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.

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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!

Princess Present

I’m excited to share with you the first of my Christmas presents!  My sister is a fan of Belle from Beauty and the Beast (this made things easier as I was a Little Mermaid fan, so there was no fighting!).  I came across these Princess Dress Blankets (https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/princess-dress-blanket-yellow) and I wanted to make one for her for Christmas.  As the yarn used is #4 weight, which is virtually impossible to get here, it took awhile to gather my supplies, but, finally, with the help of one of my American friends, I was able to get a contrasting gold that actually looked nice with the lemon and I was ready to begin.  It still took a little while before I could bring myself to start it – it seemed like a fairly big project, thus time-consuming and I just didn’t have the heart for it.  It eventually got to the point that if I didn’t get it started, I wasn’t going to get it finished for Christmas, so it was begun.  I started it numerous times, trying to get the sizing right and the colour placement.  I decided that I wanted to switch the colours up a bit from the original pattern so it was a more accurate match to the film.  Once I had all that figured out, the bodice worked up really quickly and I was encouraged that this project may not be as time-consuming as I had feared.  Then, I started the bodice.  Although the pattern repeats to a certain degree, it was not one that was a smooth repeat that got stuck in my head and I could power on with.  It was a fairly slow and laborious design that required a lot of concentration (a lot of frogging was involved!).  There is a mistake in there somewhere.  I can see it and, although it bothers me, I didn’t have the heart to frog back to it and fix it.  My sister is not a crocheter, so I know it isn’t going to bother her!  I read once in a book that mistakes make a piece unique – slightly different from all the others that people have made.  I’m going with that, and mine is unique!  Anyway, I finally finished it (the weather was warming up and I was glad to have it finished so I could concentrate on smaller things that were cooler to work on!) and I’m quite happy with the end result.  My sister was pleased with her present – she’s just going to have to wait awhile before she can use it (the weather here has been in the high 30 – 40 degrees Celsius for the last week and there’s not much relief in sight!).  P.S. the lady in the photo is not my sister!  She is a friend who was gracious enough to be a model for me!

Butterflies in my garden!

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After completing last year’s projects, I had one of those “I just don’t know what to do” slumps in my crochet.  I wandered around aimlessly looking at my yarn but not coming up with anything interesting to make that really inspired me.  Thankfully, that slump has passed!  I’ve already completed a few smaller projects that I am really looking forward to sharing with you – along with my Christmas projects.  I’m off to a successful start for the year!

In amongst all that I have a friend whose daughter had her birthday on the weekend.  It was early in the week when I had the thought that I had forgotten to buy a present.  This friend is one of those rare people who TRULY appreciates hand-made items, so I thought that I might make something for her.  The next question was what.  I didn’t have much time before the party, so it needed to be quick but also effective and interesting.  And then I remembered that I had seen these little critters by Lalylala (http://www.lalylala.com/).  I am not a butterfly lover (I hear you gasping – it’s a childhood trauma thing!) but I have always loved the electric blue of Ulysses butterflies, so I settled on this one.

It was so much fun to make.  It made up really quickly (so you felt you were getting somewhere) and the instructions were fairly easy to follow.  The only part I struggled a little on was the edging of the wings (and that was down to my left-handedness) otherwise, it made up just as the pattern said!

The part I love about it is that the hat and the wings come off, so you  can have a caterpillar that transforms into a butterfly (there is a pattern for a cocoon but I didn’t have time to make that as well!).

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It’s such a sweet little thing and I’d definitely recommend her patterns!  I also gave the wings a quick blocking, and I had to include this picture because it looked like a museum specimen laid out!

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New year, new product review!

Hi! I hope you all had a lovely Christmas and that the new year has started well for you. I made my husband a knitted jumper for Christmas and this has rekindled my love of knitting. It has also given me a chance to try out a new brand of needles. In Australia, and particularly where I am, there are not a lot of choices of places to buy knitting needles. We have the big craft chain stores of Spotlight and Lincraft and a few small independent yarn stores but none of these are very convenient to my home. The chain store needles are generally fine and have been what I’ve used for all of my knitting life but being connected to the world by the internet has shown me that there are other options out there and I’ve wondered if they might be better.

I needed a circular needle to complete my husband’s jumper and was heading in to the adelaide cbd so I decided to pop into The Button Bar (one of the little independents around). As it’s name suggests, they mainly sells buttons, but they also carry a small amount of yarn and some crochet and knitting tools not found elsewhere. I picked up a Knit Pro Zing circular needle. The price was ok and it was colourful (which is always a plus for me!). I brought it home and started using it and was instantly sold. They are so smooth and easy to use. They don’t snag on your yarn at all (I was using 100% wool) and are such a pleasure to use!

Once I had finished my Christmas present crafting, I was finally able to get on to those projects that had been calling me but had had to wait. One was knitting socks. I’ve long wanted to try it and finally got around to buying some sock yarn whilst we were in Melbourne. Unfortunately, I did not have small enough double pointed needles. At the time, I wasn’t going near the cbd and was keen to give it a try, so I bought some dpn’s from a chain store. I wasn’t confident when I got them out of the packet – they looked very “production lineish” and quite sharp where they had been cut as they went through the machine but I gave them a shot anyway. They didn’t catch on the yarn too much but they hurt my fingers – a lot! I knew I couldn’t continue with them, so the next time I headed into the cbd, I visited the Button Bar again! A set of Knit Pro Zing dpn’s has joined my knitting needle family! The best part about these dpn’s is that there are 5 in the packet, so I can work the sock exactly like the pattern calls for (which is great considering I don’t really know what I’m doing). And, they don’t hurt. The ends are slightly rounded and much more gentle on my delicate fingertips. Just like the circular, they are smooth and the yarn just glides around them. My sock isn’t finished yet, but it’s coming along very fast. I can’t recommend this brand enough! It’s so much fun trying something new and very gratifying when it is successful!

Scrub-a-dub-dub

Firstly, I think I need to let you know the results of my market entries.  Sadly, I had zero success.  I was trying to prepare myself for the fact that that could happen, but I think I was secretly hoping I’d sell at least one thing!  Anyway, I’ve tried it and have a better idea of what to do next time.  I was also told that not a lot of things sold – many people were looking but not buying, so it may have just been in the wrong market for the time.  But, failure teaches us things and I’ll be better equipped in the future!

Earlier this year, I wrote about my experiments with reusable dishcloths.  I’m still using them and still loving them.  My only problem was that I still needed to buy non-scratch scourers for cleaning my pots and pans.  I had been seeing “scrubby” yarn online for a while and this yarn seemed to be used to make just such a product, the only problem was it was very expensive – especially when you added in the shipping charge to Australia.  However, Lincraft finally started stocking their version of this yarn.  I bought some and made up a quick little flower dishcloth scrubby.  I haven’t photographed it, but it is probably the size of my palm.  It is not quite as effective as a store bought scourer, but it does do the job with just a little bit of elbow grease – and the benefit is that it is washable and reusable! So, when I’m scrubbing away and feeling a bit grumpy that I’m having to scrub so hard, I just remind myself of the environmental benefits of what I am using and my patience is restored!

I do also think that a bigger scrubby might be a little easier to handle.  I knitted up a Santa belly one for Christmas and will have to give it a go to see if the larger size is easier to use and if the knitted weave is better or worse that the crocheted one.

A lot of what we do as crafters and just in life is experimentation – trying different methods until we find the one that works just right for our own needs.  And when it involves crochet or knitting, I’m happy to experiment away as much as I can!!

 

To market, to market…..

When I sit back and think of all that I have done this year, I really have moved myself out of my comfort zone and tried a lot of new things!  This weekend, I’ve added another thing to that list.  I’ve put some of my work into a market.  I attend a couple of crochet/knitting groups, which I really enjoy.  One of them has an annual Christmas market at the same venue and our group was offered a stall at this year’s market.  I missed a number of weeks in the middle of the year with our trip to Melbourne and illness, so I didn’t really understand what was going on and had decided to just give it a miss this year and see how things go next year.  However, a couple of weeks ago, our leader asked if I was going to put something in and I thought “why not have a go and see what I can get made up in a week and ready to sell?”.  I remembered that I had a few face washers, dishcloths etc that I had made and stashed away for a rainy day, so I have a nice little group of different things to put into the market.

I took it into the group this week (as I was working, I wasn’t actually able to attend the market myself and they have been kind enough to sell it without my presence!) and had some assistance with pricing – not having put anything in a market before I really have little idea of what will sell, what price points work etc.  I’m looking forward to finding out how I did and if any of my items sold or not.

I ended up putting in some dishcloths, coasters, face washers, make up removal pads, dish scrubbies, a lovey doll and my bunting that I made earlier in the year.  I think it’s quite an ecclectic mix and it will be interesting to see what sort of items sold.  I’m also keen to compare what the other ladies put in and their success with those items (we all crochet very different things!).  I love how all of our different experiences in life teach us different things and help to shape what we do in the future!

The Santa Gnome

I’m discovering that it is difficult to run a blog about my crochet exploits around this time of year!  I’m busy working on teacher gifts and gifts for my family but none of them are completely finished and ready to be shared.  Life is also ramping up in it’s busyness.  I’m face painting more, leaving less free time in my week and there are even days when *gasp* I barely get to pick up my crochet hook at all (thankfully not too many of those – phew!).  However, I am plodding away on things – and lots of these gifts I won’t be able to share with you until after Christmas has passed as those recipients read this blog!

Today though, I thought I might share with you my Scandanavian Santa Gnome (https://www.1dogwoof.com/scandinavian-santa-gnome-amigurumi/).  He’s finished and I love him!  He is the perfect size to sit in my wreath, but he is weighted down with poly pellets and the jury is still out as to whether he will be too heavy and put too much pressure on the delicate foam and crochet wreath.

Once again, ChiWei has written a fabulous pattern, that was easy to follow and made making all the little bits a pleasure – until I got to the beard.  Oh my, how I hated that beard.  I thought it wouldn’t take too long, but splitting all of those pieces of yarn took F O R E V E R!  However, I am thrilled with the finished product and wouldn’t change a thing!

Christmas is fast approaching, and we are well on the way to being in the swing of things.  We’ve started listening to Christmas music, and our plans are to put the Christmas decorations up next weekend, so we are looking forward to that (especially my girls – it’s gonna be fun!) and our Santa Gnome will finally find his place in our home for the yule season!