Sunday, 30 March 2014

My Cunning Mother's Day Plan!

When giving gifts to my mum or sister I love to theme them. It's part of the fun of gift giving. This year I thought of a good one for Mother's Day. It had a bit of humour to it involving an in joke between my mum, sister and I. Sadly I didn't give myself any time to do it. In fact I gave myself no time at all to give her anything handmade. Not even her card. Something I feel guilty about although my mum of course doesn't mind.

Still, I did manage a little bit of a theme, chocolate and knitting. For Christmas my mum got my sister and I these tins with different sayings on them. She matched the things inside to the sayings on the tin. I spotted this one and knew immediately that I would get that and put some of my mum's favourite chocolate inside. The plan was that the sock yarn would fit in there too. Alas, that wasn't meant to be. I thought she could then use it to keep her smaller knitting projects together.

This is where my cunning plan comes into play and that's to turn everyone into sock knitters. My mum has knitted a few socks now and had said she would maybe try her hand at a patterned sock. I had the spiral sock pattern in mind as a good one to ease in a beginner. Unfortunately the book that contained this particular pattern is also the one that I have been using a lot of. So I got my mum her first sock knitting book. Initially, the plan was to get her one that I didn't have so that it would feel that little bit more special but that proved to be problematic (I have lots). So in the end I went with my current favourite. I also picked up this regia sock yarn. I've knitted with it before (funnily enough using the spiral pattern) and I love it because it reminds me of Monet.

My plan may have worked since my mum has already went through the book and picked out half a dozen patterns she wants to try. So watch this space.

 I did manage to make her one thing. Banana bread with walnuts. She loves walnuts and it's something that I can make quickly while studying. I also managed a plain one for her to take to my gran's today.

This is purely to prove to myself that it is spring despite the freezing cold.

I hope all you lovely Mum's out there have a lovely day.

Friday, 28 March 2014

I'm A Winner!

Remember a wee while ago I gave a shout out to my friend who creates beautiful rainbow crafts? She also makes rainbow coasters and keyrings using her fabulous crochet skills. I am sure I mentioned her facebook page. Well, she held a giveaway since she reached 200 followers and I was lucky enough to be one of the winners. I got this lovely keyring. I am in two minds whether or not to attach it to my keys because I don't want it to get ruined.

As if I don't have enough projects on the go I started another. I should probably mention that I still haven't finished any. I fell in love with this bee cross stitch as soon as I saw it. Who doesn't love a bumble bee? I also needed some spring like colours as I am feeling the winter blues. All the nice days seem to fall on my shift days so it feels like winter is never ending. I thought these yellows would brighten me up a little. It's supposed to be a birthday card but I'm not sure I will be doing that. Mainly because I'm not sure I can part with it but partly because it is huge. It's a lot bigger than I thought it would be. Which shouldn't surprise me as that's often the case with projects from Cross Stitch Card Shop. I am a little concerned though that the bees at the top are bigger than their home. Maybe it's a perspective thing and in reality those bees are very near and the hives are very far away. Or maybe I'm thinking about it too much.

I did start watching American Horror Story while stitching this. I have a fear that this project will forever be a reminder of the creepiest house in the world. Anyone else watched this? I have a feeling that the second series is even scarier. Have I mentioned that I am a big wimp?

Speaking of spring I am still enjoying making this throw for my sister. I think it's the spring green colour that I like. It is growing although it doesn't feel like it. It now takes me an hour to do one round. However, it does cover my legs when I am working on it (as shown above). As my sister is shorter than me I don't think it will be long before it is finished.

Well, as I said I haven't finished anything. I did think about starting another pair of socks even though I have two pairs to finish. That's is what happens when you have only one set off DPNs in each size. The colour work socks are on the pins I need to finish another pair. The half finished pair will take very little time to finish but the colour work I haven't touched in ages and I'm still on the leg. I either need to buy another set of DPNs or get a move on. I am swaying towards the second set.

Tonight though I plan to relax a little. I have bought the latest copy of one of my favourite magazines. It has loads of crafting ideas for around the home as well as some recipes in there. I love it for it's diversity. A little bit of everything. This will be what I will be reading and with any luck there will also be a cheeky wee glass of wine on the cards.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Pins I Love - Mothers Day!

I have an absolute cheek to be posting this. It's mothers day this Sunday and for once I have made my poor mum zilch. Not even her card is handmade. Don't worry, she is still getting a gift but none of it was the product of my fair hands.

However, I felt that I should link this weeks pinterest post into mothers day. Perhaps one or two of you will have the opportunity to make one of these items. Not a lot of time for you (unless you are American, pretty sure their Mothers day is later).

First up is this basket. I do like a crochet basket and for the most part they are fairly quick to make. I like this one because of the band of colour through it. It uses a moss stitch too which I have only ever used in knitting. It would be interesting to try it. It's a free download on a website called The Examiner. I have never heard of this website so don't know what it's like. I am assuming that the pattern is American though. You can click on the image for the link.

There are so many pretty patterns out there for dishclothes. Whey would you waste something you have spent time on making on dirty dishes? Especially when it's as pretty as these chevron dishclothes. Instead how about using them to make a facecloth for your mother. You could add bath goodies to tie it all up. You can buy this pattern from Etsy and was designed by seller knotsewcute (I like the name).

Unless you have nothing to do between now and Monday it's unlikely that you will manage these socks (although the super knitters among you might). I love the simplicity of this pattern all the way down until you get to the foot and then you have these beautiful mini cables. The great thing about a pattern like this is that you would want to use a solid colour in order to show it off. Variegated yarns would drown out the subtleties of it. This way you would get to pick your mother's favourite colour. The pattern is free on Knitty which is a great place for free patterns. 

This is probably something my sister would do rather than me. Decorating cups and mugs with sharpies is something I have seen a lot of on pinterest. This one is a little Christmassy so maybe not the best design to use. It's a good idea though and you could always design your own. Lova Blavarg gives a tutorial on how to do this. Since I have trouble writing on blood bottles (thank goodness for stickers) I know that drawing on a rounded medium is out.

Lastly, why not some baking? This is a coffee and walnut cake and looks amazing. I have a few baking pins but I chose this one because it's linked to a fab site and my mum would love this since she adores coffee and walnuts. As I said the website is fab because it is FILLED with cake recipes. The blog it comes from has the appropriate name of The Cake Blog. Go check it out!

In the meantime please don't feel too sorry for my mum. I think I have picked her out a nice present even if I didn't make it.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Poetry and Art!

I mention my sister quite a lot I think and have even had one or two posts highlighting her crafting creations. However, my sister is an artist rather than a crafter but it's not often I get the chance to brag about her art work. For an artist she can be rather private about it.

For the last six months she has been taking creative writing classes. However, it's been the latest set of classes that she has combined with her art. She has taken to poetry and has revolved it around some of her art. Or in a few pieces revolved the art round the poetry. She has even handed in a few of these pieces as her writing assignments.

I think that it's a safe bet that her tutor will never again be handed in a small house sculpture with poetry on it's walls. Nor will he forget it. I love hearing about her ideas and how she interprets the assignments.

The last one she handed in was this artists book. She has done something like it when doing her art degree (and I can proudly say I own one of those artist books). I remember at the time that she was fascinated by artist books and still is. This one though she gave to me (my hints were clearly noted) but she plans on expanding on it. I can't wait to see what she does with it. She also wants to expand on combining her creative writing and her art. Again I am excited to see how that also evolves.

In the meantime her latest set of classes have finished. She has been told by one of her class mates that by the time they return for the next lot she has to have set up a blog with her work. This is something I have been nagging at her to do for a long time. So I plan on sending her links to various blogs to give her inspiration on how to lay it out and how she plans on doing her posts. Any recommendations to artist blogs would be more than welcome. And as soon as her blog is set up I will post a link here.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Pins I Love - Cushions/pillows

Whatever you want to call them who doesn't love them (as a Brit I will be calling them cushions). They can make a room by brightening up a dull couch or just adding a touch of colour. I have made quite a few over the years in both crochet and cross stitch and I am always having to stop myself from making more. At the end of the day a room can only hold so many.

This first one is done in needlepoint. Although the pin linked to the blog of Jane Brocket I have had difficulty finding the post with this particular cushion. It still looks like an interesting blog. The lady seems to turn her hand to most things and her images are lovely. She's also had a few quilting books out by the looks of it. Back to the cushion, I think it would be fairly easy for someone who has done needle point to emulate this. It's a versatile pattern and you could use your own colours. I like it because it reminds me of a granny square. As always click on the images for the links.

It wouldn't be possible to have a post about cushions without having a few that involve sewing and fabric. I love this quilted design. Like the first one you could choose your colours to fit in with your room. You could also go all out on your fabric choices. What I love about it is the visible stitching. For me that just sets the whole thing off. Even better is that there is an actual tutorial for this. So just click on the image to get there. It seems to be a guest blogger on Sew Mama Sew which has lots of tutorials. Worth a look.

I love the simplicity of this one. The butterflies are cute but it's the bright colours on the neutral background that I like. This was designed by Diane of Craftypod and again if you click on the image it will take you direct to the tutorial. There seem to be a lot of tutorial on the blog and the author is working on a quilting book.

This is a fairly simple but effective crochet cushion. It uses just a simple double crochet and of course colour changes for the stripes. Of course if you used variegated yarn you wouldn't need to bother with the colour changes. Again this is linked to a tutorial. Fellow UK people beware of the US terminology.

I kind of saved the best to last. I think most people who love crochet will recognise the signature rainbow of this raindrop cushion. It is of course by Lucy of Attic24. Lucy is very famous in the crochet world for her choice of rainbow colours and her amazing tutorials. I've used her granny stripe tutorial myself. Her instructions are very easy to follow. So much so that she now has a studio where she holds tutorial sessions. Her blog is a must read as it is full of beautiful images and not just of her crochet. Definitely worth a look. Oh, and many an online company will actually sell you the colours she uses in packs to save you trying to work it out for yourself. US people beware of UK terminology.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Watching and Reading.

I may not have much to show for the last few weeks but I haven't been completely idol. I am still working on the throw for my sister. While it has grown a little bit I don't think you would notice as I think the photo I posted a few weeks back was a close up.

In truth I have been mostly keeping up with crafts through reading and watching. I have been too tired to do much else. I even picked up the latest cross stitcher even though it had little in it that suited my tastes. I was craving a little bit of crafting contact. It did come with a free notebook kit which I managed to stitch up in about an hour. I think it's rather sweet even if the cover is slightly too small for the pages. It's the perfect size for my uniform pocket and so will be going to my next placement with me (little notebooks always come in handy for taking note of anything new). It was a fairly easy things to stitch hence the hour it took me. The hardest thing about it was differentiating between red and dark red (a sign that I'm getting old maybe).

I also picked up the latest Homemaker which I love. Nothing to show for it mind you. The free kit that came with that is still sitting on my shelf. Lots of good ideas though and some great recipes. I keep saying I am going to compile them but I've yet to do that. Yet to make any of them too.

I have also been avidly reading the Yarn Harlot. She is doing her book tour just now and it has made for an interesting read. In each place she visits she does a group shot of the attendees while holding up her sock knitting. This way you can also see her progress. Feel a bit sorry for her with so much time spent in airports but also very jealous of all those attending. This is quickly becoming one of my favourite blogs.

The next two images aren't mine but come courtesy of the BBC.

I have been watching Mary Berry Cooks. I am more of a baker but have been finding this interesting. There are a few savoury makes in there that I think I might even be able to manage. What I really want to try though is making jam. Mary Berry makes everything look so effortless mind you. However, I think I could do it and just need to wait for the fruit seasons to come in. Thinking of trying my hand at marmalade too.

I am also not much of a sewer. I have a sewing machine that rarely gets used. I have been enjoying The Great British Sewing Bee though. Not to say that I would even want to make all of the items that have been done so far (men's pyjamas being the one that I definitely don't want to ever make). It's a good show though and it's interesting to see the individual styles people can bring to each garment. It has a similar layout to the Great British Bake Off. So maybe that's why I like it.

I lied when I said I haven't been up to much else. I did do some baking on my days off. I did this while studying (they were in the oven while I did my reading). The giant cookies I wasn't impressed with. I divided the dough into six as stated but I felt that they were just too big. Very crisp on the outside but a little undercooked in the middle. Perhaps that was just my taste though as my mum loved them. I also made some banana bread at the weekend there. You've seen this before but I did manage to teach someone how to make it via facebook. Although I think that has more to do with their skills than mine.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

And the Winner Is.....

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The lovely Lisa is the winner of the sock yarn. Lisa is primarily a crochet person so I will be interested to see what she does with it. Thank you everyone who left a comment. I want to apologise to those who had problems commenting. I understand there was a problem with people commenting via their mobile phones. I still included those who had problems in the prize draw. If I do another giveaway I will open up the comments again and suggest that people use something other than mobile devices.

Anyways, well done Lisa and a huge thank you to Black Sheep Wools who donated the yarn in the first place. For those of you who didn't win but still fancy trying it, I highly recommend that you do so. It's a fairly thick yarn (more like a double knit) and you don't necessarily have to use it for socks.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Pins I Love - Stitch It!

So last week I got an email from pinterest. Not an unusual event. I get them umpteen times a day with various people pinning something, commenting or following. This particular one though described me as an influential pinner. I would say thank you but I think that just means I spend far too much of my time on there. It's an addiction.

So this week I decided on highlighting my stitch it board. Cross stitch was my first crafting hobby. I stopped for a long time when knitting took over but have since went back to it. I think sock knitting will always come first mind you. Anyway, as a tribute to my crafting past I've picked out some of my favourites. The above appealed to me because I love garden gnomes and toadstools. It's popular just now but it takes me back to story books from when I was little. They are designed by Kyoko Maruoka and are sold as kits. I'm not sure where the online store is based though but if you click on the above image it will take you there.

A very different kind of stitching but this lovely butterfly is stitching. I remember I bought a magazine which showed how to do this kind of work. I meant to have a shot but I forgot all about it. I don't even remember which magazine I saw it in. Regardless, this was created by Laura Lipponen. The link above will take you to an interview she did. However, you can also find her on her her website Susotaika. I think this is a perfect example of how versatile stitching can be.

Now I am not a fan of Alice in Wonderland. I have yet to meet anyone else who disliked the books and all the film adaptations. It's not entirely down to the Cheshire cat which creeps me out (although entertained me in the Eyre Affair). I just didn't enjoy it. However, I do like the crafts that people who love it create. This cross stitch hoop frame is a particular favourite. Of course it's the toadstools that stood out. This and some others can be found on the craftster website and were created by member maximumRABBIT.

 A useful thing about the internet is that there are a lot of 'how to' pages. The one linked to the image will be useful to anyone wishing to take up cross stitch (although I also recommend YouTube). I have linked this one because I like the little hoop designs. There is something fun about them as well as being great for a beginner. The guide was written by Rachel Walker and she can be found at the Broderick Design Studio.

I was tempted to go with Sashiko for the last one. It's a simple but effective form of embroidery. I realise thought that I had a lot of geeky pins on there and I couldn't make this list without adding one. I picked this one as it depicts the 50th anniversary episode of Dr Who. It was designed by Fangirlstitches and the pattern can be bought from her etsy shop.

Anyway, I am hoping to have another post for you before the end of the week. Meanwhile please don't forget to leave a comment on my giveaway post if you want to be in with the chance of receiving some sock yarn.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Yarn Review and Giveaway!

This tale has been told before but I am going to tell it again. About a month or so ago the lovely people of Black Sheep Wools were looking for volunteer bloggers. I put my name down and I was asked if I would like to review some sock yarn. I was hardly going to say no was I? I was sent some Regia Highland Tweed to try out and an extra to give away. So here it is all knitted up and I have to say I am a little in love with these socks.

The yarn is thicker than most sock yarns. I would say it was more like a double knit. Which is perfect as there are lots of double knit patterns in my sock books that I have been drying to try. I picked this pattern (gentle waves from The Big Book of Socks) because I thought the subtlety of the pattern would highlight the lovely tweed of the yarn. I think I was right.

The flecks of the tweed really come through. This is my first time using any tweed yarn although I have been wanting to for some time. The yarn has a lovely feel to it. It's extra thick thus making it perfect for a boot sock. It also doesn't split which is always a bonus. Unlike the Regia hand-dye effect it is also sturdier. I was worried about it breaking away because it does feel a little like that yarn but I needn't have worried. It even managed the grafting of the toe well.

It's the colours I love too. I love blues and I am usually drawn to them. The subtle changes of blue through the yarn are just lovely. There is even a hint of purple in there which I think the camera managed to pick up. It also comes in 150g which is more than enough for a ladies pair of socks or even a gents. I think I have enough left over to knit a pair for my sisters tiny feet. If you are looking to try something with a pattern and want something cosy for the winter then definitely try this yarn. I know I am going to be looking at what other colours it comes in. As for the pattern I used. it came from my faithful Big Book of Socks and it was a fairly easy cable pattern. It did feel strange knitting socks on such large needles though.

Now for the giveaway. I am giving away the extra ball Black Sheep Wools sent (for this purpose). So if you like the sound of the yarn and want to try it yourself all you have to do is leave a comment with your email address. Preferably within the UK but I'm not going to be a stickler about it. I will announce the winner next Sunday night (16th March) after I pull someones name out of a bag. So the cut off for joining in is 4pm 16th March. Good luck!

Monday, 3 March 2014

Pins I Love - Make Me A Quilt!

I have a pinterest board called 'Make Me A Quilt'. I love quilts and I have a few friends who are lucky enough to be gifted in the talented of making them. It's both an expensive and timely hobby and so I am unlikely to be able to take it up any time soon. Maybe when I retire in 40 years. That's a long time to wait. In the meantime I can only admire them and hope that someday someone will take the hint from my board title.

What I love about the quilt is that it is so versatile. There are different styles and methods. I do know that about it. I would be here all day if I was to pick something from each style. Instead I have picked out a few that I have liked recently. None of these come with tutorials. They are either linked to blogs or etsy.

This first one is a baby blanket. It was made by an etsy seller who comes under the name coolspool. Click on the image and it will take you directly to her etsy store. What I love about it is the little hexagons. It gives it extra charm. Not to mention that it also uses teal which is one of my favourite colours.

This one is from a blog called Ideal Stitches and is one of many examples of quilts this lady has made on commission. It's worth clicking on the link just to see the variety. I like it because of the colour. I know, I actually hate orange but the last few years I have been drawn to it. I don't know why. I just know I am going to end up with an orange room when I get my own place (maybe that's pushing it). Regardless, I love the blocks on this quilt and think it would be quite startling in any colour.

This gorgeous quilt is from a blog called House of Spoon. The lady who created it decided to decorate her child's bedroom with a camper van theme. as a fan of camper vans I heartily approve and kind of want this quilt for myself (there is really no kind of about it, I want). It's a fun blanket and would brighten up any room.

This is another fun quilt. I love the daisies and the alternating colours. It's simple but effective although I am sure it wasn't simple to make. This is from a blog called Pieces of Cotton. The lady who made it made one for her granddaughter and has this one for sale on her etsy page. I linked the image to her blog though as she has a number of beautiful quilts there.

Another orange quilt (I am really hoping this orange thing is just a phase of mine). What I love about this one is that instead of blocks it uses strips of fabric. It really is quite stunning. This is another baby quilt and was stitched by etsy seller MiaDolce. Sadly, this quilt has sold but if you click on the image you will see some of the other lovely quilts she has created.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Thus Endeth the Lesson!

So my sock lessons have ended. I think in total there were five pairs of finished socks. A few people had to give up because of other things going on in their lives. Others are still working on them (between other projects). I am sure they will get them finished but I won't be along to my knitting group for the next two months. You never know I might come back to a few more finishes.

These three socks are the latest to be finished. The first pair is by a lady who picked up a sock knitting kit. The yarn knits up in a faire isle style which is very effective. I love the colours. The second pair was actually knitted by my mum. She has knitted socks before but has been put off knitting more because she can't get the grafting right. I taught her how to do a different style of toe that required no grafting. She is already thinking about knitting more and maybe even trying some with a pattern. The yarn she used was hand-dyed by the lovely Lisa. The last pair is by a lady who came along just to learn to knit socks. She learned to knit socks when she was in school but always got her mum to do the heel in the toe. Now she can do both herself.

I quite enjoyed teaching the socks. I have a few amendments to make to my lesson plan but it seemed to work well. I did get one lady telling me that it made all the difference so I'm glad it worked out. I never did do the youtube videos to go with the pattern. Each section was longer than 15 minutes and I was only allowed 15 minutes. I will need to learn to edit the videos and cut down on the chat. Maybe when I have some free time I will go back to them.