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!

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!

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!

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!