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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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!

The luck of the Irish

Well, my luck this week was a nasty head cold, so my post is somewhat late and now out of date!  Anyways, I’m feeling better and that’s the main thing.  As I’m sure you are all aware, Friday just gone was St. Patrick’s Day.  This is not something that I particularly celebrate, but even over here in Australia, it’s a fairly big thing and you can’t help but notice it’s happening!  So, for St. Patrick’s Day, I decided to dip my hand back into my Tunisian CAL http://www.petalstopicots.com/2017/03/tunisian-crochet-monthly-dishcloth-crochet-along-march/.  *Please note: – I have made one more attempt at Tunisian Crochet since my Valentine’s Day post, so this one is actually my third try!  I am so much happier with how this turned out!  I didn’t worry about which way I wound my yarn around the hook and just did it like I have for the last twenty years and it is so much more even.  I’m still not thrilled with the finish on the right hand side but that is something to be worked on in the next one!  This has certainly helped to shore up my never be defeated attitude.  As I crochet left handed, I didn’t follow the authors instructions on how to do Tunisian crochet on the first cloth.  I did a google search and followed some more specific left handed tutorials.  Although I achieved the result I was after, it seemed a very awkward way to execute the stitches.   This time, as I had already had a go and had a fair idea of what it should look like etc., I was able to go back to the author’s instructions on how to do Tunisian crochet and they made a lot more sense and were a lot easier to follow and so much less awkward to execute!  I do believe I am progressing well on this journey and look forward to seeing what is improved upon in my next dishcloth!

This is a comparison shot of my first Tunisian dishcloth and the one I have just completed.  I did use a different sized hook, which is why there is a discrepancy between the actual finished sizes but the difference in the neatness of the stitches and even in the definition of the reverse stitches on the motifs is quite noticeable!

And, in an offside, I did manage to drag myself out over the weekend and visit the Garden of Unearthly Delights as part of the Adelaide Fringe Festival.  It was certainly amazing with all the colour and lights and so many different little shows that were on offer.  We dropped in to a magic show with our children, which we thoroughly enjoyed.  And, as is suitable, I wore my newly made festival worthy necklace!

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!

Being raw…

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I’m baring my crochet soul a little today.  Normally, when sharing my projects, I want them to look beautiful, well finished and professional.  Today’s doesn’t.  I have been wanting to learn Tunisian Crochet for awhile.  It’s something that I’ve seen pop up from time to time and thought I should have a go at, but until now I haven’t.  Then, in January when I discovered the Petals to Picot Tunisian Dishcloth CAL http://www.petalstopicots.com/2016/12/tunisian-dishcloth-crochet-along/, I knew my decision had been made!  Not only are they going to be small, manageable projects, but I have a bunch of cotton I bought on special that would be perfect.  So, in January, I ordered some Tunisian Crochet hooks, which are the most interesting looking things – a knitting needle with a crochet hook on the end instead of a point!  I haven’t had a chance to try the January cloth yet (I’ve had a few custom orders that required my attention) but, seeing as how this week was Valentine’s, I thought I’d stick with the theme and skip to February’s cloth.  It was a bit harder than I was expecting really.  I can knit as well as crochet, so I thought that would put me in good stead.  It did help, there’s no doubt about that, but it did still take a number of tries before I felt that I really understood the process.  It was also complicated by discovering that I wrap my yarn around the hook “backwards” when I crochet, so I was trying to change my way of doing that and it actually makes a difference in how the stitches look!  I didn’t get along too well with the tunisian hook either. It’s going to take some time to get used to the length of it and how to balance it in my hand.  I usually use clover amour hooks, which slide through the yarn so smoothly and my new hooks aren’t quite as smooth.  I ended up using a normal metal hook with a hair tie wrapped around the end to stop the stitches falling off!  However, it was a great learning experience.  The cloth looks like it has a heart on it and, now that it’s blocked, it sits quite flat and nicely.  I am not giving up – I will conquer this new technique and get it looking nicer – it’s just going to take more practise.  And thankfully, this CAL has 12 different cloths to practise with!  So, the moral of the story it – don’t give up.  Try new things and keep trying until you get the concept.  It will be worth it in the end!

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White Cosmos

My first piece of the Fridas’ Flowers CAL (http://www.stylecraft-yarns.co.uk/Frida%27s+Flowers/0_CAFA122_CAFA135_CAFA139.htm) is complete! The tension still isn’t perfect but I’m going to forge ahead and see how it goes.  I love the colours in this square. The background is Stylecraft Special dk – plum.  The photo doesn’t do the rich colour justice.  However, unblocked and all, I’m quite happy with how it turned out. Now, onto block number two…….!

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!

Mandala madness part 2

   
 Well, week 2 of the Mandala Madness cal is done! This has already been a fun yet challenging project! As I said in my last post, I love cal’s for the sense of community they bring but I also love them for challenging my skills and teaching me new stitches (we grow by trying new things!). This has done both so far. This second part looks deceptively simple but there was much frogging involved to get it right! I wonder what challenges the next installment might bring…….