe it would be rude not to finish it?!)

It adds a super splash of colour to my room and stands out lovely on the maple laminate flooring.

On a not-so-large scale, I have also made some mittens for Little P. Not just any mittens, but these hedgehog mittens from Crochet Gifts for Christmas magazine. I instantly knew I had to make them, but had no 4-ply yarn. So I made it my mission at Yarndale to find some browny coloured 4-ply yarn suitable for making these hedgehog mittens. I came across some Drops Alpaca yarn which fitted the bill perfectly, and is super-soft for Little P's hands, but also has a slight 'fuzziness' to it too, which would be perfect for mittens!
I wasn't sure what size to make these - the pattern has small, medium and large for children - and Little P once again would not let me measure her. I went with small first - too small, but very cute. I then followed the large pattern but had to adapt it to make the thumb and body slightly longer - I guess these were written for tiny babies hey? The pattern is fairly simple though, and I love how the bobble stitch gives the 'prickly hedgehog' effect. I had a couple of issues with the pattern - the main one being that the bobble stitch works wrong-side as the bobble 'pops' out of the back of the work. This wasn't a problem through as I made them inside out and then turned them the correct way round! Here they are...

They are a bit cute, but the lighting never seems to do them justice and show off those bobbles!

Only trouble is, I kind of want a pair!

I've been trying to get into the festive spirit a little bit earlier this year, as last year I left it too late to crochet much Christmassy stuff. I've already gathered a few crafty bits for making cards and decorations with Little P. I say 'with' - she can be a bit too helpful sometimes, but I try to involve her in as much making with me as I can! I made a small order from The Homemakery - a lovely online store with some delicious crafty bits and pieces. I had to restrain myself to the bits I thought I really needed, rather than wanted! They have some adorable Christmas ribbons in at the moment, so I snapped a few of these up, along with some baker's twine, gift tags, paper doilies and washi tape. Lovely.

I also ventured into town earlier this week with Little P to get some Christmas craft paper and buttons for the cards we will make. That was fun. I'm not a fan of going into town, and only do it when I really need to, and to make it even more 'enjoyable', Little P was extremely mischievous and wanted to touch everything and escape the clutch of her reins. And she wanted a 'sparkly' hula-hoop like her friends have - but could we find one?! No. Cue tantrums.
We have had lots of fun this week though at home, and spent a long time making pom-poms with my new tiny pom-pom makers! These little pop-poms are only about an inch when made - perfect for that I needed them for...

Little P was in charge of picking colours and there was a lot of pink, as usual.

What I really ordered these for was to make tiny pom-poms to go on tiny bobble hats, of my tiny Father Christmases. I have been designing again, and wanted to make a Father Christmas with dangly limbs to sit on a shelf or fireplace. The first one I mocked up is made from Rico Creative Cotton, and is maybe 30cm from tip to toe. I was quite pleased with him and Little P is enjoying him. I was then asked if I could make a smaller version to hang on a Christmas tree - why not? This time I used a mix of King Cole Bamboo Cotton and Sirdar Snuggly Baby Bamboo with a 3.5mm hook to create a mini-Santa.

I'm happy with these chaps - I like the level of detail in the tiny mittens and all the white trimmings. Plus I even tried a loop-stitch beard on the little guy. (See my friend Curlygirlcoop's excellent tutorial here)
Here's big Santa...

and Little Santa...

I love his little thumbs! Here he is hanging in a not-so-Christmassy tree...

So that's why I needed tiny pom-pom makers. I have also typed up the pattern for the iPad cozy I made.
Find it here with the instructions to make whatever size cozy you need!
I'm now going to rest again -  this typing is far too strenuous today! And hopefully recoup so I can pick my crochet hook up this evening. So until next time...

Sunday, 6 October 2013

The Delights of Yarndale pt. 2

A whole week has now passed since Yarndale. I'm still kind of in a daze about it - it was just that good. I returned home to a happy Little P, who was very cuddly and clingy for a while (which was just what I wanted too!) and then it was straight back into the swing of things. We've had a fairly busy week, going to groups and doing all the normal stuff that needs to be done, but I do feel sad that Yarndale has now passed. It was always a glimmer of excitement on the horizon, and now we've swept right past it, but at least I can say I've had a great experience there and I'm already looking forward to next year!
I also have a small 'haul' I brought back from the North, which I get to play with and drool over. I carefully took it outside into the garden to photograph - you have to make the most of the natural light now Autumn is firmly upon us! I had my little helper with me, and she was very helpful indeed. It was pretty difficult to take a photo before the subject matter had disappeared of was covered by her face, but we got there in the end, although you may see lots of Little P's wellies and hands in the pictures!
The haul in it's entirety with Little P looming...

I was particularly nervous about the delicate yarn bowl I bought from the Willofibres stall. I don't much fancy it's chances around a toddler, although the kind lady on the stall advised me 'if anything were to happen - Araldite!' It's a rather beautiful bowl, and I had my eyes on it before I even left home, as I had spied it on the Yarndale Facebook page. I do love it...

No haul would be complete for me without buttons. I think I was quite restrained in the button department this time, coming away with 9. I treated myself to some lovely wooden log ones, which I've always liked, and some rather pretty enamelled coconut ones too. See, I did good, as there were so many wonderful buttons there in a whole host of materials and forms, including some lovely ceramic ones.

Obviously, one of the main things I wanted to drool over at Yarndale, was yarn. There were thousands of skeins or hanks or whatever form they took all over the auction mart. What was good was that it wasn't just full of ones you could pick up down your local High Street, but rather lots of hand-dyed and spun ones from local producers. This meant a lot of it was pricier, but I think it's totally justifiable as it's not an 'everyday yarn'. And also after the 'Dyeing to have fun' workshop I took part in, I really appreciate the amazing skeins these people produce. I didn't actually purchase any such yarn at Yarndale as I had no project in mind for it, but I wish I did, as I'm sure I could have found something to make! There's always internet shopping... I did have a good look at lots though, and some of my favourite colourways were on A Stash Addict's stall. When I get some of my current makes out of the way I may just have a good look at those again!
I obviously did buy yarn though. One project I had to buy for was some adorable hedgehog mittens I want to make for Little Lady. It called for 4-ply yarn and I have no such thing! I waded through the stalls and found some Drops Alpaca yarn. It was remarkably soft, I imagined alpaca to be a bit 'scratchy' like some other wools, but it wasn't at all. I should have known really after stroking some live alpaca earlier that day! The yarn was also pretty cheap, so I picked some up and checked another thing off my shopping list.
There was also an abundance of lovely bags on show about the place. I had thought I needed a small project bag, one I can chuck all the bits I need in and take out with me, but nothing too big. Luckily, I found just the thing, and my friend Leah found an awesome sheep one amongst them all for me.

As you can see in the bottom right picture, I treated myself to some ribbon. I thought the buttons were pretty apt!
The other yarn I bought came in the shape of this super-soft Drops Baby Merino. Right up my street - bright colours and very reasonably priced too. I haven't figured out what to make with it, but I do love it and am excited to use it! I also topped up my stash of merino tops for needle felting. There were many stalls with delicious colours to choose from, so I restrained myself to just 6, and picked them out whilst Leah joined the snaking queue for lunch. Oh the colours...

You may be able to see in first picture, I also treated myself to a new needle felting tool - it's a bit more advanced than the single needle I had previously been using. I plan to do more needle felting, and make a hanging decoration (see my friend Curly Girl Coop's great tutorial). Another Tulip Etimo hook may have made it's way into my shopping too, well you can't have too many of those can you?! And what trip would be complete without a souvenir? I had to treat myself to this little Yarndale pin badge!

I also took a couple of little things for Little P. I bought her a postcard from Skipton, and a couple of fluffy things from Yarndale. First up, a little rabbit keyring from the Bigwigs Angora stall. Unfortunately, said rabbit was unable to make the photo shoot as he was busy playing with Little P! Mr Alpaca however did manage to get papped. I love love love this furry little thing. I got him from the Toft Alpacas stall, which was packed with lovely stuff. They even had some teddy bears, which were insanely soft, and plenty of amigurumi which were very cute.

I think that rounds up what I bought, but I also came away with stuff I made. Well, dyed anyway. The 'Dyeing to have fun' workshop ran for 2 hours in the auditorium. It was great fun, and broke up the shopping nicely. I thoroughly recommend the workshops to anyone going in future, as they give you a chance to learn or do something you wouldn't usually do. I certainly haven't thought of dyeing my own yarn, but I found this basic introduction very interesting and great fun. We each arrived at the table to find a brown paper bag, filled with different types of undyed wool, and some clearing up materials to soak up spills! It was interesting to see how different types of wool took up the acid dyes differently. My particular favourite was the 'straight off the sheep' piece. The little curly bits were great, and took up the colour really well!

My other favourite was the merino wool we used (below, left) as it too took up the colour really well and is super soft. I could actually use it for needle felting. We also dyed some wool roving, spun yarn and a knitted piece, just to see how they all came out and to experiment with colour. Here's my efforts...

Curly Girl Coop also had some nice bits to take away, my personal fave was her 'spotty' piece (see her Yarndale write-up here)

All in all, a great time was had. It was a great weekend with great company, and I just can't wait to go again. I would like to say a big well done and thank you to anyone involved in the planning and running of the event, and to all the exhibitors who made it such a great day out!

Now I must go, gifts to make! I will be back soon with some pictures of what I've been making recently in the near future, but until then...

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

The Delights of Yarndale pt 1

Well, the little glimmer of excitement that I could just about see in the far off distance, kind of speedily crept up on me the last few weeks. That excitement being Yarndale... for anyone who has not heard of this, it was the first year of this woolly craft show held in Skipton, North Yorkshire and run by a team of local crafters including the infamous Lucy of the Attic24 blog. I was just a little bit excited! A whole weekend away (my first since having Little P) and going to a festival of woolly goodness ran by my biggest inspiration in the crochet world - what a lot to look forward too!
Friday morning was somewhat hectic. I had to pack both me and Little P up for our holidays, and as usual she was a little bit too helpful! It's so hard to get anything done in a hurry with my little sidekick, but we managed it just in the nick of time. Then at 1pm, my ride promptly arrived. My good friend Curly Girl Coop had offered to drive to 200-odd mile trip 'up North' and I sorted out the accommodation in return. It was a long journey... 6 and a half hours roughly, as we encountered a bit of Friday afternoon traffic and the roads aren't that great either, a lot of single carriageway.
Gradually the countryside became more hilly and green as we left the arable farmland of the East behind. It is a really beautiful part of the country, I don't think I would ever get bored of those views! Seeing more and more sheep reminded me just where we were going and why! Yarndale!
We arrived at the Craven Heifer Inn at Kelbrook (just outside Skipton) just in time for dinner, which I had luckily pre-booked, as it was packed. I can see why, the food was excellent - especially the Eton Mess I had for pudding. With a long and exciting day ahead of us, Leah and I returned to our very comfortable and spacious room and relaxed before catching an early night!

The day was finally upon us. We needed no alarm to wake us up, the thought of Yarndale made us jump out of bed and get ready. After a hearty Yorkshire breakfast we drove to Skipton Autcion Mart - the venue for Yarndale. It's used to being filled with cattle and sheep to be auctioned off, but today was full of creativity and colour. And wool too of course. We arrived at 9.30am, half an hour before it was due to open. The car park was already filling, but it was fairly quiet around the front of the building. There was a nip in the air and a gentle mist rolling in from the Yorkshire Dales, but you could see the Sun was trying to break through to shine down on Yarndale. The trees outside had been yarnbombed by the Yarndale team, and the granny bunting that had arrived from all over the world was strung up. I had a quick scout about but couldn't see any of mine! It was going to be like finding a needle in a haystack, as they received over 6000 triangles! We began to queue and already the place was coming to life. People were arriving thick and fast, and the queue soon snaked across the car park. We were lucky as we were about 11th in the queue. The doors opened a little before the scheduled 10am and in we all rushed, just like the sheep and cattle who usually frequent this place I suppose!

Once inside, we were greeted by the entrance foyer decorated with hundreds on bunting triangles strung up on the ceiling. It looked awesome. It also made me think I had no hope in finding one I made.

The venue was very open and airy and very agricultural. I had no problem with this, in fact I think it added to the character of the event, and it didn't get too hot or stuffy which was great. The exhibitors stalls were all situated in animal pens, which I first found quite funny, but then realised it was actually a very practical way to do it! We raced about to get the bits and bobs we really wanted before it got crazily busy. Leah had surprised me by booking us on to a yarn dyeing workshop for a couple of hours, so we did a bit of shopping before heading to the auditorium for the class.

This was our dyeing fun! It was great to do something I wouldn't usually do at home or have the resources to do so. We spent a couple of hours trying out hand at dyeing different wool (from straight off the sheep to knitted pieces) and seeing how each one took up the dye differently. It was great fun experimenting with colours and I'd definitely recommend this course for anyone going another year.
It also broke up the day nicely. The auction mart was now brimming with people, it was hard to get about down the aisles, so sitting down for a couple of hours was actually a treat.
There was quite a number of stalls selling all sorts of fibre related items including plenty of hanks of hand-dyed wool. I now appreciate just how difficult it is to produce those beautiful hanks after attempting to dye yarn myself!

Some of the highlights for me were seeing the alpaca a couple of exhibitors had brought in. I love these animals, they have such character and are so sweet, and apparently make great wool too!

There was also a stall selling angora rabbit wool, and they too had brought some of their animals in! I love this super-hairy ball of fluff!
We shopped around the stalls for a bit before joining the long queue for lunch. It seems a lot of people weren't happy with the food facilities, but I was of the impression that when you get a lot of people in one place, you have to expect to queue, unless you cater for yourself and bring a packed lunch! The caterers were working their socks off to keep the queue moving, and the pork and apple burgers we had for lunch were really quite tasty! Lunch Yarndale style...

We sat on a pavement outside, and it was lovely to have a break from the hubbub and sit in the glorious Skipton sunshine. We then went back and finished out shopping before deciding to walk into the town centre along the Yarn Walk. The walk was about 25 mins and it took us through a beautiful park and along a canal, all of which had been yarnbombed for the festival.

The picturesque surroundings of Yarndale...

And the yarnbombing...

I love the little duckies made by Lucy! I'd seen her make some of these things on her blog, so it was great to see them in real life! We spent a little while walking around Skipton town centre, and even sat down and had a drink in the lovely sunshine before walking back to the auction mart. Skipton really seemed like a lovely little town, we didn't get to explore it much, but I'd love to go back in the future, maybe take Little P up there with me!

The Yarndale bus...

One of the biggest highlights for me, and I am sure many others, was meeting the wonderful Lucy of Attic24 in person. When I first got into crochet, 18 months or so ago, I was only interested in making toys. I loved this so much, but had no incentive to make blankets or cushions or anything as it all seemed so drab, that was until I discovered her blog. The colour and patterns just blew me away. This is what I wanted to make... the colour and style just summed up what I wanted to do. I started by making a couple of her patterns, but soon found that most things I liked got linked back to her blog, so have been a fan ever since. She was hanging out in the knit and natter lounge all day, and had displayed a little bit of Attic24 in the corner.
There was a small queue of people who wanted to speak to her, so we joined it. She was really nice and patient with everyone, as she had a constant stream of people all day. It's hard to constantly make happy chit-chat with people you don't know, so I take my hat off to her for standing there all day and letting all her fans say hello. It must have been exhausting for her! She was super-nice though, and genuinely seemed overwhelmed by the love and support for her and the Yarndale team at what they had pulled off. I think they knew it was going to be big, but maybe not this huge! We had just a little chat, I declared my appreciation for Yarndale and kind of told her she was my hero and then I asked if she would have a photo with me, and she kindly did :)

That is genuine happiness on my face I can tell you! And after we said bye to Lucy, we ventured behind her to the collection of bunting triangles laid out on a table (covered in her gorgeous ripple blanket!) and there was MY GOAT BUNTING! I couldn't believe it! I had found one of my bunting, and it was sitting central on the table behind Lucy, double bonus!

The corner was filled with Lucy's creations, and it was great to see them in real life. And touch them. Those lovely looking blankets really did feel as good as they look in the pictures! The lampshade that Lucy recently yarnbombed stood there next to her famous crochet chair. It was great to see such a feast of colour in such a small corner. It has inspired me to make more blankets and use some nicer (cashmerino type stuff) yarn to really set it off.
So all in all, a great day was had by both myself and Leah. I couldn't fault the experience and it lived up to the high expectations I had for it. If only it wasn't so far away! The next morning came and we had another hearty breakfast and then set off on the long road home, although it was considerably quicker with a lot less traffic! I would also like to personally thank Leah's sat nav, which we named Cora due to her Irish accent. She was faultless and kept us on the right path throughout!
I'm still in a kind of post-Yarndale comedown, but Little P is certainly worth coming home too, how I missed her! I also have returned with a few bits and bobs from Yarndale. I will take some pictures of my haul and show it off soon, so until next time...