If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again

celticweave2Last week, I challenged you to finish up something that has had you stuck for awhile.  This got me to thinking.  I have many unfinished projects, but most of them have been put down just because I’m bored with them or wanting to start something else.  But there is one project that has had me baffled for a couple of years.  I feel that I am a very experienced crocheter now, so I hate it when I can’t master a crochet technique.  It really irks me.  That is why I had put down this project.  To explain my predicament, I need to start at the beginning.

We don’t have a great variety of yarn here.  I get a little bit envious seeing all the different yarns that are available in America.  Every now and then, one of them hits our shores.  The Caron cakes are one of those.  We had been seeing these balls of colour changing yarn for awhile before Lincraft brought out their own brand of them.  I bought one because I was dying to try this new yarn (I probably shouldn’t say that that ball is still intact in my yarn cupboard!).  Not long afterwards, Caron cakes came to Spotlight.  Being the good fibre artist that I am, I had to buy one of those as well to compare the two.  In my opinion, I much prefer the Caron cake.  It is soft and plush whereas the Lincraft brand is a little stiffer and pricklier.

But what to make from these balls?  I have three of them in three completely different colours.  I googled what I could make from them and came up with a few different options.  I ended up choosing the Lucky Celtic Infinity Scarf by Left in Knots (https://www.leftinknots.com/home/2017/2/24/lucky-celtic-infinity-scarf) partly because it wasn’t a shawl and partly because it was made in one of the colours I have, so I could really see how the finished product would look.  I also loved the fact that the author is left handed, so I knew the pattern would suit my own left handed crocheting!

celticweavecloseup2

So I began.  The first few rows are just hdc, so that was easy.  Then you go on to the “Celtic weave” part.  In theory, it is just triple crochet, so nothing too difficult, you just need to place them in the right way to get the criss crossing effect.  No problem.  I’m an experienced crocheter, this will be easy for me to handle.  First row, done, fantastic.  Next row, yup, looks right.  Third row – nope, something’s gone wrong.  Frog the row, start again.  Nope, still wrong, frog again.  Start again, nope, still wrong – where am I going wrong?  On the pattern website there is a video tutorial for how to do this stitch.  I hate watching videos on the internet.  I much rather just read a written pattern.  But the written pattern just wasn’t working for me, so I knew the only alternative was to watch the video.  At the time, it wasn’t practical, so the project got shelved until I had the time to watch.

That day just never came.  Last year when we went away I decided to take this project again – who knows, maybe just by having had a year or more experience wise might be enough to just pick it up and get it.  Sadly, this was not the case.  I did the next row and frogged it again several times and finally decided I would have to watch the video.  Unfortunately the internet where we were staying was not strong enough to watch the video so the project came home again and went back in the drawer.

Forward to this week.  I made up my mind that this project was no longer going to defeat me.  I watched the video.  It didn’t help me!  So, I just went with how I thought it should work and how it looked in the picture and I finished it (and I think it looks right!).  I love how it has turned out and I’m looking forward to wearing it when it isn’t a furnace here anymore!  The bright, rainbow colours will be sure to brighten up a dreary Winter Day.  It has curled up a lot in the making, but with a good blocking, it has flattened back out and will be awesome to wear!

So now I feel good.  Not only have I finished a WIP that has been sitting for a couple of years, but I have finished one that had me completely stumped!  That’s a win for January!

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New Beginnings

Some of my yarn stash!

As I sit here, it is the beginning of a new year.  The last 6 months have been an uphill struggle for me personally, and a lot of people around me and I wonder what this year will hold.  Sitting before me is a year full of days that have not yet been written, days of sunshine and fun and rain and tears but each one a new day to make my mark on.

I also wonder what this year will hold crochet-wise for me.  Of course, there are the uncountable projects that I have begun and not yet finished.  Which of those will draw my attention back and be completed this year?  Which ones that have been thrown in the naughty corner because I just can’t master a step will I be brave enough to push myself to learn to complete?  Which of the balls of yarn in my stash will be used up (and what new ones will be added!)?  So many things to make, so little time.

Of course, I have a few things on my radar to make.  I’m still wanting to make a pair of socks for myself from some lovely yarn I found on our Melbourne trip in 2016.  I’m going to tackle the Marguerite blanket from Mobuisgirl Design (https://mobiusgirldesign.com/2018/10/25/margueritemotif/) as she tells us how to turn this motif into a blanket.  I’m going to finish another jumper for my husband.  Finally, I’m going to participate in a stitch-a-long by Desert Blossom Crafts (http://desertblossomcrafts.com/2018/12/20/desert-blossom-stitch-along-48-free-crochet-stitches/?fbclid=IwAR1HcIFUPIfsM6iuJAjGUrKnffdzMz9HlYsxAiOru_tFjj4sRlcVUsCutso) and learn a new stitch or two, as you can never stop learning!

And then there are the countless fabulous projects that will pop up in my Facebook feed that I just HAVE to make!  With this age of digital technology, there is never a lack of interesting new things to try.

So what are you going to challenge yourself to do this year?  Are you going to finish something that has been waiting a long time?  Or learn that new skill to complete another project?  I look forward to seeing what you accomplish (please share on my Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/thingsnicolemade/) as I share with you what I accomplish!  Happy New Year!

Unfinished objects!
Unfinished objects!

The great sock experiment part 2

Life has been so busy this year!  The weeks just fly by and before I have a chance to blink, we’re on to the next one.  So I apologise for being so slack in my posts.  I have a new job this year and it is very on and off and last minute and it’s taking some adjustment!  However, in amongst the busyness of life, I am still creating and things are ticking away in the background.

I have continued with my sock experiments.  With my first pair of socks, it was hard to judge the length of the foot for adding the toe, so I have ended up with one sock that is a tiny bit short (I’m sure it will stretch once I start wearing them – it’s been warm here and socks and flip flops are generally not a look I go for!).  So, I decided that my next pair of socks would be toe up and knitted two at a time.  I’ve taken both of my girls to the yarn store and they have chosen the yarn for their socks and have been told not to hold their breath for a quick finish!

I started with my older daughter’s socks.  To make toe up, I needed to learn a new technique – Judy’s magic cast on http://knitty.com/ISSUEspring06/FEATmagiccaston.html.  To be honest, I’m on my third sock doing this technique and I still don’t quite get it right unless I have the instructions close by, but I am getting there.  I followed the instructions for two at a time socks but I just couldn’t get it to work – my tension was off and it was going to leave big holes in the toes.  So, I decided to take it easy on myself and just do one at a time.  That seems to have worked well, although I wasn’t able to avoid all of the counting of rows to have them the same, which was my aim.  However, I have produced a lovely pair of socks that my daughter can’t wait to wear (she’s been told I have to photograph them before she can wear them!).

The yarn was another learning experience.  I’m using Jawoll Mille “Luxe Sparkle” sock yarn.  It doesn’t have a repeat of colours – anywhere!  So, despite the fact that the socks come from the same ball of yarn, they are completely different!  The colours are similar but they by no means match (for those that are conscious of wearing matching socks!).  I like it, it’s quirky!  And, I have lived for a long time with a man who refuses to wear matching socks!  Yup, if he pulls matching socks out of the drawer, one goes back so he has an odd pair!

Toe up socks definitely worked well for getting the length of the foot part of the sock right, but it still hasn’t solved my problem of knowing how much I can knit of the leg before I need to switch to the cuff so I run out of yarn at the end of the sock and not before.  If you have any clues on how to do this, please share!  But for the moment my experiment continues.  I’m now on my other daughter’s socks and she has decided she wants ones without heels at all, so another knitting experience is being added to my life!

The Tooth Fairy

With young children in our home, we have had many visits from the tooth fairy! She comes in and spreads her sparkle and cheer after the trauma of a tooth coming out (I really think the tooth fairy should bring a treat to the parents too!). Anyway, I’m planning on trying to sell some products again at a market and have had this pattern for a little tooth fairy pillow stashed away for awhile (http://www.mooglyblog.com/crochet-tooth-pillow/). I really love the patterns found on Moogly. I have yet to find one that is too hard and they are often cute, quirky little things!

The market is going to be for parents with children and I thought that this product might be popular with a tooth losing crowd! I made a few up and love it! They’re easy to make, very colourful and customisable and quick! I’m looking forward to taking them and seeing if they sell or not! If they don’t, I know two little girls who will be claiming them!

Peacock Bag

peacockcalcloseup

As I’m sure you are aware by now, I love to challenge myself with my crochet and knit projects.  I like to always be learning new things, trying different things and pushing myself to try harder things so I can grow and learn as a fibre artist.  A while ago, I came across LillaBjorn’s Crochet.  She has explored the world of overlay crochet – a term that was then unfamiliar to me.  As you can see from the picture above, her designs have a lot of crochet that works back over what you have already done, creating a textured, 3d look with intricate detail.  I loved it and have tried a small square that she has designed but when I saw this CAL for a bag (http://www.lillabjorncrochet.com/2016/08/peacock-tail-bag-cal-general-information.html), I knew I was going to make it!  As I explained in a previous post the colours didn’t catch my eye, so I sat back and waited for awhile to see what colour combinations other people would come up with.  When I saw these colours, I was sold!

It is an intricate and tricky design to follow and quite fiddly as you basically have to finish off each row and start again at the beginning for the next one.  This, of course, means lots of ends to weave in.  But, as I’ve learned over time, I try and weave them in as I go and then it is not an insurmountable task when I am finished!  It was totally worth it though – I love the end result!  It’s colourful and clever and interesting to look at.

peacockcalback

I actually also went to the trouble of lining this bag.  The instructions for the CAL include this part of the project.  I’m not a huge sewer.  I can do it if I put my mind to it but I’m certainly no seamstress but I was so happy with how this turned out!  I even added a zip and it works!  The final part was getting a strap for it.  To be honest, we can buy handbag straps here, but they are very expensive and there is not a lot of choice in either style or colour.  So, I went to my friend the internet and ordered a red strap to pick up on one of the colours in the bag.  It was an anxious wait – as you know, colours can appear very different on screen to what they are in real life and red can be a tricky colour to match – it’s easy to get it a different shade and then it looks all wrong.  But this time, I got it right.  I was thrilled with the colour match when it arrived and it just finishes off the bag!  I love how this bag looks and writing this post has reminded me that I need to use it!  I think I spend all this time making things and then I don’t want to use them and get them dirty or ruined!  However, then what would I be making them for??

peacockcalfront

Turtle mania!

Life has been crazy lately! Very crazy! I have a number of projects that I’ve completed and am keen to share with you all but photographing them and getting them on the blog just seems to be an insurmountable task. So today, I am going to look back to an older project. My youngest daughter is not your conventional girly girl. She loves blue, dinosaurs and teenage mutant ninja turtles! I decided that I wanted to make her her own turtle to cuddle and love. I searched the internet and found a great pattern by wolf dreamer ( http://www.wolfdreameroth.com/2011/03/tmnt-michaelangelo.html). It was the most realistic pattern I could find and I loved it. So I set about making it. It was fiddly, with lots of little bits and pieces and I despaired of ever finishing it but I kept going and ended up with this critter. She loved him!

I vowed I would never make another. I went back on that. My daughter has a little friend who is just like her. I made her the same one for her birthday. I vowed that was the last one. Uh uh. My oldest daughter was invited to a birthday party for one of the boys in her class. His favourite turtle was Leonardo, so I had to alter the pattern myself to create his swords but I did an admirable job. He too loved his turtle. His Mum told me later that he said he was going to keep it as an heirloom for his children! What a sweetheart! That one was my last but I’m pretty proud of how they turned out!

Crochet Stripe Blanket

I think I have decided that I love making baby blankets!  I make a lot.  It’s probably because you can make something that really packs a punch, but it’s not so big that it becomes overwhelming or takes too long to make.  Recently, a friend of mine announced that she was going to be a grandmother!  I’ve had a bit to do with her daughter over a number of years and decided to make her a blanket.  I had also seen this particular design (https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/stripe-blanket) and had had it simmering away in the back of my mind waiting until I found the perfect person to make it for.  My opportunity had come.  I sussed out the colours of the nursery (grey and white), added in a lemon yellow as the pattern required a third colour and got the yarn ordered.  I made it using Stylecraft Special dk (yes, I know, I’m an addict.  I just love this yarn, soft but washable and practical!).

It took a little while to get the hang of the pattern, but once that was firmly embedded in my brain, the blanket made up surprisingly quickly.  As I had plenty of time to make it, I used it as my “take along” project, so it took longer than I was expecting to make, but at the same time, I only worked on it in small dribs and drabs.  I had to adjust the pattern a little by adding a few extra repeats as the yarn called for in the pattern was a larger ply than the Stylecraft Special dk.   I was also surprised by how “yarn efficient” this pattern was.  I had to guess as to how much yarn I would need due to the ply difference and I was concerned it might be a yarn eater due to the solidness of it but I had so much yarn left over at the end that I could easily make another one!

I am thrilled with the finished piece.  It looks so effective for something so simple and it was soothing to work on because of the repetitiveness of the pattern (it made a nice change from the more challenging projects I usually attempt!).  I am definitely going to make another one of these, I’m just deciding on the colourway and who it might be for!  I would recommend this pattern to you if you need to make up a baby blanket.

The Great Sock Experiment of 2018

I have been knitting since I was a child when my Mum taught me (thanks Mum!). For many years, I have wanted to knit myself a pair of socks. I have even gone so far as to purchase a book about knitting socks and starting a pair but I was using 8 ply yarn (dk weight) and I could very quickly tell that it was going to be too bulky and not work so I put them down, never to be worked on again! In the last few years, the internet and my growing circle of like minded friends has exposed me to the possibility of purchasing sock yarn and has opened doors to where to buy it from. So, one of my intentions when on our great yarn buying trip last year was to buy some sock yarn. I settled on some Schachenmayr “Regia – color” in 4 ply. I bought two 100g balls because I have large feet (size 12) and was worried I wouldn’t get a full pair out of one (and Melbourne is a bit far away to pop in for another ball!).

This year, I have finally had a chance to try making them. I downloaded a pattern from the Schachenmayr website and began. I started them a couple of times because the first cuff didn’t look like it would be able to fit over my heel. So, I started again one size up and with my new KnitPro Zing double point needles in a 2.5mm (one size larger than I’d been using). This size was much better and I zoomed along until I was ready to begin the heel. It was here that I discovered my pattern was more guidelines and I couldn’t understand what it was directing. I admit, I nearly gave up. One of the knitting groups I attend is run by a lady with a lot of experience with sock knitting, so I thought I could put them on hold and ask her when our group resumes. But that felt too easy. I dug out my sock knitting book, and googled sock patterns and found a great one from Winwick Mum (http://www.winwickmum.co.uk/2014/05/basic-sock-pattern-and-tutorial.html). Between the two, I conquered those heels and was able to complete my sock! It was a big accomplishment! And here I wanted to take a break. Remember, I’m not good at focusing on one project for too long! Thankfully, one of my friends from my crochet group encouraged me to complete the second sock (thanks Laura!) and I have! And I’m glad I did. Although I made one straight after the other, I’m sure I did it slightly differently – I’m just thankful that they are the same. I think my next challenge will be making two socks at once so I know they’re exactly the same. And making them toe up – I was worried I’d run out of yarn and in the end I could have made them longer ( the top picture shows my remaining yarn!). Then, making socks for my girls, because they both really like them! I can see I have only just begun this journey into cozy toes!

Ray of hope

Cancer sucks. Everyone agrees and I think you’d be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t been touched by it in some way. This week it has touched our lives again. We attended the funeral of a friend whom it took and my aunt passed away after a long fight with it. It’s so frustrating to have a disease that is so prolific but we can’t yet fix. So, I decided to share with you my Connie’s ray of hope mandala (https://theloopystitch.com/the-loopy-stitch-cal/). This pattern was inspired by the passing of Actor Samuel Johnson’s sister, Connie. Together, they have raised millions to fund cancer research with their Love your sister campaign (http://www.loveyoursister.org/).

I saw this CAL last year but didn’t have time to try it. This year I have!  And I had the perfect ball of yarn to use. It was one that I bought in Melbourne, that I didn’t have solid plans for – I just liked it. It’s a variegated cotton by Katia. I didn’t quite have enough to finish it, but I managed to find some purple in my stash that matched well enough! I loved working on this. It’s so pretty and made up really quickly and easily. This is the first time that I have attached anything to a wire frame. That part was a bit time consuming and the first couple of rows after that were a bit fiddle but I’m hooked! I definitely want to make more of these in a variety of yarns, colours and sizes to make a beautiful display on my wall!