Saturday, 24 May 2014

Mandala for Yarndale

The first ever Yarndale, the yarn-loving fest organised by Lucy of Attic24 fame, was a bit of a mixed bag of emotions for me. On one hand, it was the first time I'd ever spent a weekend devoted to all things crochet, a nice blend of learning and shopping and an opportunity to take in Skipton, a town I felt like I knew from Lucy's expressive writings and photos on her blog.  

And whilst I enjoyed my time at Yarndale (see my write up here and here), it wasn't quite all I had hoped for.  Luckily, we didn't get caught up in the traffic chaos that many others suffered through, but it was still very crowded in the pens, which made it hard to move through the stalls and get to see all that you wanted to see, and I was also a little disappointed by the variety (or lack of) of products.  Whilst Yarndale was honourably focused on promoting small, independent designers, this determination to showcase artisan talents for me meant that all the stalls were very similar; there's only so much variety you can get with handspun yarn or handmade crochet hooks.  I've been to other shows, such as the huge Knitting and Stitching Show, and whilst it is full of corporate offerings which may not be to everyones taste, it means in my opinion that there is a greater variety of products available.  And beings that the London Knitting and Stitching Show is a mere 2 hours journey compared to the 6-hour marathon we undertook to get across the country to Yorkshire, for the time being I've decided to stick with heading South, to give Yarndale a little time to iron out the creases.

All that being said, I'm still in awe of the work that Lucy and the team are undertaking to pull Yarndale together and really feel it will be the event to beat in a few years time.  In the meantime, I thought I would help the mandala effort to show my Yarndale support.  You can get all details about it from Lucy's website and there is a Pinterest Board showcasing all the mandalas sent in so far.  

Here's my contribution:

It doesn't like quite as eye-glaringly bright as this in real life I promise!  It's just left over yarn from my cotton stash and the design from this free pattern from Moogly.  I was a little hesitant at first as mandalas stray dangerously close to the granny square line for me with all the colour changes and chain starts but actually I quite enjoyed making something different for a change.  

I packaged it up in the envelopes I save for special occasions, and Sas and I walked it down to the post office to send the package on its way.  

I'm excited to see what Lucy plans to do with all these mandalas and am sure I'll be glued to everyones blogs for a full photo round-up when September rolls around...

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Spotty Pyjama Make!

After only 9 months of indecision, my bestest friend Leanne Leanne finally settled on the perfect gift for her 30th birthday - a pyjama sewing class!  So yesterday, we headed off under a rather dark sky to Norwich to take a beginners pyjama making class at Make Place, a local craft workshop.  

For the class, we had to take along 2.5metres of cotton and a coordinating ribbon in a suitable pyjama pattern.  This was the first stumbling block; there's so many beautiful fabrics out there, how can you possibly choose just one?!?!  I'm rather taken with the cute little animal patterns out there at the moment, like this one, this one, this one and this one.  I took a trip to our local haberdashery for the first time, admittedly, not with very high hopes compared to what I had found on the internet, but was pleasantly surprised to find a good variety, and lots of modern fabrics too.  Right in the middle of the sizeable display was the perfect fabric for me - multicoloured spots!  As soon as I saw it, I had to have it (I'm so predictable, Leanne had chosen her fabric the day before and had guessed that this might be the one for me).  I also grabbed a couple of fat quarters in some cute little designs and a matching purple ribbon:

The class had just 5 students, 3 making pyjamas and 2 making shorts.  We quickly decided upon the size we wished to make and set to cutting out our material.  After a quick demonstration of how to use their machines (super fancy Juki ones, *swoon*) we overlocked the edges of the pyjama legs.  Whilst this is a quick and efficient way of edging the legs and cutting them neatly, I couldn't help but feel like it was somewhat of a cheat to use the overlocker, and it would have been nice to learn how to edge it using a standard machine instead.  That being said, I did enjoy whooshing my fabric along the overlocker and it looked so professional as it came out the other side!  

We stitched up the long leg seams, ironed them open and then sewed in the hem.  Then  came the tough part, sewing up the crotch.  Although it took a bit of concentration, this went without a hitch and with a bit more seam ironing, we set about making a little channel at the waistband through which to thread the elastic.  I took such care and attention over this step; partly because it's what you can see most easily and partly because I really wanted to practice my nice neat straight stitching.  It worked!  The elastic fitted perfectly, and once the ribbon was sewn on, the pyjamas were complete.

I have to say, I am very proud to show you the first garment I've ever made.  Are you ready...

A perfect fit right?! A good length, elastic gathered equally around the top, I think these could pass as a pair bought from a shop.  Have a closer look:

Why thank you, you're right, it is rather well matched hem for a first attempt at clothing!  Leanne's pjs were just as professional looking: 

After the class, we treated ourselves to a celebratory slice of cake and drink before we headed home, but we both love love loved our sewing class, and when I spoke to her later in the evening, Leanne had already been searching online for a sewing machine to treat herself to.  Converted!  A successful day all round.  I can't wait to practice the skills I've learnt, and the new Tilly Warnes book Love at First Stitch which should be coming through my postbox very soon might just help me to keep it up!

Monday, 5 May 2014

Busy Little Bank Holiday Bee

What a busy little bank holiday weekend I've had this week.  Crafting away, working on a few different projects, and it has been a thoroughly enjoyable four days!

First up, I've been rushing to finish two little softies for a lovely family I have been working with for the past few months.  I diagnosed the little baby boy with a hearing loss when he was just a couple of weeks old, and so have been seeing the family almost weekly for the past 4 months or so.  Over that time, my colleague and I have built up quite a friendship with the mum, and spend lots of time playing with older sister who comes along to every appointment.  Mum is such a nice mum to work with; she even treats us to sweets and cakes the few times we've squeezed her in over our lunch break.  The little man will be heading off to the cochlear implant centre soon, not to be seen by us again, and so I thought it would be nice to repay mum's kindness in the only way I know how; crochet cuddlies.  I made a little blue dinosaur for baby boy a few weeks ago, but, knowing the family had gone on holiday dawdled a bit on making something for big sister.  When mum telephoned last week to arrange the first appointment after their holiday, I knew I needed to get the second toy finished or I might not get it ready before they move on.

Fresh Stitches has been running a crochet dog club for a couple of months now and as soon as this months pattern, a cute little Maltese, came through I knew it would be just right for older sister.  I scrambled around in my yarn stash to find the right aran yarn and got to it. It's a really quick pattern, I don't think it took more than a couple of hours to complete but I'm delighted with how she turned out:

Look at those cute little loop stitch ears!  Don't they just work perfectly?!  I can't wait to give these little gifts when I see the family this week.  It's the best part of making things.

I've of course had several crochet projects on the go all at the same time!  As well as poodling along with the Crochet Club (new patterns out this week - eek!) I made another Fresh Stitches club toy, a felted Chicken and Egg.  When I first opened the box at Easter time, I have to admit I was a bit disappointed.  I'm not keen on those turn inside out type of things as I never think it works too well. But I was wrong.  This worked out rather well, and I'd definitely make one again.  The secret part of this project was the felting.  Once I'd made my pieces I was a little hesitant to chuck them in the washing machine and see how they turned out, but in for a penny, I went ahead and threw them in with some sheets and boiled the heck out of them!  Actually, I rather liked how it ended up a little fuzzy and less defined, the only problem was that the feet and beak got stuck in the drain of the washing machine and so didn't actually felt (or shrink) so they are slightly out of proportion to the rest of the body.  But hey, I guess this gives him character.  

In just a flash the chicken...

is turned inside out to become an egg!

Last of all, it definitely seems to be that time when everyone I know is having babies.  Literally, everyone.  So it's important for me to get cracking on the gifts asap! The first thing I've started is a beautiful little crochet blanket.  I love love love these colours of Rico Baby Classic DK available at The Homemakery.  The picture doesn't really do it justice  the 'orange is actually a lovely watermelon colour, and the green is a beautiful teal.  The yarn is super soft to work with, and not at all splitty.  I'm really enjoying making this blanket whereas often I get bored a tiny bit of the way through (I know we're all collectively thinking of my stripey granny blanket right now).  

Whilst on the subject, have you tried The Homemakery?  It's a lovely website and the delivery is outstanding.  I ordered around lunchtime and the package was with me before 10am the next day (and it was a Saturday, perfect).  It even included a little handwritten card and some adorable 'made with love' ribbon.  I can't praise this website/haberdashery enough.

I've also been trying out some baby bibs from Love Sewing Magazine.  It's a new one just out  in the UK, and despite some initial delivery problems (i.e. it wasn't delivered at all) I was pleased when it finally arrived and I got the chance to read it.  Now here comes the disclaimer, I know pretty much nothing at all about sewing, but to me it's seems like it's a nice modern mag full of the kind of things that I want to be able to make.  It's not totally aimed at beginners (although many of the designs are suitable for beginners) as it assumes some level of knowledge/skill already in sewing.  I decided to practice my straight line sewing by trying my hand at a couple of different baby bibs.  
 I was so impressed with myself as they turned out pretty much like the picture!  Ok, so the bandana bib is just a triangle, but it still looked like a triangle by the time I finished with it so it means I was doing something right!  I just need to work out how to neatly finish up the unstitched part left for turning the work inside out.  I am not well practised in hand sewing, and my last few attempts have been pretty bad.  Luckily, my mother in law is an extraordinary seamstress, and so I am hoping to persuade her to show me how it's done (possibly on both bibs just to be absolutely certain, tee hee).  

Do you see how the spots run right down the middle of the bandana?  The Great British Sewing Bee would be so proud!  Once sewn, I'll need to add on some poppers and they'll be all done.  I think I'll invest in some fancy pants material and make some more now I know it's within my ability to make them and for them not to look completely homemade.  I've got some John Lewis vouchers that I've been saving up for just such a task...

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Beautiful Norfolk

At last the cheerier weather has allowed us to wander around the beautiful countryside that surrounds glorious Norfolk.  We are rather spoilt in Norfolk; within a short drive of my house I have the choice of beautiful sandy beaches, luscious green countryside, the world famous Broads or light-dappled forests, all perfect for a lazy dog walk.

On this occasion, we decided to meet with friends and stroll around Burgh Castle ruins.  Burgh Castle was a Roman Fort built to prevent Saxon attacks to villages along the River Waveney.  Now, three of the four original walls are still standing, and it has beautiful views over the Norfolk marshes.

There is nothing Sas loves more than to join his little pack and head out for a day of adventuring (both human and four-legged pack mates)...

Can you see the beautiful ruins in the background?

The lovely Hugo found it all a bit much at times

The view out across the marshes

A lovely little windmill stands in the distance

Our pack; 2 huskys, 2 beagles and 1 labrador 

Although the weather was still a little gloomy at times, there was breaks of blue, blue sky and even a glimpse of sunshine. I even began to think Summer could be on it's way...

Friday, 11 April 2014

Spring Bunnies Free Pattern Release

I'm so excited that the Spring Bunny pattern is now available to download from Black Sheep Wools.  Designing a toy can be a stressful business; as I send over the pattern and pictures,  I anxiously hover over my inbox, waiting to see if they're happy.  Happy with the toy that I designed, happy that it meets their needs, that what I thought was cute they think is cute and something that their customers want.  It's a strange experience for me, in my day job I'm confident and sure of myself, of my expertise and ability, but designing is a huge leap outside of my comfort zone, opening myself up to public critique, good and bad.  I'm very pleased with how the bunnies turned out, and I hope you think they're as cute as I do!  

What's made the Spring Bunnies even more exciting is that Black Sheep Wools ran an Easter competition in their honour!  Twitter, Facebook and blog followers were asked to think of some adorable names for the bunnies to win everything you need to make them  including yarn, stuffing, safety eyes and crochet hook.  A great Easter present I think!

Good luck to everyone who entered; I'm choosing the competition as I write this post.  Don't forget to tweet, Instagram and email your pictures of the bunnies, I really do love to see them :) 

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Fork Pom Pom Tutorial

Pom pons are a staple part of every crafters toolbox.  They can be used as decorations in their own right or jazzed up a little just like my pom pom flowers.  Pom poms also make the perfect tails for my Spring Bunny pattern, so here's my tutorial on how to make a mini pom pom using simply yarn and a fork!

That's it!  It really is that simple to make a mini pom with just a fork.  Make sure you tie the centre thread nice and tightly to keep all the yarn in place once you cut along the edges then simply stitch the pom pom into place. 

What a little cutie!

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Sneak Peak! Spring Bunny pattern

For the past week or so I have been burrowed away (ha!) working hard to make an idea spring (ha!) to life.  Ok, ok, I'm sorry for that, but it was just too hard to resist; my brain has turned to all things Easter Bunny related following a week desperately trying to bring a rabbit to life in extra quick time :) 

The lovely ladies at Black Sheep Wools have asked if I have had any ideas for new designs a few times now.  Valentines, Mother's Day has come and gone whilst I've found myself disappointingly uninspired.  I was getting a little worried; perhaps I was not cut out to be a designer after all?  I was determined to make something for Easter, but found it very hard to find ideas I wanted to turn into something more.  Scanning through Pinterest and Ravelry only made me more miserable as I realised that it would be hard to come up with anything particularly original.  

I doodled in my little ideas book, a coral (my favourite) coloured leather bound book trying out different possibilities and shapes.  Doodle is an accurate word for what I was doing, drawing has never been my strong point and apparently I am particularly bad at drawing rabbits.  Still nothing.  But then one morning I woke up and had a perfect idea in my head of what I wanted to make, and how I wanted it to look.  I scooped up some cotton to get started on a prototype and crocheted away...

And realised I'd made a cat.  Rubbish. (although on the plus side, free cat pattern coming soon!)  I went straight back to it and by now had received some delicious Sirdar Cotton DK through the post from Black Sheep Wools in a selection of rabbity colours which spurred me to keep on.  I could see a little more clearly how I wanted the bunny to look; big feet and a round body.  It was starting to come together.  

So I worked away each evening to make sure the pattern was ready with just enough time to get crafting for Easter.  I even made a second bunny, partly to test the pattern out and partly to try out a couple of different looks.  I have to admit, the little cream bunny is my favourite, although there's something cute about the brown bunny too.  

Although the pattern isn't up on just yet, I'm sure Black Sheep Wool wouldn't mind if I gave you all a sneaky peak of my bunnies, especially as I'm so proud of them :)

I hope you love them as much as I do.  I'l be sure to let you know as soon as the pattern is available to download.  I also have a photo tutorial coming out just in time to show you how to make a mini pom pom, perfect for a fluffy little rabbit tail.  I'd love to know what you think of the Spring Bunnies.  Have you been crafting for Easter this year too?

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