Thursday, 27 February 2014

Multi-coloured granny stripes - Lucy style

I've yet to share with you the bright bright bright granny stripe blanket I've been working on over the past 5 weeks.  As I may have mentioned, I am not a fan of the traditional granny square, although I can't quite put my finger on why.  I've never yet made anything that involves a granny square, and don't ever intend on doing so (I know that saying that out loud is like swearing at a crocheter, but it's the truth).  

I'm less offended by granny stripes, however.  I like that they look so homely, and I like that they can work in both really plain and really crazy colours and still look good.  And someone who has got the crazy bright colour thing down to perfection is Lucy from Attic 24.  I'm sure you've all heard of Lucy; in fact, I should think some of you even made it over to the first ever Yarndale that Lucy helped to organise in September last year.  If you haven't heard of Lucy, you definitely should nip over the Attic 24 and take a look at her natural flair for colour and creativity.  She's even become a writer for Simply Crochet magazine this year!  

I had been toying with the idea of starting a blanket for some time.  The last blanket I made was at least 15 months or so ago, and I was missing having a large scale project that could tick along, that didn't require amigurumi style double crochet and lots of counting.  Then, just at the right time, Wool Warehouse began to sell their Stylecraft Special DK Attic 24 pack, 17 skeins of the very same colours that Lucy used to make her granny stripe blanket.  I snapped a pack right up, and got started on the long chain as soon as it arrived - 240 in total!

This picture doesn't do the colours justice, there are some really lovely ones in the set
I looked at Lucy's granny blanket quite intently to get the idea for the colour order.  These aren' necessarily colours I'd put together and so I was a bit worried about how they would come together if I approached it in my usual way.  So I took Lucy's lead and here's the progress I've made so far:

I'm actually really enjoying it.  The blanket sits on my chair waiting for me to get home each night.  Partly so it's right in front of me so I can't forget it, and partly so it's ready for me to pick up and get on with as soon as I have a few spare minutes.  I like the repetitive nature of granny striping, it's so quick to pick up from where you left off without having to really think too much and it's nice not having to do any counting.  I like having a project that I can put on the back burner whilst I'm doing other things but is there ready when I get the urge to blitz it.  It's taking me about 25 minutes per stripe, so almost an hour for each colour, which means I'm really only adding one colour a night, yet it's still coming along really quickly.  I'm also really pleased with Stylecraft DK.  It's mega cheap yarn, around £1.60 a ball and yet it's nice and soft for a blanket, in the very nicest colours and doesn't really do the squeaky thing that other acrylics do.  Stylecraft is definitely going to be my go-to yarn for blankets from now on.  

I'll be sure to keep you updated as the blanket grows :) 

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Mrs Many Projects

I am one of those annoying people who starts lots of different things without getting round to finishing any of them.  Rather like a magpie, I get easily distracted by anything remotely cute/shiny/new and need, yes need, to start it right then and there and it will be all consuming, if only for a short while.  

Now I know that this is how my brain thinks, so I do try to work against it, but there are some things I find it hard to resist.  And this is exactly what happened with embroidery.  I've considered it for a while (you may remember that my parents helpfully brought me back an embroidery kit from Australia over Christmas) but my Twitter feed has been full with the buzz of Wild Olive's Spring Stitching Club over the past few days and I thought that it would be rude not to take a sneaky peak to see what all the fuss was about.  

So I looked... and there was the cutest little bunny design staring back at me!  It looked like a fairly simple pattern, running stitch I think, and I started to hear my brain whisper  "Doesn't that look like the perfect starter embroidery pattern?"  "How hard could it be, surely it's worth a try?" "It's just a few dollars, what great value it is for 12 patterns."  Well, how could I fight my own well argued logic?!  So I signed up, but the official patterns don't start until March and I'd really started to get excited about my adventure into embroidery so I thought I'd just perhaps have a little look on Wild Olive's Etsy page to see if there was anything that might take my fancy.  And there was:

A cute set of crafting designs including a crochet hook, yarn ball and lots of other things with happy little faces!  I downloaded the pattern and then headed off to my local curtain shop to buy some supplies.  Yep, curtain shop.  I don't really understand either.  It's predominantly a curtain shop but luckily for me, also has a small section of yarn and needlecraft supplies which included some embroidery hoops, threads and needles.  I spent a while choosing my colours - grey orange and teal green were scooped up without hesitation - and hurried home.

The next hurdle was what to embroider on.  The most appropriately thick fabric I could find was some Clark and Clark (gasp) semi expensive stuff I had stashed in my little craft room.  Justifying that this really was an emergency, I cut off some of the beautiful fabric turned it over to use the back (gasp) traced on the design and stretched it over the hoop.  

I was surprised by the simplicity of embroidery designs.  No guidance on stitches, no real guidance on colour or how to move around the design, just a black and white line drawing of  my smiley little yarn ball.  Still, as someone who has absolutely no drawing skills whatsoever, it was just what I needed.  I read over Wild Olive's embroidery basics series and decided to do a bit of running stitch for the face and split stitch for the yarn bits (check me out using the lingo like a pro!) 

It turned out much better than I expected for a first attempt.  A few too many stitches bottom right so it became a little squared off, but overall, I was pretty pleased.  The back is less neat, and I understand that a good embroiderer (embroiderist, embroidologist?) has as pretty a back as front, but I guess that all comes with time.  

Have I caught the bug?  Absolutely!  I think embroidery will be a nice little addition to crocheting without straying too far from the path.  There's lots of really cute designs out there and I've flooded my Pinterest  with ideas, examples and designs.  Hop over and take a look :) 

Saturday, 15 February 2014


Coopers don't do valentines day.  Although I won't say no to a dash of romance every now and then, I like the spontaneous, thoughtful kind, rather than the 'the calendar says so, so we must' kind of romance that occurs on the 14th February each year.  I still had a lovely day though; Squitchy and I braved the gales for a walk around his favourite slice of Norfolk countryside.  Can you spot his furry white tail in the distance?

Whilst I was freezing my toes off, Sas was having the best time leaping through the overgrowth, smelling the abundance of wildlife that inhabits these hills.  He gets so excited to be roaming free off his lead and has such a happy look on his face as he races ahead of me, stopping to turn and check that I am following behind him every so often, making sure I'm enjoying myself just as much as he is.  It was worth losing a couple of toes for.  

I did get a couple of valentines treat.  My lovely mum bought me a huge bunch of roses as she does each year, and Coop even presented me with a box of my favourite chocolates (which he has promptly scoffed, but still, the thought was there).  I even treated myself to a little crochet time and a few new skeins of yarn so that I can make this fabulous Astrid Doll by Annaboo's House.  Another project on my list, but it gave me a reason to buy some Sugar n Cream to try.  It's an aran weight cotton yarn that's just arrived over here from America.  It's a bit rougher than the cotton I'm used to, but I'm keen to give it a try and see how it works up, and if it's the right kind of stuff for amigurumi, as I do love to work with aran weight yarn more than any other.  I'll let you know how it goes, when I get round round to using it, after the blanket, and the crochet club, and the beach house cushion and the....

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Crochet Club 2014

Just in time for the weekend I received a VERY exciting package; my Janie Crow Crochet Club 2014 pack.  In case you haven't heard of it, Janie Crow is a British crochet and knit designer who each year runs a mystery crochet club.  Over 6 months, a section of the pattern is delivered to you via email, and there is forum and online support to help you create the perfect blanket.  It allows you to develop your skills in new techniques and stitches and this year, you could buy the yarn bundle as well to make the exact blanket that Janie designed.  I have been waiting for this for a while, it seems like ages since I begun paying my monthly instalments to cover the cost of the club (it was a little expensive but I asked/told Coop about it conveniently when he was playing his Playstation so he agreed without hesitation!) before finally I received my email telling me that it was on it's way. I rushed to the post office with my little red ticket, hoping that it was my yarn stash and not something else I'd forgotten that I'd ordered, but once I saw the size of the pack and gave it a good squeeze, I was certain:

I ran my package straight up to my craft room to try and avoid Squitchy hair as much as possible.  It's moulting time again and unfortunately that hair gets everywhere!  I was a little bit stuck as to where I was going to keep it so that it was free from Squitchy and kept all together and safe, but luckily, the team at Janie Crow seem to have read my mind:

It all came superbly packaged in a neat linen bag to keep it safely stored away.  How charming!  Inside the bag was an even bigger delight:

28 skeins of Rowan yarn, 6 bags of beads and one crochet club sewing label.  Rowan yarn is the posh stuff I only treat myself to when I have been given a John Lewis voucher, and even then I might only buy 4 or 5 skeins before I felt like it was excessive, now I have 28 of these little bundles of colour!  

I lost track of myself pouring over the yarn.  I spent so long looking over the colours, giving them a squeeze, putting different colour combinations together to guess what the mystery blanket might look like.  I even popped my new macro lens onto my camera and snap snap snapped away, trying to master the blurry/focus balance to make the photos look extra professional.  I'm a little embarrassed to say I wasted  indulged for over an hour doing just this!  Taking a photo, rearranging and taking another.  Here's a little glimpse of some of my shots:

For now, I've safely tucked the stash back in the project bag and placed it high on top of my cupboards for fear of Sas getting hold of it.  Not that he's ever touched any of my yarn before, but I wanted to be on the safe side.  Now it's just a case of waiting for the email with the first pattern on the 6th, just 4 days away... ooohh I'm excited! x

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