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!!

 

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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!

Fidget Blanket

I was recemtly commissioned to make a fidget blanket for a lovely gentleman who is suffering from Dementure.  I’ve attempted something similar before but in a much smaller format for a child with Autism to use as a calming/sensory tool while sitting on the mat with the class.  Basically, they have both involved having different textures to feel and things that can be played with to keep minds and fingers busy.  This particualr client went out and bought the “fidgety” things that would be added on, and kept in mind the likes and interests of the recipient when they were choosing what would be added.  They also wanted to keep a Port Adelaide Football Club theme to it, so I chose white, black and teal yarn to construct the blanket.  It’s made using basic granny squares single crocheted together and is big enough to fit comfortably cover the legs and lap of a tall adult.  This will have an added benefit for the recipient in that it will keep them warm in the cooler evenings of the year.  I placed the fidget squares where they would comfortably sit in my lap and be the easiest to reach and use.  It has metal flowers that are textured and raised, an Eiffel Tower, buttons in different shapes and textures, soft tassels, beads on a string that can be manipulated and a stretchy dinosaur (because honestly, who doesn’t love a stretchy dinosaur?).  My children were somewhat disturbed when I was sewing the dinosaur on as he was skewered by the needle to pass the yarn through!!

These are definitely an interesting concept.  From feedback I have received, I know the fidget muff was very helpful to the young child at school, allowing them to participate with the class and to concentrate better on what the teacher was saying.  I can only hope that the blanket will also be very helpful for my latest client and bring some calming when agitation begins.  They are certainly becoming more popular and are a great resource in nursing homes.  I had some discussion with a friend of mine who has worked in this field for many years when I was beginning this project and her suggestions were very helpful.

There are many ideas for these out there on the internet.  My favourite one is a cat, but it is not a crocheted piece.  Perhaps I can see some pattern designing coming up in my future!

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

For those of you that don’t know me personally, you couldn’t yet know how much I love Christmas.  It is my absolute favourite time of the year.  I think it took even my husband by surprise – he’d seen my parent’s home decorated for Christmas, and my sister’s home but when we married and celebrated our first Christmas in our own home, I don’t think he was quite prepared for the onslaught of Christmas cheer!  And having children has only made it worse.  They are old enough now to love decorating and they egg me on to get more decorations each year (I’m proud to be passing this Christmas spirit down to the next generation!).

However, being a face painter means that this time of year is also my busiest time of year, and to survive it all, I have to be super organised and think ahead about everything.  This year, I decided to make a wreath for our home.  My plan was to put it on the front door, but it gets a lot of sun, and I’m worried that it will fade and render all my hard work useless, so it’s final display place is still up for debate.

I got the basic idea and instructions from this Attic 24 post http://attic24.typepad.com/weblog/2012/12/christmas-wreath-ta-dah.html, where she covers a foam wreath and decorates it with Christmas bits and bobs.   I decided to go a little more traditional with my colours, and used the Kringle Sparkle yarn from Spotlight.  I’ve doubled the strands because it is quite a thin yarn (I’ve had this in my cupboard for a year or more and have been told that this year’s batch is a little thicker!).  I’m loving it so far.  It is so beautiful and sparkly and Christmassy!  My plan is to add a Scandanavian Santa Gnome (https://www.1dogwoof.com/scandinavian-santa-gnome-amigurumi/) and some holly etc. once the wreath is finished.  It is getting hard working on just the one project – I’m so tempted to put it aside and start on another (or I should finish another wip!), but I’m determined to finish it THIS Christmas, so that is spurring me on (and putting it out here will also hold me accountable!).

I’m quite excited to see how it will turn out!  It may have to feature in one of our Barbie escapades (we don’t do elf on a shelf – our Barbie dolls come alive during December!).  Are you thinking ahead for Christmas?  I’d love to see some of your Christmas projects (and get more ideas!).  Please share them in the comments, or on my facebook page https://www.facebook.com/thingsnicolemade/.

P.S.  I wasn’t expecting to finish this so quickly, but was so excited I had to add it to my post before it went live! I’ve finished covering the wreath and I’m stoked about how it’s turned out!

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!

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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Dyeing for rainbow yarn!

I recently picked up a copy of  “Stitch Craft Create”magazine.

It included an article on hand dyeing yarn. It’s not something I’ve really considered doing before – I assumed it would involve expensive dyes that were complicated to use.  However, this article declares it can be done using food colouring and that the results are colourfast.  That sounded easy enough, so I decided to give it a try. I spent a little time winding my yarn into a skein and soaking it in preparation for dyeing. I decided to immersion dye it to try and get a rainbow effect. Even if it doesn’t work out, it has been fun watching the colours slowly creep up the side of the bowls and to see that different colours move at different rates (the blue went fastest!).


An hour or so later……

Well, I’m impressed! It didn’t turn out exactly as I had imagined but it certainly worked and the colour stayed fast when rinsing – yay! It’s currently drying on a clothes rack (it’s horrid weather here at the moment!) and I’m keen to try crocheting something up with it!


What would I do differently? Next time, I’d probably mix an orange and green bowl and not just let the creeping colours mix.  I’m definitely planning on playing with this method again. It was easy and fun and great to get a yarn dyed to my personal specifications! Highly recommended!