Sunday, 29 September 2013

Yarndale 2013 part I

So this weekend was THE weekend.  The weekend I'd been waiting what felt like forever for.  On Friday lunchtime I packed up my suitcase, filled my project bag and said good bye to Squitchy to make the 220 mile trip from Great Yarmouth to Skipton with my buddy A Bunch of Buttons.  To say it was a long journey would be an understatement.  Six and a half hours travelling through what became commuter traffic tested my concentration, temper and at times my nerve but we were both very excited when we finally saw this sign...
Anna's action shot from the car window
Anna had arranged the accommodation for the trip in the neighbouring village of Kelbrook.  We stayed in the very luxurious Craven Heifer Inn, a modern country inn with beautiful decor and a fantastic restaurant to match.  I felt very spoilt to stay in such a lovely place when I had originally suggested a Travelodge! We had a huge tasty meal in the restaurant below when we arrived (the place was crammed full of locals - always a good sign in my book!) and a hearty Yorkshire breakfast in the morning to prepare us for the busy day ahead.  

Yarndale was held at Skipton Auction Mart which is more used to wooly sheep than wooly skeins!  It was a great choice for the venue; it gave that real rural agricultural feel to the proceedings.  As promised, the yarnbombing appeared as soon as we got out of the car.  The 6000 or so bunting which had been sent in from across the world was everywhere...

Not to mention hanging decorations in many of the trees (I really love the knitting needles through the yarn balls below)...
And even the nearby park had had the Yarndale treatment with lampposts, fences and trees all brightly decorated in yarn...
My particular favourites appeared when you reached the picturesque canal at the end of the park.  Lucy of Attic24, one of the main organisers of the event had given little teasers in the weeks leading up to Yarndale that there could be a water theme to some of the yarnbombing and she didn't disappoint.  

Skipton canal
These little guys were so cute! 
Not to mention this little sweetie!
We arrived at the Auction Mart at 9:30 for a 10am start and already the queue was building, so we took  up our place (number 11 and 12 - that's commitment!) and waited in anticipation for the doors to open.  The queue grew so quickly, especially once the special London-style red Yarndale bus appeared from the train station.  Apparently there was issues with getting to, parking at and getting into the venue later that day, but everything was very straightforward for us. 

Finally, the doors opened, and Yarndale had begun...

Come back on Wednesday to find out what Yarndale held in store in Yarndale part II!

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Things to be excited about...

There are so many things for me to be excited about at the moment...

1).  Weekend away

I'm sooooo excited to be having some time away this very weekend.  Me, my good friend A Bunch of Buttons and my tiny car are heading up to Yorkshire from Friday to Sunday.  For me, it's nice to have a little break from the worries of work and life, but for Anna, it's even bigger news. This will be the first time she will be away from her Little Lady since she was born.  Exciting but scary, I'm sure.  We have booked a lovely quaint little inn where the food is supposedly excellent and I'm looking forward to the chance to have a little relax and lots of uninterrupted crochet time!

The real purpose of our trip however is not merely the chance to get away. Oh no, it's for something much bigger...

2).  Yarndale!  Yarndale!  Yarndale!

Yep, Yarndale is finally here!  When we booked it, it seemed like an age away and the time passed dreadfully slowly.  In the last few weeks however it's crept up on me and suddenly it's here!  I can't tell you how much I am looking forward to this event.  The Yarndale team have been dropping hints and teasers of what's to come on Twitter, and now there's a Facebook exhibitors group so that you can see the amazing goodies that will be waiting there.  I've already got a shopping list forming, and it's growing everytime I check my Facebook account!

I'm also eager to see Skipton yarnbombed top to toe.  The rumour is that from the station to the Auction Mart is completely decorated in yarn and everything in between.  It's definitely going to be something to see :)  I'll be sure to get some pictures so you can admire it too.  

3).  Kit Club arrival
I'm sure by now you've realised that Fresh Stitches is one of my favourite crochet designers.  Earlier this year, or possibly even last year (time moves so fast!) Fresh Stitches organised a 'Kit Club' where a mystery package of crochety goodness was sent out every 2 months for 6 months, each complete with everything you need to make a new cutey animal, and a special gift/technique to use in the kit.  

This kit club is just the same; a new package is sent every 2 months, and each has something special included to take your crochet skills to the next level.  The first kit is en route to me right now!  It's got a long old journey though from America, so I'm not expecting to receive mine anytime soon.  That doesn't stop me checking the post everyday mind...

4).  Janie Crow crochet blanket club 2014
Another club!  I guess I'm a sucker for a good crochet mystery.  I've signed up for the 2014 crochet club which starts in February.  The Crochet Club has been held every year since 2011, each with a different theme including art deco, victorian lace and persian mosaic.  This year the theme is 60s and 70s retro flower and geometric patterns and the colours are right up my street.  The kit includes all the Rowan yarn you need to complete the blanket and the online support to do it well.  Now just to tackle the payments...

5).  Movement to the dark side...
Quite possibly the most exciting news of the week is that lovely Leanne Leanne is moving to the dark side.  She's starting to feel the crochet love and becoming a happy hooker!  I gave her her first proper lesson on Friday.  She had been working on sample squares of different stitches and I was helping with crocheting in the spiral, with increases and decreases.  I thought a good place to start was a caterpillar, as it's made up of 6 repeated balls.  I made the eyes, all ready to be attached, and when I left, she had already made one of the balls. 

Later that day, I got this!

I'm massively impressed!  For a first attempt at amigurumi, this is incredibly neatly stitched and perfectly round; so much better than my early work.  I can't wait to see the finished result!

What are you looking forward to over the next few weeks, crafty or otherwise?

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Cute Handmade Gifts

I love to use my crochet skills for good.  And the best good is giving cute, handmade gifts.  It's not without anxiety though.  After spending hours getting your blanket, scarf or toy exactly so, packing it up ready to give to the lucky recipient, a doubt creeps across your mind.  What if they notice that the eyes aren't perfectly level or that you missed that stitch on row 34?  Or worse, what if they just don't like it?

The more gifts you give however, the better it feels.  People are generally so pleased that you took the time and effort to handmake a gift for them, that they don't notice the slight mistake that is all you can see.  Besides, as with most things, you are your own worst critic.  I bet if you actually asked someone to point out the mistakes, they wouldn't even be able to find them.

Over time I have given a fair few handmade gifts to people.  Dolls, blankets, scarfs, baskets and toys.  I think a good measure for me is that if I really don't want to give it away, it must be pretty good.  This super cute, stripey giraffe is just such a toy.    He's quite possibly one of the best things I've made.  I love the colourful stripes...

I love his cute little face...
I added a little giraffey tail for him; all self-respecting giraffes need a fluffy tail...
I'm really happy with how he turned out.

I made him from this pattern, I Love Buttons by Emma.  It's a pretty popular one, lots of these giraffes floating around Ravelry, but that's probably because it's a nice easy pattern to follow and gives you the cutest baby gift.  I didn't follow the colour scheme suggested in the pattern exactly, so I spent some some time beforehand working out how many colours would work for the number of rows, as I wanted the stripes to match up on the legs, arms and body.  I also made a few other adjustments; I shortened the length of his horns (fact of the day, apparently these are really called 'ossicones') as they seemed a bit too long to me.  I added a little fluffy tail, and I extended the length of his legs so he looked like a proper giraffe.  

I always have a dilemma over safety eyes; they look loads better than stitched eyes and officially they are 'safety eyes' so should do what they're supposed to, but I always feel I need to mention that the eyes shouldn't be swallowed, just in case.  I packed the giraffe up with some floral (Cath Kidson inspired) dribble bibs and some dog treats for Tic Tac and sent them off to my friend, hoping they would bring her new little family some enjoyment in her home town up North.

It was also my bestest buddy's 30th birthday recently.  She too has the crafting bug (although she is a dirty knitter, but I'm trying to get her over to the dark side!)  and asked if we could go to a craft class together for her birthday.  My answer was of course yes!  That sounds like a win-win situation to me; a birthday present that I get to enjoy as well!

So that she had a little something silly as a present on the day, I made her a slice of birthday cake, crochet of course.  Stupidly, I used two different types of cotton, one slightly thinner than the other I eventually realised) and so the slice was a little squiffy.  Not my bestest work, but I was on a time budget and I was working on 'it's the thought that counts' kind of vibe.  

Here it is...
The pattern was from Ravelry by Charlotte W and it looked pretty sweet once I'd finished with it.  In return I got two slices of Percy Pig actual birthday cake, so I think I did pretty well.  I can't wait for Leanne Leanne to choose what class we're going to so we can plan our girls day out to Norwich; I'm thinking lunch, craft class and a little shopping.  Perfect.

Have you made any handmade presents for anyone?  How did they turn out?

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Needle Felt Hanging Decoration Tutorial

One of my favourite things in my craft room is my hanging needle felted decoration.  Not because it's particularly fancy, or something really difficult to make, but because it's bright and colourful and evidence of another new skill I've learnt since I turned my hand to crafting.  So I thought it would be nice if I pass this skill on to you all too.

Now, don't get me wrong, by no means am I pretending to be some professional needle felter.  I've been to a class, read a couple of books and seen a few videos online.  At best, I only have the basics sorted,  but I think it's the kind of thing that's really enjoyable to do, and I hope you will enjoy it too. 

Edit: Apologies to everyone looking on a smart phone or tablet, it looks like the video won't work on these devices, but it's worth getting your PC out to take a proper look!

Sunday, 8 September 2013

A fitting tribute with the #sheepishbloomdrop

Reality TV teaches us that nowadays everyone has a sob story.  There's been some hardship, a traumatic event or terrible tragedy that has led them to this point of their life.  I am not one of those people.  I am very fortunate to say that my life so far has been everything I could hope for.  I have great friends, fantastic family and many happy memories to remind me of all the people and things I love.  

My grandma features in plenty of the best memories.  When my sister and I were little, we differentiated between our grandmas by their cats; Nankee and Tom (I distinctly remember arguing with my reception class teacher who would not write 'Tom' on the picture I'd drawn of my grandma as she insisted I'd got the wrong name).  Grandma Nankee, or Eunice as everyone else knew her, was everything a grandma should be.  Caring and loving, with a well stocked chocolate cupboard just for us, we spent much of our time with her growing up and loved every second.

My grandma 'Nankee' perhaps 20 years ago, with her loyal dog Charlie
In the last few years, age caught up with her and she found it harder to recognise us when we visited, until she didn't know any of us at all.  So when she slipped away earlier this year, at the grand age of 94, although sad, we knew that it was a release for her from the daily confusion she had come to live with.  

Grandma Nankee is never far from my mind and I think about her often.  So when I read about One Sheepish Girl's Sheepish Bloom Drop, it was obvious where my yarn bombing should take place; my grandmas' memorial bench.  This idea made me very happy;  although I think that anything covered in crochet is immediately 10x cooler than it is without, I appreciate that others find it less appealing or litterish.  Yarnbombing the bench felt like a fitting tribute to a grandma who was so well loved, but also allowed me to feel comfortable leaving my little yarn packages for others to see.

So early on Sunday morning, Squitchy and I set off for Gorleston cliffs to my grandma's bench.  The bench sits just in front of my mum's childhood house where she has lots of happy memories.  It's alongside the clifftop putting green and looks directly out over the beautiful sandy beach.

The white house in the top left hand corner, number 46, was my grandma's home for many years

The views from Gorleston to Hopton

Gorleston's beautiful sandy beach
I made a colourful daisy chain which I hung across the back of the bench and two crochet hanging baskets filled with pretty chrysanthemums and carnations.  Attached to the flowers were labels with happy sentiments on.  Now, anyone who knows me knows that I am not a motivational speech kind of girl.  In fact, it couldn't be more opposite to me.  However, on this occasion, it felt right.  Nothing too mushy, simple statements like "Smile" "Be kind" and "You are lovely" with larger labels inviting people to take a flower.  

My grandma's bench in front of the putting green

My chunky crochet basket

The cute little luggage tags were hung on all the flowers 

The daisy chain was my favourite part; it's so colourful and cheering

The large luggage tag on the daisy chain next to my grandma's plaque

A crochet basket hung on each side of the bench

I went early in the morning so that the bench was decorated before many people were around.  There were still a few people about setting up for an athletics event who took great interest in what I was doing, but I kept my head down and continued with my work.  I was pleased with how it looked; before I went I worried that the chain wouldn't be long enough, or the flower pots wouldn't work but actually things were just fine.  It wasn't too much, but enough to catch people's eye.  Just after I took my final satisfied look at the bench and returned home, the sun came out from behind the clouds and I'm sure it's made my pretty flowers look even more appealing.  I just hope that people stop and look and help themselves to the flowers; I'll be disappointed if I go back and it's untouched.  My hope is that my little splash of goodness will make someone happy enough to want to pay the kindness forward.  Who knows.  But at the very least, I know my grandma would have stopped and looked and smiled if she had seen the bench, and that's good enough.  

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

An 'L' for...

Almost as long as I have been crocheting, me and my buddy, A Bunch of Buttons have talked about selling our cute little crochet gifts.  Nothing too fancy, just some of our toys, maybe some hair clips, yarn bowls or the such like.  Not because we expect to make a profit you understand, but really to recoup a little money to fund our insatiable yarn habits.  We've planned stall names, stall styling, prices and packaging.  Unbeknownst to her, I've taken this a step further.  I've carefully selected a handful of local craft fairs and enquired about the possibility of a stall.  One even said yes! (I sent pictures, it was the kangaroo that really nailed it).  

Naturally, it was only right for me to scope said fair out.  They want us, but do we want them?! So last weekend Coop and I did our best stealthy spy impressions and headed over to the craft barn to work out if it was for us.  Coop was immediately distracted by the handmade chocolate muffins for sale just inside the doorway whilst I wandered around surveying not only the products on offer but everything else too.  The way the items were displayed, how the prices were shown and what were they, how they packaged the sold items.  It was a real mixed bag, some modern, some more let's say 'traditional' items (you know the kind of thing I'm talking about, like what my grandma made for me 20 something years ago) and a whole bunch of handmade soap.  One stall particularly attracted my attention.  A modern local knitter who made home items with lovely patterned yarn.  I instantly noticed sweet-looking capital letter cushions and knew I had to have one.  That was until I noticed the £35 price tag.  Yep, £35!  Now on one hand, I get it.  To price up a handmade item, you've got to factor in a wage for yourself per hour, plus materials, stuffing; it all soon mounts up.  But equally, I'm not sure I know too many people who are prepared to pay £35 for a cushion.  There was really only one thing for it.  I had to make one.  

So here it is an 'L' for Leah, or 'Love' if you're feeling particularly mushy.  Initially, I toyed with the idea of designing an 'L' for myself.  It's just two straight lines right?  But then I saw this rather impressive letter on Ravelry and realised that if it didn't look like this, I'd be disappointed.  I snapped up the pattern and set about making it from my favourite Debbie Bliss aran yarn.  

I feel like this pattern taught me some useful crochet skills.  You make the bottom of the 'L' and then create a long chain off it which becomes the vertical post and with some well placed decreases it turns the corner and becomes the right shape.  When I was thinking about how I'd make my 'L', this technique didn't even occur to me.  There were also times when I got a bit frustrated.  This is one of them:

Basically you make the front and back 'L' and then create one long loop to make the 3D sides.  At this very moment, I'd decided that there must be a mistake in the pattern because the loop was far too big.   I counted it, and recounted it, but couldn't work out what had gone wrong.  

I also found it tricky to get it all lined up.  Can you see all those stitch markers?! This was just a few of what I needed to try and secure the purple band in place to make sure I had enough in the right places. 
Unsurprisingly, the pattern wasn't wrong.  Once you wedged the purple into all the little nooks of the 'L' it soon fitted snugly.  

I love that its a chubby little fellow

I added a running stitch around the edge to make it look a little more decorative

The finished cushion is just as good as the one I saw for £35 and cost me much less to make (if we don't think about the time it took to make, best just to gloss over this part).  Here it is in it's new home on my craft room windowsill.  Doesn't it look good there?  

On the craft fair front, it's a no go for now.  The fair they had an opening for was this weekend (gulp).  Not quite enough time to really pull everything together, but I'm glad to know that we're making the kind of things people want at craft fairs and I'm sure as we head towards Christmas, more opportunities will come our way.  Have you ever sold your crafts at a fair?  Do you have any tips?  

Sunday, 1 September 2013

August round up

So it's September already.  How quickly the summer months have come and gone and now we're steadily heading towards Autumn.  Scary how quickly time passes as you get older.  Or maybe it's just all the things that have happened in August that have made the time pass so fast.  

It has been a busy month.  Most excitingly, I prettied up my blog so that it's now something I'm proud of.  New design, new colours, new header, new facebook page, complete newness.  It's surprising how much time it takes to sit and write up my posts, and it's certainly eating into my crocheting time, but I'm enjoying this new part of crafting just as much as I enjoy actually crocheting, so I'm keen to keep going.  

Plans for September
  • Taking part in the One Sheepish Girl Flower Yarnbomb 
  • Making some bunting for a friend that I've already taken too long to get around to
  • Starting my tunisian crochet Craftsy class
  • Learning more about using my DSLR camera
  • Starting to think about things I need to make for christmas decorations/presents

What are you most pleased to have made this month?  What are your plans for September?
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