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!

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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!

Crochet Carry Bag

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I love looking at projects that other people are making – just to admire them but more often than not to be inspired by them.  As a result, I follow a few facebook pages where people share their projects and I now have a list of projects that would take several lifetimes to complete!  One such project I came across was this lovely little bag that can be used either as a market bag or to take your book and sunnies down to the beach for a relaxing day!  I fell in love with it and had to start on it straight away.  The only problem was, the site it comes from is not in English! http://www.etlehti.fi/artikkeli/koti_ruoka/kasityot/virkkaa_et_kesakassi.  I am quite pleased to say that by using google translate and the graphs that come with the pattern, I was able to translate it sufficiently to create it and I was very happy with the result.  I used a cotton yarn (allsorts from Lincraft) so it feels very strong and serviceable.  There are some holes in it, but they’re not too big, so I don’t think you would lose much out of them.  I ended up giving this bag to one of my good friends for Christmas but I loved it so much that I think I am going to need to make another one for myself!!  But in navy this time…….

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Boho Bag

As the last installment of my festival themed posts, I decided to make a bag.  A boho, festival worthy creation that will be both practical and stylish.  In my search for a pattern, I came across one from A Creative Being and I knew I had found my bag! http://www.acreativebeing.com/2013/10/02/free-pattern-squares-bag/.  If you search more on her blog, you can find one she made from Noro yarn, with subtle colour changes in the yarn and it is beautiful!!  I did not have the time to order Noro yarn (it’s frustrating living in a country where you have limited yarn selections in local stores!), but I remembered a beautiful yarn that I had had to purchase a few weeks before.  Yes, you read correctly, I HAD to purchase it – it called to me!  I was visiting my local Lincraft store and came across one of their ends bags.  The yarn was so beautiful, with rich, jewel tones and variegated to boot that I decided to buy it and was sure that one day the right project would come along for it.  That day came sooner than expected!  I started working on the squares and was so happy with the result – squares with slight colour changes!  Exactly what I was after!  The pattern is simple and so easy to follow.  Joining the squares was a little harder, just trying to get my head around where I wanted to place the colours etc., but it came together quickly enough.

The next task was to line the bag.  I chose to line mine in red.  I think the better colour choice would have been grey but I dislike handbags with dark linings – I find it hard to see things in your bag, so it’s hard to get out what you’re looking for.  So I bought red, and that was a learning curve in itself.  I sort of followed the instructions for lining the bag, although I left out the wadding.  In theory, it was quite simple – cut out the lining to fit with a bit extra for seams, sew down the sides and across the bottom, then fold over the top section and stitch it into the bag as you hem it (hopefully that makes sense!).  Because of the jagged v shaped top, I had trouble folding it over and pinning it into the bag at the same time, so I decided to hem the top and then stitch it into the bag.  This was where my learning curve kicked in.  Obviously, it needed to be attached to the bag using grey cotton as red would have stood out too much on the grey yarn.  However, that would have left a grey stitch line inside the red lining which also would not have looked too good!  In the end, I blind hemmed the lining in using grey thread.  it doesn’t show on the crochet and is barely noticeable inside on the red lining.  It’s actually quite a nice finish, very neat and one I will use in the future.  This is only the second bag that I have lined and the first one was quite difficult to sew the lining into the crochet – I broke a sewing machine needle and it wasn’t much fun.  I think hand sewing the linings in will be the way I go in the future!  Much easier!

Finally, with some handles sewn on (purchased on ebay) and some embellishments, it is done and I love it!  I can’t wait to begin using it and showing it off to everyone around!

To block or not to block…..

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Blocking – I hate it!  And I love it!  It makes it take that much longer to finish a project I have been working on but the results are worth the time.  What is blocking you may ask?  It is the process of relaxing the yarn to correct any areas that may have come out of shape during the crocheting process.  I have been crocheting for many years but have only come across this concept in the last year or two and it is revolutionising how my finished pieces look!  There are a number of ways to block a crochet piece (googling it brings up many options) but the way I have settled on doing it is as follows.  I pin the item out in it’s correct shape on a foam camping mat (bought at Aldi but you can also get kids alphabet sets at Kmart that work just as well, they’re just smaller!) and then I spray, spray, spray it with a spray bottle of tap water.  I press down on it to make sure the water has penetrated the piece, then I leave it for a day or two depending on the weather and voila!  Remove the pins and you’re done.  If the piece is really wonky or very large, I would probably put it through the washing machine first and then pin it out to dry.  My husband has bought me a wonderful big blocking table (hang on, I can hear him saying something about it’s meant to be a pool table for him to use!), so I leave my blocked pieces on that to dry.  It’s an ideal surface for me to use because it is high and as I am a tall person, it is easier on my back bending over to pin everything precisely.  You can leave your mats on the floor for the piece to dry but with two children and two cats (who would think it was the perfect place to sleep!), I prefer to keep it up off the floor!

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Once your piece is dry, you WILL notice a difference.  It has a neater, more professional look with crisper edges and corners.  Much as I hate doing it, the end result makes me happy.  Last year, I entered a doily in a local show.  When I was collecting my pieces, a lady actually asked me if I had blocked the doily because she could tell there was a difference.  This was very encouraging because I had put a lot of work into blocking it and didn’t think anyone would appreciate the difference.  It has encouraged me to keep going with it!

 

I have just completed the main section of a bag (keep your eyes open, it will be appearing on the blog soon).  I had the usual talk to myself – “does it need blocking? It’s pretty much in shape, the squares are a little “bubbled out” but I suppose it doesn’t matter because it’s a bag, not clothing, etc”.  However, I decided to bite the bullet and block it and I am so much happier with how it looks now.  I don’t have a before picture, but here it is blocking away nicely!

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So, I thought, here I am rambling on about blocking and the benefits of it and so on, but you really need to be able to see a before and after shot to get a good idea of what blocking will actually do.  And, I have the perfect project to demonstrate it on for you!  I have been busily working on the Neave Collection Blanket https://www.facebook.com/groups/621056114767998/?ref=bookmarks.  The centre square begins with a series of front and back post stitches and then evens out into a lot of half double crochets and single crochets.  Due to the front and back posts, it tends to buckle.  Although it has flattened out a little as I’ve gone on, it is still pretty wavy.  I have been holding my breath because a lot of people have had the same problem, and it has been corrected with a block.  So, I am up to the part of the pattern where it is suggested that I block the piece, so block it I have and it has made a huge difference.It’s not perfect by any means but it sits flat now and gives me hope that as I continue to crochet around it, it will correct itself even more.  I am so excited to finish it and gift it to my friend!

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Neave blanket centre square unblocked…..                                                         
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…blocking…..

 

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…all finished!

 

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I can even fold it up nicely now!

So, now you have read about the benefits of blocking, go and give it a try.  You can buy all sorts of fancy wooden blocking boards (I’d love to get some one day!) and pins, you can make your own wooden ones, or you can use foam boards like me but I guarantee you, it will make a huge difference to the finished presentation of your crochet!

Crochet Frenzy

We have just a few days to go before school holidays come to South Australia and I can’t wait!  It’s been a crazy term in our household – with a visit from my best friend who lives overseas, both kids starting netball, youngest child quitting netball, entering my crochet in two different shows and the normal chaos of running a home – and we’re all a little tired!  As a result, I’m finding myself a little frenetic with my crochet. Despite the numerous wip’s I already have on the go, I keep starting new ones every few days!  Whether it be due to the chaos of our lives or the focus I had to put into my show entries, I don’t know….

Anyhoo, it’s keeping me busy, and one day I’m sure I’ll finish them.  Most of them.  Maybe.

Which leads me to the point of this post.  For the last six weeks or so, I’ve been watching the evolution of the Peacock Tail Bag CAL by LillaBjorn’s Crochet World. To be honest, when I first saw it, I was just finishing up my show entries and I wasn’t a fan of the colours it was made in (don’t get me wrong, they’re lovely but not the kind of colours I wear), and it just looked too detailed for my fried brain to deal with.  However, as its progressed and I’ve moved from project to project and got my Crojo back, I’ve been starting to get an inkling to try it! Added to that, I’ve been seeing some colour combos being made that are more to my tastes and I could resist no longer!

So, I’ve bought my supplies and am ready to begin! It’s nice to be starting something smaller and more manageable that I (might) have a chance of finishing!  It’s also a much more portable project to drag to school swimming lessons next week!


Should you wish to join me in this CAL, the link can be found here http://www.lillabjorncrochet.com/2016/08/peacock-tail-bag-cal-general-information.html and I’d love to hear and see how you go with it!

Handbag Hassles!

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I am a fan of colour!  I just love brightly coloured things, so I have decided to make myself a handbag that is not like anything that can be store bought and is a unique piece just for me!  I’ve decided to use cotton yarn to make it so it’s not so stretchy and is a bit more hard wearing than acrylic yarn.  I made the bag, adapting the ropey basket pattern by The Little Bee http://thelittlebee.co.nz/blog/2015/10/ropey-rainbows/.  I don’t hate how it turned out, but I’m not in love with it either.  I think the main problem is that it is too big.  At the time I was designing it, I was thinking about all I should put in it to carry around and I have since decided that carrying a lot of stuff around is not comfortable, so, stay tuned.  While I’m busy working on other projects, the back of my mind is still mulling over how to make this bag something I love!!  i have also started crocheting some flowers out of the same cotton (flinders cotton from Spotlight) to adorn this bag (when it finally meets my exacting standards) and make it fabulous!!

Moire Shoulder Bag CAL

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My love affair with Crochet-A-Longs continues!  Early in January, I came across this lovely CAL being hosted by Charmed By Ewe http://charmedbyewe.com/free-moire-shoulder-bag-crochet-pattern/.  After working continuously on the one blanket project for some time to get it made in time for Christmas, I felt it was the perfect time to make something smaller, quicker and just for me! So I scrounged up some yarn and waited for it to begin.  I loved it!  So much so that I made a second bag! (And I can see myself making more in the future!).  I especially loved the houndstooth pattern.  It’s the first time I have ever tried this stitch and I love the effect that such a simple stitch produces! Now my mind is buzzing as to which of my family members might like one for Christmas!!