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!

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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!

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!

Polynesian Delight Necklace

Hello – it’s been awhile!  I must apologise for dropping off of the face of the earth for the last few weeks.  We had an awful run of illness in our home, which finally got me, and I just had to stop and let myself heal.  I’m hoping that the warmer weather will bring better health for us all!

I have not, however, been quiet on the crochet front.  Stopping meant lots of time to just sit and crochet, and I have been working on numerous projects that I will share with you all in the coming months!

Today though, I thought I’d share a free pattern with you all to say thanks for you patience while I was out of commission.  It is a necklace that I have designed that was inspired by Polynesian island decoration.  If I’m being honest, it hasn’t worked out as I had hoped.  The beads are quite heavy and pull it into a rectangular shape when it is on, but I’d hope that using different, lighter beads might help it sit better.

So, without further ado, here is the pattern!

Beaded Polynesian Necklace

Materials:

3 beads of choice (choose ones with fairly large holes)

Crochet thread

2.5mm hook

Clasps for necklace

Stitches used:

ch – chain

sc – single crochet

hdc – half double crochet

ss – slip stitch

 

  1.  Chain desired length of necklace (err on the long side, it can be shortened later).
  2. *sc, hdc, sc, ss* – repeat pattern into chains until you reach the desired position for the first bead.
  3. Thread the first bead on to the chain and move it up so it is tight against your last stitch.  Chain a length that will wrap the bead tightly from hole to hole.  Ss in closest ch on original length to hold the bead in place.  Ch1, turn.
  4. Work sc around the chain length around the bead (Please note:-  although you made it tight, it will end up with some give – that’s normal).  You need to end up with a multiple of 4sc – each group of 4 will create a “picot”.  Also, from an aesthetic point of view, odd groupings are more pleasing to the eye, so I would do a minimum of 12sc (3 groups of 4).
  5. Ch1, turn.  *sc, hdc, ch 5, ss into beginning ch (picot formed), sc, ss*  repeat for the number of groupings you have, taking you back to the original ch length.
  6. *sc, hdc, sc, ss* along the original ch to where you wish to place the second bead.
  7. Repeat steps 3-6 for the second bead.
  8. Repeat steps 3-5 for the third bead, remembering to make the same number of scallops on the original ch length in between beads.
  9. Returning to the original ch length, *sc, hdc, sc, ss* to the end of your necklace, being sure to match the number of scallops to your beginning number of scallops.  Finish off
  10. Block if neccessary.
  11. Add clasps.
  12. Enjoy.

I hope you like this beautiful necklace and that it becomes a unique fashion accessory to accent your wardrobe!

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!

Doing the Impossible

I believe I have said once or twice that I am not a patient person.  Most things I make are small and easily finished in a fairly short period of time.  I have made some clothes for small people, but was NEVER going to attempt to make a piece of clothing for an adult.  That would take way too much time, making it take years before I finished it.  That was until I married my husband…..and started buying his clothes…..and learned how fussy he is about jumpers.  I will agree with him that unless you want to pay serious money for a jumper, the ones readily available in store are not particularly thick or warm, and as someone who has to do a substantial amount of walking to get to work, he needs something warm for those cold Winter morning and evenings.  So, I set about making him a jumper.  I bought some thick yarn, so it would make up as quickly as possible and I started knitting (yes, I knit too!).  I am forever grateful that he is a slim man, so I usually have to make one of the smaller sizes on the patterns and that helps a bunch!  The result was this jumper (I didn’t get a photo when it was first made, so it’s a little loved here!).  He was thrilled, and (more importantly) warm.  He got lots of comments on this jumper, and it gave me the confidence to make another one.  Once again, thick yarn, but this time, I chose a more complicated pattern, and attempted to knit cables for the first time.  I love this jumper.  It would have to be one of my favourites that I have made him.  It didn’t go without a hitch.  I made up the whole of the front and back and tried it on him and it was WAY TOO BIG.  With tears in my eyes, I went through every way in my head that I could possibly make it smaller.  The answer in the end was to rip it all out and start again.  It was hard, but I’m so glad I did it!  The end result is much, much better than it would have been if I had altered it somehow!  This one is actually starting to come apart on the neck and cuffs, so I am going to have to learn how to recuff it! (I’m actually excited to learn a new skill!).  After knitting two jumpers, I had the thought that crocheting one would be a lot quicker, so I set about doing that.  The pattern called for a thicker yarn than I could get my hands on, so I bought dk yarn and just made it with a double strand.  This jumper is VERY warm.  A little too warm.  It’s not my favourite in that it is just so big and bulky but he still wears it with pride (he’s a rare gem!).  This year, jumper 1 and 3 were out of the picture for wearing to work (too worn and too warm), which left him with one jumper.  So, I decided it was time to make another.  I found a pattern I loved for a crochet jumper, I ordered the yarn from Ice Yarns in Turkey.  The yarn was super cheap, the postage was super expensive but it all equalled out to a normal cost in the end and was here in 4 days, which still has me staggered when things coming to me from another state in Australia can take longer than two weeks!  Anyway, I made the front and back without too much trouble but when it came to the sleeves, I could see that they were going to be really baggy and awful (I can never get my tension quite right!).  So it went in the naughty corner for awhile.  My biggest problem was that my husband was always wearing the jumper that I needed to use to compare it to!  I finally took an outline of the sleeves so I could work on it without the jumper and decided to just try and fudge it so it was the same size!  A couple of weeks ago, I told him that I would need his blue jumper on a weekday to take to the knitting and crochet group that I go to so I could get some assistance with the repairs.  His reply was that it was the only jumper he had to wear, it’s cold and I couldn’t have it!  I felt that now was a good time to finish the other jumper.  I figured out the sleeves and was happy with them, sewed it all together and tried it on him.  Unfortunately, the neckline was going to be way too low.  I looked at it and had the thought “I wonder if this stitch is forgiving enough that I could just join the yarn in and fill the hole in a little?”.  I figured it was better to try that than to start all over again, so I did.  I’m thrilled at how it has worked out and (to be honest) that I was clever enough to do it.  If I point it out, you can see a slight difference, but on the whole it is not noticeable and it means the jumper is finished now and not back at the start again!  So, my next challenge is to find a nice pattern for the yarn I bought to make another jumper for him at the Bendigo Woollen Mills.  And then to really challenge myself – I want to design a cardigan for myself from the ground up!  I’ll let you know how that goes!