Darning needle review

In the past, I have only ever used straight needles to weave in the ends of my projects.  Being part of a crochet group has widened my horizons as I have been exposed to different products and tools.  One of the ladies in my group had these Hiya Hiya Darn It needles at one of our meetings, and I had been reading about these “bent tip” needles and was curious to try them.  She told me where I could purchse them (at the Port Adelaide market), and I went and bought a set.  I love them.  I do think that they make weaving ends in easier as they can be manouvered a little easier through the crochet than a straight needle.  They are smooth and glide easily and, best of all, they are colourful (I’ve currently lost my blue one!).

I have also seen that Clover make the same sort of needles.  I love my Clover crochet hooks, and these needles come with a cute little container to store them in (which is always a bonus!).  Whilst we were away in Melbourne, I found them in Yarn + Co and purchased a set.  I love the container, it definitely keeps them safe and together and the lid has to be screwed on and off so it won’t accidentally be knocked off if they’re floating around in my crochet bag.  They do the same job as the Hiya Hiya needles, the only difference is the finish.  These needles have a slightly rougher finish and this prevents them from moving as smoothly through the yarn as the other ones.  I find it interesting that two virtually identical products can actually be quite different.  Either way, I love the ease they bring to that dreaded job of weaving in ends!

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Doing the Impossible

I believe I have said once or twice that I am not a patient person.  Most things I make are small and easily finished in a fairly short period of time.  I have made some clothes for small people, but was NEVER going to attempt to make a piece of clothing for an adult.  That would take way too much time, making it take years before I finished it.  That was until I married my husband…..and started buying his clothes…..and learned how fussy he is about jumpers.  I will agree with him that unless you want to pay serious money for a jumper, the ones readily available in store are not particularly thick or warm, and as someone who has to do a substantial amount of walking to get to work, he needs something warm for those cold Winter morning and evenings.  So, I set about making him a jumper.  I bought some thick yarn, so it would make up as quickly as possible and I started knitting (yes, I knit too!).  I am forever grateful that he is a slim man, so I usually have to make one of the smaller sizes on the patterns and that helps a bunch!  The result was this jumper (I didn’t get a photo when it was first made, so it’s a little loved here!).  He was thrilled, and (more importantly) warm.  He got lots of comments on this jumper, and it gave me the confidence to make another one.  Once again, thick yarn, but this time, I chose a more complicated pattern, and attempted to knit cables for the first time.  I love this jumper.  It would have to be one of my favourites that I have made him.  It didn’t go without a hitch.  I made up the whole of the front and back and tried it on him and it was WAY TOO BIG.  With tears in my eyes, I went through every way in my head that I could possibly make it smaller.  The answer in the end was to rip it all out and start again.  It was hard, but I’m so glad I did it!  The end result is much, much better than it would have been if I had altered it somehow!  This one is actually starting to come apart on the neck and cuffs, so I am going to have to learn how to recuff it! (I’m actually excited to learn a new skill!).  After knitting two jumpers, I had the thought that crocheting one would be a lot quicker, so I set about doing that.  The pattern called for a thicker yarn than I could get my hands on, so I bought dk yarn and just made it with a double strand.  This jumper is VERY warm.  A little too warm.  It’s not my favourite in that it is just so big and bulky but he still wears it with pride (he’s a rare gem!).  This year, jumper 1 and 3 were out of the picture for wearing to work (too worn and too warm), which left him with one jumper.  So, I decided it was time to make another.  I found a pattern I loved for a crochet jumper, I ordered the yarn from Ice Yarns in Turkey.  The yarn was super cheap, the postage was super expensive but it all equalled out to a normal cost in the end and was here in 4 days, which still has me staggered when things coming to me from another state in Australia can take longer than two weeks!  Anyway, I made the front and back without too much trouble but when it came to the sleeves, I could see that they were going to be really baggy and awful (I can never get my tension quite right!).  So it went in the naughty corner for awhile.  My biggest problem was that my husband was always wearing the jumper that I needed to use to compare it to!  I finally took an outline of the sleeves so I could work on it without the jumper and decided to just try and fudge it so it was the same size!  A couple of weeks ago, I told him that I would need his blue jumper on a weekday to take to the knitting and crochet group that I go to so I could get some assistance with the repairs.  His reply was that it was the only jumper he had to wear, it’s cold and I couldn’t have it!  I felt that now was a good time to finish the other jumper.  I figured out the sleeves and was happy with them, sewed it all together and tried it on him.  Unfortunately, the neckline was going to be way too low.  I looked at it and had the thought “I wonder if this stitch is forgiving enough that I could just join the yarn in and fill the hole in a little?”.  I figured it was better to try that than to start all over again, so I did.  I’m thrilled at how it has worked out and (to be honest) that I was clever enough to do it.  If I point it out, you can see a slight difference, but on the whole it is not noticeable and it means the jumper is finished now and not back at the start again!  So, my next challenge is to find a nice pattern for the yarn I bought to make another jumper for him at the Bendigo Woollen Mills.  And then to really challenge myself – I want to design a cardigan for myself from the ground up!  I’ll let you know how that goes!

Showing your work

Have you ever thought about entering any of your work into a show?  It can be a scary thing, allowing others to look at and judge your work that you have put countless hours into, frogging and redoing until it is perfect.  Up until a few years ago, I hadn’t ever entered anything into a show.  I had thought about it but had never been brave enough to investigate how to go about it.  And then I made my Sophie’s Universe and I felt that that was a piece that just had to be seen.  Not because of my work but because the design is just so beautiful.  So, I found out how to enter the Royal Adelaide Show (our big state fair) and entered her.  She didn’t win, but I got some ribbons for some other pieces and my addiction to entering shows began.  I love it!  I love thinking about what to enter and looking for new, amazing designs to crochet.  I love delivering my pieces before the show has begun and seeing everything getting ready.  I love going to the show and looking at my work on display.  And, I love the expectation of waiting to see what the results are and if I earned a ribbon!

Last year, I entered both the Royal Adelaide Show and the Gawler Show (a smaller, country show).  The experience is very different with both shows.  The entry fees are higher for the Adelaide show, and so far, I haven’t won a first prize, which is the only real way of recovering your costs.  The Gawler show is smaller, but the entry fees are lower and so far, I have covered my costs of entering with my winnings, which makes it feel a bit more successful!

This year, due to me not paying close enough attention to the Adelaide show book, I only entered pieces in the Gawler show.  The staff at the show were absolutely fabulous as I realised I was going to be in Melbourne when I needed to drop things off and they were great about me dropping them off early.  As we literally swung past the show to collect my pieces on our way home from Melbourne, I had to wait until then to find out my results (one of my friends sent me pics of a couple of my results while we were away, but not all!).  It was exciting to collect them and find out that I had done really well this year!  Out of the six pieces entered, I earned 4 firsts, one second and a best exhibit for crochet (that I was totally not expecting!).  The prize from the best exhibit has allowed me to order some blocking wires that I have been eyeing off for awhile!  (Another review will be coming soon!).  I even won a trophy this year, as my Persian Tiles blanket came tied for first with another Persian Tiles blanket that the judges just couldn’t choose between!

If you have ever thought about it, but not had the confidence, I would suggest just going for it!  The worst that can happen is that you won’t win anything, and, although it is disappointing (I put hours into the baby pram cover and it didn’t place at all 😦 ), it is still a growing and learning experience, challenging you to find more unique and detailled pieces for next years’ show and to improve the quality and finish of your work.  I’d love to hear about your experiences entering shows!

The Great Yarn (Road) Trip

Last week, my family made the long trip from Adelaide to Melbourne.  When we first discussed going, I assumed we would fly over, however, my husband assumed we would drive.  I had reservations – 2 young kids in the car for 8 hours is a tough gig.  Then, I remembered that I had been wanting to visit the Bendigo Woollen Mills and driving over would give us the freedom to do that!  So, I agreed to drive on the condition that we would visit Bendigo on the way home.  A couple of ladies in my Crochet group told me about a few other yarns stores in Melbourne that I could check out, so I had my itinerary ready and off we went!  It was indeed a long way over, but the kids were magnificent – I think I was more impatient than they were!

Our first morning there, I walked past the building where Morris & Sons is housed.  Sadly, it hadn’t opened yet for the day (yay for excited kids sleeping in unfamiliar places and waking up early!), so it was a bit of a tease.  I was able to get there the next day with my oldest daughter (who kindly took a daggy photo of me out the front of the shop!).  If I’m going to review it, it wasn’t well signed inside the mall – the wool through the windows was what gave it away.  But what a treasure trove inside.  So….much…yarn.  So many different brands, colours and types.  It was exciting to see yarns I have only read about in person.  I had a budget to stick to for all of my yarn shopping, so I took a portion of it and chose lots of rainbow yarns in this store!  My aim with this trip was to try different fibres and yarns that I have not been able to easily access here in Adelaide.  From this store, I bought a skein of yarn that I loved the colours of and may turn into a pair of socks at some point (depending on if it will make big enough socks for my giant feet!).  I bought a couple of balls of Morris & Sons brand yarn to try (including that gorgous big hank of rainbow yarn!) and some sock yarn (definitely enough to make a pair of socks for my giant feet!).  Sock making is something I haven’t really tried before and I am keen to give it a go!

 

 

My next stop was Yarn + Co.  The children and I walked there.  It was a bit of a hike and turned a bit nasty in the end with tired, grumpy kids that refused to walk any further,  but was worth it to see some more new yarns!  I love how this store is set out.    If you look closely at this picture, you can see a sofa covered in crochet and knit cushions and there was completed projects all over the place.  I loved the welcoming feeling of it (and the couch was great to plonk my children on and know they would stay).  It was a smaller store, with not as many different yarns as the previous store I had visited but I was able to buy some clover bent tip yarn needles that I had been wanting to try and some Katia yarn purely because it was different and I haven’t tried it before.  So far, my yarn trip was a resounding success.  I had been careful enough with my budget that I still had some money to spend at Bendigo, but I had been able to buy some new and different things!

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, the end of the holiday came (We had a fabulous time with all the things we were able to do and see – it was great!),  the day I could visit the Bendigo Woollen Mills.  I was a bit worried that I would be disappointed after hearing from numerous people how fabulous it is.  But…..I wasn’t!  We were unable to get there before a Saturday, so the actual Mill wasn’t working.  I don’t know if you can do tours of the mill or not, but it would have been interesting to see how yarn is manufactured.  However, the factory sales were open, and that was what I had really come there for!  It was great, there was a lot of yarn to choose from at some really good prices.  And, here I could (and did!) spend the remainder of my yarn budget!  I bought numerous different fibres that I haven’t worked with before and some of their bargain bin yarns.  Up until now, most 100% wool yarn I have worked with has been scratchy and uncomfortable, but the wool here is so soft and squishy!  I also bought some yarn to make a new jumper for my husband and a cardigan for myself!  The thing I liked about this store was that it had just enough.  I felt that I was able to buy a really good selection of stuff without feeling like I was only trying a small drop in the bucket.  I wasn’t overwhelmed by the amount of products that were there, but there was so much yarn around that I felt I was in my happy place!  It was great!  I was excited and my husband thought it was all very amusing!  There is also a very cool yarn bombed tram in Bendigo (https://www.bendigotourism.com/whats-on/next-7-days/event/8018-the-yarn-bomb-tram).  Although I didn’t have a chance to ride the tram, we did see it trundling about!  My photo is not amazing as it was taken from the car as the tram drove past, but the link above has some much nicer photos!All in all, I am so happy I visited these shops.  I think my favourite would have to be the Bendigo Woollen Mills and I am hoping that one day I might get back there.  Of course, I can always order online.  Now, I just have to find a place to store all of this new yarn.  I think I’m going to have to buy a new storage box……

A horse, of course!

A few years ago, I came across this pattern for a horse purse (http://kristieskids.weebly.com/welcome/horse-purse-pattern-at-long-last).  Sounds strange, but I fell in love with it and thought that my daughter would too.  It was only a few days until her birthday, so I whipped one up for her.  She loved it (I think most young girls love horses don’t they!).  She could fit a surprising amount in it for a small bag and it travelled around with us a bit.

One of her friends from school has a birthday just a few days later.  What to give her….a horse purse!  Another school Mum had also seen the horse purse and said that her daughter had loved it.  A few months later for her birthday and another one was made.  Her Mum was only telling me the other day that she still plays with the purse even now.  She also has a couple of younger sisters, so I’m sure that it will be passed down and played with for a long time.

As I mentioned last week, I love quick and easy things to make, and this was fabulous.  Just when you think that you’ve had enough and couldn’t possibly crochet another bit, it was finished and ready to be made up!  Who could ask for more?  Perhaps the only thing that could improve it – a unicorn horn!

Princess Lovelies

I love making quick, simple things.  Many people see me at work with my various projects and I will often get the comment “You must be so patient to do that!”.  Well, the answer is no.  I’m not at all patient, and my husband will attest to that (he is nodding his head as he reads this, aren’t you Gavin?).  I find online shopping a real connundrum.  I love shopping in my own home, in my pj’s if I want, and having choices of things that just aren’t normally produced or stocked in Australia.  But then, I have to wait for them to be delievered (I’m currently eagerly waiting the arrival of a pair of earrings that is taking longer than was stated!).  I guess this is probably why I have so many projects on the go at one time.  I work on one for a little while, but, if it’s too big or time consuming, I quickly find that I need to move on to something else.  Eventually, I’ll get back to the first one and most of my projects will get finished, weeks, months, years after they were started!

These little Princess Lovelies by Bowtykes (http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/pretty-princess-lovey) are a perfect project for me to gift.  They are quick, they are manageable and they are so cute.  I have made several now and really enjoy the process and escpecially how by just adjusting the colours and the pattern ever so slightly, you get different characters.  Amy from Spicy Tuesday Crafts has published some more alterations to make even more variations of this pattern (http://spicytuesdaycrafts.blogspot.com.au/2014/08/my-notes-for-pretty-princess-lovey.html).

They are perfect for babies as they don’t have any buttons or things to pull off and choke on and they are the right size for little baby hands to grab on to!  I totally recommend this pattern – it’s clearly written and easy to understand, well worth the money I paid for it!

Mystery bunting

I was talking to a friend the other day and saying that I am having trouble finding projects for my blog at the moment!  It’s not that I’m not working on things – I am.  And it’s not that I’m not finishing things – I am.  The trouble is that I am busily working on my entries for the Gawler show, and don’t want to post completed photos until judging has been completed.  However, the show is in just two weeks time, and lots of other exciting things are happening yarn wise for me soon, so there will be plenty of content for my blog soon.

In the meantime, I am still working busily on things.  I started a few weeks ago a 5 day cal through Sewrella (http://www.sewrella.com/2017/07/5-day-mystery-cal-materials-list.html).  As you are aware, I have done a number of cals over the last few years.  Some are completed, some are finished and waiting for construction and some are still not finished.  I liked the idea of a quick, 5 day cal – seemed quite manageable.  I also love a good mystery cal (although find it so frustrating to not know what colours to choose!).  After the first couple of days, I knew we were making a bunting.  And this is where I get proud of myself.  I am not really a bunting kind of person.  I occasionally use it as a party decoration, but my house is not bedecked in it.  So, after finding out that I was definitely making bunting, I was tempted to stop the project.  But, I knew it was only a commitment of a couple of days to complete the project, so I stuck at it.  I love the design and the little roses in the centres and am quite happy with the finished product (even if I don’t know what to do with it!  My youngest daughter did just wander in the lounge room where is was hung to take the photos and say “Mum, I really like what you’ve done in here with this”, so maybe it can stay for a little while!).  I especially love the big, fat, tassels!

It was exciting also in that it called for Worsted Weight yarn.  Any Australians will know that that equates to about a 10ply here and that it is almost impossible to get your hands on 10ply yarn in Australia (8 or 12py are the usual options).  I had a friend who had recently been on a trip to Canada, and I asked her to pick up some Red Heart Super Saver yarn.  I hear about it all over the internet, but it is not something I can easily get my hands on here.  She managed to squeeze a few balls into her case for me, and it was with great excitement that I was able to use them on this project (the green and the purple)!

So, this is my first foray into the world of bunting.  It is a quick, easy project to do, and I love the fact that the 5 days included total completion.  It really still needs blocking, but I’ll leave it to hang a few days and see how it goes!

Foxy ragdoll!

Naughty people on facebook are always sharing different patterns that they see.  Some I can scroll right past, but many catch my attention and require further investigation.  One of these was the Ragdoll Fox pattern by Spin A Yarn Crochet (https://spinayarncrochet.com/ragdoll-fox-free-crochet-pattern/).  This little fellow looks cute and easy to make, so I decided to give him a go.

He was fairly easy to make up – his parts were all fairly basic.  My only criticism is that my belly patch and eye patches did not turn out at the correct size (they are slightly smaller than they should be), but that may have been due to using a different brand yarn from the rest of the project.

Putting him together was fun!  Most of him was crocheted together, which is what I prefer – it seems to be quicker than sewing.  I also like the “flat” look it gave him on the edges, enhancing the ragdoll effect.  His head, however……oh wow, this was a bit fiddly (and in the designer’s defense, she did say it would be!).  Because I am a bit of a skim reader, I had to unpick a bunch of crocheting and start it again before it was completed, but in the end, it didn’t take too long.  I had visions of having to spend days constructing this critter, and, in reality, it only took a few hours.

And I can already attest to his popularity with kids – my daughters were fighting over who is going to claim him before he was even finished!

Puzzle Balls

Last year, I came across these Puzzle Balls by Dedri Uys from Look At What I Made (http://www.lookatwhatimade.net/crafts/yarn/crochet/free-crochet-patterns/star-ball-crochet-amish-puzzle-ball-pattern/).  I love the idea of a segmented ball that can be pulled apart and put back together as a puzzle and also be played with as a ball.  It would suit a baby and then grow with them as they become more inquisitive about how the world around them works.  I especially love the bright colours of this Star Puzzle ball!  It was joyful to make, but there were so many segments to put together – I wasn’t sure if it would ever end!  The best part about constructing it was that it is all crocheted together – no sewing involved!

I also constructed the Amish Puzzle Ball (http://www.lookatwhatimade.net/crafts/yarn/crochet/free-crochet-patterns/crochet-amish-puzzle-ball/).  This one runs along the same lines as the star ball, but is not made up of quite so many segments!  This one worked up a little quicker than the star ball, and I love the “flower” type effect that you get on the front when it is all put together.

Dedri has also compiled a book of puzzle balls that are animal shapes (https://www.anniescatalog.com/detail.html?code=871428&utm_medium=affiliate&utm_source=cj&source=CJAAFF).  Yes, I have bought the book and yes, I have made one of them.  I gave him as a gift to a friend’s baby and they love him!  Another one has been made but that will remain hush hush as he is to be entered into the Gawler show later this year.  I’ll let you know how I go!