Sunday, 25 October 2015

All things Autumn...

Once, quite some years ago now, E told me, at the very last minute, that she would like some Harry Potter figures for Christmas. I looked everywhere for them and eventually found them online, paid for extra quick delivery but alas they did not arrive in time so I printed out a photo of them and popped them in an envelope. She was very understanding at the time. Seems grudges have been harboured...

This was how she tackled my birthday present this year! I got a lovely little card made up with a photo and silver gel pen writing and Happy Birthday. The earrings arrived two days later. When she gave me the card her simple explanation was... 'Remember the Harry Potter figures?' How could I forget?

Aren't these earrings just perfect? I only recently got talked into having my ears pierced again. I'd let them close up years ago. I'm so glad I did because I can now wear sweet little autumn leaves like these and also my own creations.

I've been going through my crochet patterns and magazines trying to find the ultimate crochet travel project. I wanted something with not too many colour changes, something fairly simple but not too boring, nothing bulky and ideally something that could be worn if I managed to finish it - shawls and scarves seem to fit the bill.

I started this shawl using a Sirdar pattern I had (7046) and some King Cole Riot which keeps it interesting colour wise. The design has a ruffled edging which I will probably change to something less fussy. This was almost the perfect travel project until I remembered how I like good lighting for darker yarns these days.

I've dug out some lighter four ply yarn and I've started a smaller, light weight version of the Sunday Shawl I made several of last year in the hope that it will make a triangular scarf rather than a large warm shawl. The border has lots of colour changes but I'm hoping that just one accent colour alternated with the main colour will look ok. I seem to be doing more adapting, winging it and experimenting these days! The little 4-ply balls will squidge nicely into the corners of my suitcase and I might just be wearing a new scarf on the way home!

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Off the hook... Torquay Jumper

The weather is absolutely miserable here in Lincolnshire today. Even with a light coloured subject against a light coloured door there doesn't seem to be enough light for a half decent photo. I only snap away with my iPad these days. It's too much of a faff to take photos on my proper camera and download them, if I had continued to do that I probably wouldn't be blogging at all by now.

I may yet get some 'modelled' photo's when E wears her new jumper. We've had a few fitting sessions already so I know this will fit nicely. It's been made to her specifications, ie. a loose fitting short 'boxy' body and slightly long sleeves that taper to a small wrist. This is how she likes to wear jumpers.

As far as following the pattern went it was not plain sailing at all. Once I'd changed hook size to get the right guage I really only used the foundation chain numbers for the body to get started. I then used a separate tutorial for the shred stitch because the one in the magazine wasn't clear. I totally made up the pattern for the sleeves and omitted the shred stitches from them altogether. I winged it with the shred stitches on the front of the jumper. I also made the neckline less of a slash neck by adding rows of slip stitches using a smaller hook. The overall result is not much like the pattern version but it's 'cool' apparently!

The yarn is Sirdar Cotton Rich Aran which is 60% cotton. This makes it a lot lighter than 100% cotton and it's incredibly soft too.

If I start another crochet garment just leave me a comment telling me not to go there please! Although I got lucky this time and produced a wearable item it wasn't a relaxing straight forward make. I had to frog the first sleeve attempt because it was too tight at the top. I also ended up with just enough yarn despite buying the same yardage as the pattern and shortening the jumper considerably. When we tried it on before the sleeves were made it looked awful and I imagined using the front and back for two large tea towels!

Friday, 23 October 2015

Birthday treats...

If there is one advantage to growing older it's finally knowing who you are. It may not be the same for everyone but I'm pretty sure I didn't have a clue who I was when I was thirty, nevermind twenty. I took advice from people who knew me back then and sometimes I wish I'd had the confidence to listen to myself a bit more.

Right now I'm watching E go through the same turmoil - which path to take through further education and beyond. There are still well meaning careers advisors, anything can be googled for further information, but what neither of those will tell you is how to match a career with skills, qualifications and most importantly your own unique personality and character.

Shame on the careers advisor who told E to be careful of living your parents' dreams and not your own. Silly woman. E is so far removed from my shy character and personality she could do anything she wanted to, and I frequently tell her that. Follow your head a little bit, I tell her, but follow your heart a little bit more (and definitely do not aim for a career in Graphic Design!).

So this year I tried to con the children that I was still thirty nine, but alas their memories and maths are too good for that. It's quite sobering when your children repeat your new age back to you. It means it's real. Oh well, too bad.

I was spoilt this year. Along with chocolates and candles I received some very special gifts. My poor friend worried so much over the choice of a poetry book that she included the gift receipt and suggested that if I didn't take it back then the village raffle might be a place to dispose of it! So funny, she needn't have worried, I love contemporary poetry! I love Mary Oliver for starters. This is a really lovely book, I thoroughly recommend it. I have a tatty old anthology of poetry by my bed I like to dip into now and then, it's all old classics so it'll be nice to reacquaint myself with some modern poetry.

Have you spotted my new brooch? Isn't it absolutely gorgeous? I'm so lucky to have amazing creative blog friends. Thanks D! I love it. I believe it's made using Dorset Button techniques. One of Tracy Chevaliers novels, Burning Bright, features a button maker. It's a fascinating craft.

I may have dropped hints in M's direction this year. I mentioned bonsai scissors and he made it his mission to find some. These came all the way from California! They will not be used for Bonsai I'm afraid. I saw some about a year ago, forgot where I saw them and sorely wished I'd bought them. I have quite large hands and small embroidery scissors are a pain in the neck. For cutting threads the small pair is ideal. The larger pair may hang in our rustic kitchen for herbs.

I also explained (casually) how comfy my new 4mm Clover Amour hook was and how I would probably just buy them as and when I needed a certain size. He asked if they sold them as sets and I said, also very causally, that they may well do. So now I have nine sizes from 2mm to 6mm. I'm rather pleased with them. They make a lot of difference.

I tagged along to Manchester yesterday. M's client didn't turn up which meant we had more time than expected for a birthday lunch. I've never been to The Trafford Centre but I believe it's where all the football WAG's go for their Rolex watched and designer labels. It was certainly quite a surprise to see something so swanky in the little old UK. Apparently the centre contains three miles of marble! It was quite an eye opener, especially the food quarter which was designed to look like an ocean liner. We headed for the comfort and familiarity of John Lewis where it took me a ridiculously long time to choose a pattern and relevant yarn. I kept it simple in the end and chose another of Erika Knight's patterns, a snood.

I've blogged about these EK patterns before. I already have the slouchy hat pattern and cabled wrist warmer pattern. I've made at least four slouchy hats and three pairs of wrist warmers so I seem to be getting my money's worth from these patterns, and it's rare for me to knit or crochet something more than once because I don't usually like repetition.

With birthdays out of the way now comes the important task of choosing a crochet project to take on holiday. I've browsed for hours and can't seem to find anything that fits the bill. The clothes packing can wait!

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Miss Marmalade...

I started making Brussels, who looks fairly dog like with his droopy ears, and ended up making Miss Marmalade, who is distinctly cat like. Of course, Brussels might have been a rabbit, who knows?

The gold thread doesn't seem to have photographed very well and I really wasn't sure about it as I was trying to work 4 ply cotton doubled with gold thread that 'knits as 3 ply' using a 3mm hook. It was a bit tricky. It was the only gold thread I could get hold of, and I'm glad I persevered, it lends a nice bit of glamour to the puss.

I made a few tweaks: I used 7mm chocolate brown safety eyes with a 6mm plain black safety eye for the nose. I made the cat ears by stopping after round 7 on the given ears pattern. I shortened the arms by four rows. I used black cotton for the paws and feet instead of brown.

It's the first time I've used Natura Just Cotton. M was in Canterbury on business recently and managed  to find time to pop into a yarn shop I may have casually mentioned! I can use the other colours he bought for some of the other designs in this lovely little book; Sweet Crochet by Sandrine Deveze.

Hints have been dropped about a certain Torquay Jumper so last night it was back to the dreaded shred stitch. Miss Marmalade was just a minor diversion!

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Macrame owl keyring...

I'm probably better off sticking to larger scale macrame, man this was fiddly! I think I might try a wall hanging size owl next, even though we are really not the macrame owl wall hanging type of family. Go with the flow I say.

The tutorial is on YouTube. I couldn't tell you whether the soundtrack is in Bulgarian or any other language for that matter. There may not even be a soundtrack. I couldn't hear one. Fear not, if I can do it without verbal instructions I'm sure you can. He/she (probably women's hands) used a much finer, more silky looking cord. Mine is rough parcel string. Even with this difference the suggested cutting length of 30cm seems way off to me. On my first attempt I cut 40cm and it came nowhere near so I started again with metre long lengths and that was just right.

You'll notice that the stage by stage photo's stop after the beak row. I got totally absorbed and forgot to take any more!

I should really have 'borrowed' one of the kids cork notice boards for this. There was a lot of pinning which I discovered was essential to stop the rest of the work moving around. I eventually forced large pins into my wooden work surface (not willing to brave torrential rain to find a few more rusty nails in the shed!). The tension made for very much easier knotting.

The tutorial has at least four or five of those downward diagonal double half hitch rows (at least I think that's what they're called) but with this bulkier parcel string I knew I should stop after two to leave room for the 'legs'. I learnt something new on the legs, oh and the feet, I think that's the bit I like best, they really look like claws.

I had planned on adding this little fella to my bunch of car keys but a certain someone has already snaffled it for her school bag. I guess I will just have to make another!

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Alma's Cafe...

I thought I'd share the vision that is Alma's cafe with you. This is where we had a cup of tea whilst visiting Coalville. Funnily enough the chintz did more to attract M into the place than me. I felt as though I should be wearing a vintage Laura Ashley frock at the very least. I'm glad he did drag me in there because it was quite an experience. See the mini milk bottle that came with the tea? Cute eh? The little suitcase on the table held napkins, sugar, cutlery and fresh flowers.

I'm probably the least floral person you'll ever meet but I managed not to pass out with this complete overdose of floral, chintz, cath kidston, you name it, oh and pink! It didn't seem to put the local builders off though, but that was probably due to the ridiculously low takeaway prices, or perhaps the group of female staff dressed up in very bright floral ensembles. I couldn't work there, not with that uniform. Give me a rustic barn and a linen apron any day of the week!

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Macrame plant hangers...

I found myself in Coalville, Leicestershire this week. M had a job to do there and I had two hours to kill. What the place lacks in architectural charm it makes up for in friendliness, and I never really mind when there are plenty of charity shops to browse.

I found a couple of books (see above) that I thought would at least be worth a flick through whilst I had a coffee for my last half an hour (Coalville is not that big!). By the end of the coffee I was keen to get my hands on some string! Those colourful balls were just £1 each. I've taken 32 metres from each of the orange and duck egg and they still weigh a hefty amount so I think they will do two or three plant hangers from each ball.

The books were absolutely rubbish in helping me get started on plant hangers. They both seem to focus on the fashion side of things and have some extremely outlandish designs that I hope will never catch on again. I can't imagine they were admired in the seventies...

No! No! And no! Ugh! The stuff of nightmares. There are some reasonably artistic and tasteful wall hangings in both books, an awful lot of belts, strange clothes trimmings, but overall there is good reason for only the plant hangers to have made their way back into fashion! Useful and in my opinion beautiful. E is very fond of plants and has run out of window sill space for them. After a bit of practice I think I will be making a few for her room.

The orange plant hanger was a trial run. I was amazed it even held the pot quite frankly, but it does and very securely (I walked it through the house looking for suitable hooks). The duck egg one is a more adventurous, thought out second attempt. I think there's going to be quite a bit of experimentation going on.

Although I couldn't get into a local autumn fayre at short notice (tables book up a year in advance and I'm down for next year!) we did go along to see what the craft standard was like. It was a mixed bag. We came home with an armful of books for £1 including a fantastic crochet stitches book. I bought the white plant pot (above) for 50p and the best but of the day was the large bag of old wooden curtain rings (25) for £1. As you can see they are perfect for macrame plant hangers!

M asked me how I remembered how to macrame. It's a bit like knitting, there are only two knots you need to know to create all the variations. Remembering the variations seems to be one of the things etched on my mind. I've told the tale before... When I was unceremoniously chucked off the nightdress sewing class in school (I got through a lot of sewing machine needles) my teacher literally put me in the corner with a large ball of twine, a pot of wooden beads and a flimsy 'How to Macrame' booklet. Something in me didn't want to be humiliated twice so I was determined to complete the plant hanger project successfully, and I did. It was much more elaborate than the orange one I've just made. I wish I still had that booklet!