Monday, 30 November 2015

November Stash

I think that it's safe to say that I am well and truly now on a stash ban. Or at the very least a sock yarn ban. I went a little mad. I follow quite a few yarny people on instagram and I often envy the yarns they display. Particularly of the sock knitting variety. I then saw that Knit Picks was advertising free postage to the UK for orders over £40. Any sock knitter will tell you that is an easy target. I managed almost a month before I went online, had a look and subsequently filled a basket. It would have been too rude not to! 

I decided to mainly go for the more solid colours as I wanted yarns that would highlight patterns. I really need to go through my books and try some that I haven't done before. I also might want to try designing my own at some point next year and of course I would want a solid colour for that (maybe). All but one of the yarns have a merino mix base and are super soft. The dusky pink at the bottom is a highland wool mix. For anyone in the UK look for sock yarn it's called fingering weight in the US.

As for my shopping experience, I can safely say that it was worth it. Their website is filled with hard to resist goodies. The yarns I received are lovely and the colours very much matched the images. It was also very fast. A lot faster than I expected.

I splashed out and got some yarn from another US seller (again one I follow on instagram). This time it's an indie dyer called Orange Jellyfish Dream. The seller has an etsy page which is filled with lovely yarns. I had trouble narrowing my choices down to two. I also picked up a stitch marker holder which you can see at the bottom of the image.

Both yarns have a merino base and as you can see the purple has a lovely sparkle to it. My favourite though is the blue and I have decided that it will become socks for myself.

Of course I would rarely have a stash post without having something from my good friend Lisa. You will have seen this yarn from this months WIP page.  This is a double knit yarn in the donegal base. I asked Lisa to send me some to finish a blanket. It's super soft and lovely to work with.

Lisa also posted an image of this colourway on her FB page a while back. I requested it in sock yarn as I thought it was about time that my dad got some socks from hand dyed yarn. I thought it the colours would be perfect for him and I wouldn't mind knitting large socks since I would be using Lisa's yarn.

I thought wrong. My dad thought it was too girly! How is blue and grey too girly? Anyway, he picked out the purple as a much more manly colour. On the bright side I get to knit myself socks with Lisa's lovely yarn (the colour of which I happen to love).

I have linked all of these stores to my craft shopping page.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Christmas Countdown Week 6 - Christmas Bunting

I was originally going to title this garlands but really these are all bunting of one form or another. I love bunting. I have always said I am going to make myself some and I plan to for project new house. My sister has even asked me to make her an autumn one which is a little late to start now (but as she has an autumn soul I don't suppose it matters when I make it).

Well, these garlands or Christmas bunting would brighten up any home. Some of them are even used to decorate trees. It's really up to you. Most of them won't take you long to make either.

This first one is one of my favourites. I love a star motif. The tutorial is by Anabelia and it's a fairly easy tutorial to follow. The blog is in Spanish but google will translate it for you. There is also a graph and seasoned crochet people would probably be able to do it from that. Anabelia Handmade is a lovely blog which contains many beautiful crochet patterns. Worth checking out.

I also love this tree bunting. The Royal Sisters is the person behind the tree motif and she calls it the Grandma tree.  The tutorial is fantastic as it photographs and annotates every step of the tree. One of the best crochet tutorials I have seen yet. It doesn't tell you how to turn the trees into a garland but I am sure most of you have the ingenuity to do that. I have also seen these trees done in lots of lovely colours. The blogger doesn't post regularly but there are a few other tutorials on it that you might want to have a look at.

It was actually really hard to find a free tutorial to bunting that wasn't made from crochet. I was almost giving up and making it entirely about the crochet. Then I came across this gingerbread man bunting. It's made from felt and the pattern is free from Craftsy which is a website I have used and talked about before. The good thing about this one is that you can decorate those little men as you see fit.

This cute little garland (and it is a garland) is meant for the tree. Not only is it cute but it's also edible. Both the recipe and the tutorial can be found on Donna Hay. If you recognise the name it's because it is the celebrity chef Donna Hay. Looks fairly simple to make and you get to eat it when you are finished!

 I love this one too. It's not really a garland or bunting either but can be made into a garland. These little clay ornaments were made by Garden Mama and I would love to have a go at making them. Definitely one for my to do list. The author makes it look easier to make than you would think. I bet if you were super talented you could also paint the impressions made by the green. If any of you do I would love to see some photo's. Garden Mama has lots of fantastic craft tutorials for the home and ones that you can do with your kids.

As always, none of these images are mine and belong to the people I have linked in. I have also linked all of the tutorials to my tutorial links page. The blogs you will find on my blog links page. Both of which are growing fast and I hope people enjoy using it.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Sister's Winter Woollies Part 2 - the Socks

So the second item in my sister's winter woollies set is now complete.  Using the same yarn (as planned) as I did for her cowl. These will go perfectly under a pair of boots. They are so thick and cosy. They do look a little odd because they are so long and yet have tiny feet (the curse of my tiny footed sister).

Actually, I love the fact that my sister has tiny feet. It makes knitting up socks so much easier and quicker. And they look rather cute. You would be right if you think you recognise the pattern. I finished a pair for myself not so long ago.  They are the Cable and Seed Stitch Denim Socks by Debbie Abraham and can be found in the book Country Weekend Socks by Madeline Weston. I loved seeing the pattern emerge in the solid colour. I especially think it suits this dark shade.

Plus look at those cables! They are definitely a favourite. There is another cabled pair in the book that I want to try but they are knitted on straight pins which is putting me off.

Anyway, I am halfway through my sister's hat which means that I am more than halfway finished with her set. I might get it done this winter after all.

Monday, 23 November 2015

November WIP

 Sometimes it feels like I am working on the same things all the time. Other times it feels like I never finish a project before I start another one. Just now it's most definitely the latter. I have been finishing projects though. For example, I have been doing well with my sister's winter woollies set. I am now onto her hat. Yes it's the same as the two hats I did for myself I just love the pattern. Plus my sister saw me knitting this for myself and has requested that I knit her one. As it is a surprise I pretended I was too busy. There will be a pom pom at the end of this particulare hat (on request).

My good friend Lisa sent me the tweed yarn in cream as requested. So I am now back on to the blanket which was originally for my gran. I love the cream. I think it goes well.

So the plan for these hexies is to have them all finished by the end of the year. I have about 10 to make so I think I will do it. Then it's just a case of putting them together. Wish me luck

Friday, 20 November 2015

Christmas Countdown Week 5 - Gifts for Crafters

This weeks Christmas countdown is some gift ideas for your fellow crafters. Us crafters like to receive items that other made. We appreciate the time and effort that has went into them because we have done it ourselves. Even better we love a gift where we get to create something ourselves. I would like to point out that none of these images are mine. I hope the owners don't mind and realise I just like to showcase others talents.

First up is one that I have coveted. These are yarn bowls and are created by the talented V's Pottery Shed. The design above isn't her only one. She has many beautiful and colourful designs. I am sure I have mentioned her before. She's also not limited to yarn bowls. She also creates wine glasses, travel mugs and at the moment her tree decorations are flying out.

Next up is for those stitchers out there. I came across this talented lady through instagram. Dandelyne is famous for her mini hoops. She creates kits which will allow you to wear a piece of your own hand stitching. I love them. If you follow her on Instagram you will also see that she likes to showcase those who design their own centre pieces for her hoops.  I personally think this would be something fun to do with my sister.

I am a huge fan of Nikki McWilliams. I love her biscuit designs. Brilliant if you love a bit of nostalgia. I have actually bought one of her cushions for my sister. Now she has come up with these little pin cushion kits. So you can have your very own biscuit pin cushion. This is another one that I am thinking of getting for my sister.

I also need to highlight my friend here. Not just because, well, I always do. Also because this would be the most amazing gift EVER! Lisa of For the Love of Yarn has a sign up for a new year long project (although you don't have to join in every month). At the end of the year, thanks to the boxed kits you will have made yourself a stole. A little different from the blanket club (of which there will also be a new one next year). Oh, and you don't need to be able to crochet as a knitting pattern will be provided for those who wish that option. I dare you to find me a yarn enthusiast who wouldn't love this.
Last of all we have a book which I would very much love. It's another of the What Delilah Did books (I have an earlier one which I reviewed here). This one is all about Christmas (all there in the title). So many beautifully stitched projects. It would keep anyone busy. And it's for stitchers of all kinds this time.

The reason I post this now rather than later is that a lot of these crafter businesses will be closing their order books soon so that they can get everyones order out on time. So if you want to treat yourself or someone else I would start ordering now.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

My Winter Woollies 2015

I finished my hat! It's exactly the same pattern as the cream one I knitted not that long ago.  There are two main differences. First of all I used the second skein of yarn from the cowl kit that I bought from Lisa. Secondly I used a larger needle size so that it was more like a slouchy hat.

See! A lot bigger than the last one. It doesn't feel like it's going to pop off my head. My sister feels that it is missing a pom pom but I prefer my hats to be pom pom free. It's warm and cosy, perfect for this horrible weather we are getting.

The colourway of the yarn kind of drowns out the cable pattern but I don't care. I think that it's still pretty and I love the colours. Took no time at all to knit up and was fairly easy to follow. You can see more about this pattern with the first hat I knitted.  You'll also be able to see the cable pattern better.

That's me pretty much sorted for the winter. I have a pretty and cosy cowl and a matching hat. Thank you for the yarn Lisa.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Advice to Newbie Bloggers

This blog pots is really for friends who have said that they want to start blogging but have no idea where to begin. I am in no way an expert but I have been blogging for on and off for over 10 years. So these are just some of the things I have learned along the way. If anyone else gets something out of it all the better.

1. What do you want to share?

Most bloggers start because they have something in their life they want to share.  It can be anything at all. Mine is crafts in general but there are others who focus more on one subject within that such as sewing or baking. There are lots of blogs out there such as political or funny. My friend recently started one up about fitness called Fitness Dreams (shameless plug there). As long as you feel strongly about what you are sharing and will have a lot to say over a prolonged period of time it doesn't matter. Theme you blog around that subject so that your audience knows what you are about too. Just be aware if you don't think people will be receptive or that people might be offended it might be worth having a rethink.

2. Choose your domain.

I chose blogger because it's what I've always used. Ever since my first blog 15 years ago. I have tried other domains but blogger is what works for me as it's what I know. My advice would be to look around before you decide. There are loads out there. Look at reviews of others and look at the domains used by some of your favourite blogs. Think about how you want your blog to look and would that domain be ablee to deliver. If you are using it to promote your own business or this is more than just a hobby for you then it might be worth while setting up your own domain.

(above screenshots are of Danny Gregory, Attic 24, Yarn Harlot and Shimelle)

3. Choose your layout.

Just remember that whatever layout you start with doesn't have to be set in stone. Your layout can change and evolve as you get a feel for your blog and what you want it to show. Having said that have a think about what you like. What attracts you to a blog initially? Remember you want to attract readers but also encourage them to come back. Make sure your layout is easy to follow. I've had a fair few layouts in my time. I went through a phase of changing them regularly and I think I have had just about every colour apart from black. However, I like the look I have now. It's clean and simple so that it highlights the images and the content. In my mind this makes it easier to read. Some of my favourite blogs are a lot busier than mine. Have a look at your favourite blogs and have a think of why you like the way they are laid out.

4. Content.

All of these other things are important but if you want people to come back to your blog you have to focus on your content. One thing that took me a long time to learn is not to squeeze everything in to one post. I've always done that with my craft blogs. I don't have a set subject for a post and so they are filled with a little bit of everything. I like to think that I have learned from that. Theme you posts around one thing and make sure you actually have something to say about it. In other words don't post for the sake of posting. Consider if the subejct of the post is relevant to you blog (something else I learned the hard way). 

5. Planning.

This appeals to my not so inner geek. If you know me you know I am a planner. An article I read a few months ago suggested having set days for posting. That way regular readers will know when to visit your blog. This is something that I have put into place recently and it works for me. I started off with two set days a week and (thanks to my themed Friday posts) That has changed to three. You don't have to post as often as that. You might want to build up to it. Try posting at least once a week though. Less than that you might lose readers and you might find you lose interest yourself.

6. Images.

I think that when it comes to images on a blog it really comes down to personal preference. I am a visual person and so images are important. It should bee relevant to the subject of the post but I am more likely to stay with a blog if there are images. this is what attracts me to a blog, especially if it's new to me. You don't have to go mad. Sometimes one image at that start of your post is more than enough. It all depends on what you are writing about. Since my blog is about crafts I always feel that images are a necessity. If you are using images try and ensure they are of good quality. This is something I am always trying to work on.

7. Linking In

One of my favourite tools is the linking tool. This allows me to link other websites of blogs to my post. It's common courtesy to do this if you are discussing something that was done or created by someone else. I have done this with all of my pinterest, Christmas and Bake Off posts. It's a good way to show readers your favourite sites. I also use it to remind people of previous posts providing that it's relevant. Very rarely do I post anything without a link being in there somewhere and I have since started keeping a list of all my favourite blogs and tutorial links (you don't have to go as far as that).

8. Experimenting.

While I say keep your voice true to your blog there is nothing wrong with experimenting. I do it all the time. It can help rejuvenate your blog, keep your readers interested and keep yourself interested. It doesn't matter if something you try doesn't work out for you. You can put it down to a lesson learned and move on to other ideas eg. themed posts, guest bloggers, interviews, tutorials.

9. Social Media.

Like most things Social Media can have its good and bad sides. In a lot of ways I have social media as I have seen the damage it can do to people when used incorrectly. However, I think it can also be a useful tool so long as you are careful with how you use it. It can be your platform for your blog. I have my own page on facebook specifically for my blog. I link each new post there. I occasionally add in a photo or update that I haven't posted here and I used it to promote other crafters. I also use twitter, pinterest, Instagram and google plus. Blogger can show you where most of your readers are coming from and I'm sure other domains do the same. It lets you see which social media tool is working for you. I even tried a blog platform although that particular one doesn't exist anymore. It was a good way of discovering other blogs though.

10. Write for yourself.

If you are constantly looking for comments and view numbers you are going to become very frustrated and bored fast. Yes, these things are important, particularly if you are using it to promote your business. It's a good way to find out which posts work for you. It's not the be all and end all though and shouldn't be your only reason for writing. Do it because you love it and because you love what you do and want to share of even motivate yourself. As soon as it becomes about numbers you'll lose your voice and your interest. Which brings me to my last piece of adcice. If you find yourself burning out take a break. It is okay to do that and then come back again. I've done that myself.

These aren't hard and fast rules. Just things that I have learned along the way. Usually through making mistakes. Rememberr hwat works ofr one person might not work for you. More importantly - have fun!

Friday, 13 November 2015

Christmas Countdown Week 4 - Christmas Cards

Every year I would say that everyone is going to get a handmade card. I'm afraid I only managed this a couple of times and now I just donate to charity instead. I still appreciate a handmade Christmas card. My mum managed just about every year and she would personalise it so that it was of something we loved. I even have one of them framed somewhere and of course I kept the rest.

These are a good keepsake for your loved ones and even if you don't want to give them to everyone it's always nice for those closest to you. Having said that there isn't much time left so if I were you I would get started now.

This first example is the type of card I love. I have always wanted to have a go at making a shaker card but never quite gotten around to it. This one uses and old Polaroid photograph as the shaker window but you can use acetate. This one is by a debby 4000 who created it as part of a challenge. Her blog is primarily about scrapbooking and card making and it's called Scrap Journey.

If you are a quilter or a sewer of any kind the chances are your going to have scrap fabric around. These cards by North Story are a fantastic way of using up those little scraps. Of course you aren't just limited to trees. You could use the scraps for a whole whost of festive themes such as bells, robins and snowmen. They also take not time at all so you could have all your cards finished fairly quickly.

Anything with buttons I instantly fall in love with. I have seen a whole host of Christmas cards using buttons. I have seen baubles, snowmen and Christmas trees. All would be as simple as this card but only this one came with a tutorial thanks to Hopeful Honey. As I said it's fairly simple and all you need is some card, buttons, ribbon and your glue gun. I know of very few crafters who don't have these items stashed away. Plus, like the scrap fabric cards you could make up a batch of these fairly quickly. As I said the tutorial is by Hopeful Honey but she also has some crochet patterns on her blog so worth checking out.

I hunted high and low for a cross stitch card that was both free and had a good link to it. Turns out they are difficult to find as most people seem to scan in patterns found in magazines (not at all legal). I found this cute design by Krissy Cross. You can pick your own colours but I think the red against the green is quite effective. This would take you a lot longer than the other cards here but it's still a fairly simple design that you could get a few done in the 6 weeks to Christmas. Sadly this is not a tutorial on how to cross stitch. It's just a chart for the above card. Krissy Cross is a German blog but google will help translate it for you. It's a good blog if you like lots of cute cross stitch designs.

I love this last card. I have hand stitched straight onto card before when I used to scrap book. I loved the effect of it. This card is done in a similar way and it's actually fairly easy to do. Once you get the hang of it you could even try your own designs. This tutorial is by Form A Lines. The tutorial is very easy to follow and shows you step by step exactly what to do. I think after stitching the first card the rest would come along and you could play about with the colours too.

None of these images are mine and both them and the tutorials belong to all the people listed. I have linked the tutorials to my Craft Links page for future reference. The blogs I have attached to my craft blogs page. If any of you decide to try any of these I would love to see your photo's

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Sister's Winter Woolies - The Cowl

Every winter my mum would make my sister a set of winter woollies. My sister loves a woolly hat and mitts and some years she would even get two sets. I've decided to try and keep this tradition going and I am working on a full set of winter woollies. Watch this space to see if I get them all finished.

Firstly I made her a cowl. I used the crochet pattern from the cowl kit I received from the lovely Lisa. Although she has bought cowls before this will be the first one made for her. So at least I know she likes them.

My sister doesn't like them too close in to her neck so I decided to make this a little longer than mine. I had planned to use 150g of yarn but it turned out the one 100g ball was more than enough.

You can see a close up of the pattern here. It's a simple ripple effect which stands out even in this darker yarn. Once you get into the swing of the pattern it's fairly easy to do and it crocheted up in no time.

The yarn is a lot darker than I was expected it to be. I was hoping for a brighter teal which I think would have looked good against my sister's pink hair. I still like the colour though and I think my sister will too. The yarn is an alpaca tweed by Stylecraft and is one of the softest yarns I have ever had the pleasure of working with. It does cast a little but it's worth it.

Monday, 9 November 2015

Blanket Club Month 10

Last week October's blanket club box arrived from the lovely Lisa. I was immediately taken by this lovely green. It's so festive which is fitting since all the shops are preparing for it now AND I have even seen my first Christmas tree. Too soon even for me. Anyway, I loved the green and the deepness of the colour will contrast well with the other squares. The freebie this month was these lovely polka dot scissors. I love them and they'll come in handy since I'm always losing mine.

The square this month is called a Victorian granny and I love it. I love the pinwheel design in the centre. It looked more complicated than what it was and surprised myself with it turning out first time.

I've now almost completed the first skein. Sadly, I don't think I am going to have enough yarn for all 26 squares. That's okay though as I have kept all the leftover yarn from the other squares and I should squeeze out a few more with those.

After this there will be just one more square before we receive thee joining yarn. I couldn't resist taking a photo of the first 9 months all together. Loving the bright colours. I have been having a rethink about my joining. I'm in two minds as to whether or not to make one large blanket. Going to have to have a think about that.

Meanwhile our Lisa is planning next years blanket club and although I told myself I wasn't going to be joining that one I'm now thinking about it. You know it's probably going to happen!

Friday, 6 November 2015

Christmas Countdown Week 3 - Advent Calendars

I love an advent calendar. It is my personal belief that you are never too old for one. I have always wanted to make one but never found the time or the design I really wanted. It's too early for advent calendars but not too early to start making them.

This one is by Ruffled Sunshine and looks fairly simple to make. You are also limited to what items to put in there so it shouldn't break the bank either. You can also make it your own by choosing your own colours and little motifs for each pocket. This blog also has a lot of good ideas for different holiday crafts which involve the kids so worth giving it a visit.

I love this one because each of the little decorations is found in the pockets and you hang it on the tree each day. It's a kit which you can by from etsy seller Sesame Seed Designs so you also get the bonus of making it yourself. Not chocolate or gift related but one that would never get boring and can be handed down the family.

Any craft that involves jars I tend to love. This one seems quite simple and the little pockets are big enough to hold one sweet. It means you can chose your favourite sweets but it does mean that it might not last for the following year. You would have to be careful with the cardboard pockets. This one is by family crafts.

This one is fairly simple too. It uses toddler sized mittens, some printed card and some string. If you have lots of odd mittens it's a good way of recycling them. Or if you have family who have outgrown mittens you can recycle those too. Failing that you could scour charity shops. I think this is for people who want to make their own advent calendar but don't have a lot of time to spend on it. This is by HGTV

If you find a tree decoration that you like you can also make your own. I'm thinking of the stocking pattern from my first Christmas countdown post. The free pattern by Little Cotton Rabbits would make a cute garland advent calendar.

This one is quite possibly my favourite. It's more personal and I think it's one for the grown ups. It would be a fab gift for a friend. I think my sister would love this (although she might love the lego advent calendar I got her more). I can definitely see myself making this one. It's by the Thinking Closet.

Most of these ideas can be found on my tutorial links page. And all of these images belong to the linked websites.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Basic Socks

I finished these socks a few weeks back. These are for my sister. I am thinking that I will give them for her Christmas. I've decided to create a Christmas box this year where everyone gets a new pair of pyjama's and a pair of socks knitted by me. That's if I can hold on to these long enough. I might end up giving them to her earlier.

The real reason for knitting these socks was that a friends mum was wanting to learn how to knit them. I sent her some yarn, a set of needles and my adapted pattern for the basic sock. She got stuck at the heel though and I knitted theses up in order to be able to provide a cheat sheet for that. I think it worked as my friend has since told me her mum is almost finished.

The heel is actually my favourite part of the sock. If you are using a variegated yarn as I did it's fun to see how the striping changes. It's also at that point that you feel that you actually have a sock on your pins. Even when you are knitting a basic pattern for the umpteenth time it's still interesting to see it form.

The yarn I used was thee ciao by Mondial that I bought in York. These colours will be perfect for my sister (although, I have a feeling that I have knitted with a similar colourway in the past). The yarn feels just like regia sock yarn so will feel nice and cosy (the reds and pinks will become a pair of socks for myself).