11.11.13

Mandala Fun!

When my visitor was here we decided to have a little crochet-a-long with our online Facebook group. Mandalas were the order of the day and we hooked like crazy to get them done in time for the first post!

I decided on some cheerful bright Rowan hand knit cotton to make mine with. The idea being to use them in the guest room when they were finished!

For the first mandala i used a free pattern by the lovely Wink which can be found here.
Nice and easy for a novice mandala maker like me and some fab instructions!

This is how my mandala turned out....




And then I decided to be a little adventurous and try a more lacy pattern....


Forgive the wonky shape....it's trickier than you think to block circles! All in all not a bad first attempt I thought. 
Next came the challenge of producing some styled shots of the completed mandalas.

I'm the first to admit that when taking photos I tend not to think about the scene and how the finished shots turn out. I just plop them on my blog and think nothing more of it! Well, having trawled a fair few blogs and seeing some beautifully styled shots I have decided that from now on I shall pay attention to my photography efforts and try and style the photos...


Achieved with a white quilt cover (freshly ironed!) laid over the carpet! How effective is that?

Next came a few props to enhance the mandalas...




Isn't it amazing what a difference a few props and some carefully taken photos can make? 

We also spent a little time taking some amazing photos of my finished blankets. A trip to the seaside in the glorious sunshine proved to be the perfect backdrop!

Join me next time for a peek at how those photos turned out!
Mx

10.11.13

Wow!

Doesn't time fly when you're having fun? Ok fun isn't exactly how I would describe the last two weeks but one thing's for sure....it certainly has flown by!

I had a lovely, lovely 10 days with my visitor. We chilled, we shopped, we ate....and we even took in a gig!

Of course no visit is complete without a visit to a yarn store or two ;-) My local yarn store is in Whitley Bay, not too far away but far enough to avoid popping in every day!!!! It's called Ring a Rosie and is packed with a great range of yarn. There's something for everyone and every budget. The owner hand dyes yarn to sell in the store and also spins! Now spinning is something I've always wanted to have a bash at. I've watched a zillion You Tube clips and whilst not convinced my co-ordination is quite up to the challenge I'd love to have a go! Well, what do you know....they have a spinning club!!! Once a month spinners of the North unite and spin to their hearts content. It's on my list and am determined to have a go.

On Monday we headed into Newcastle. A little window shopping in the town centre...


All the way through the shopping centre there were Elephants on parade! All individually decorated and pretty darn stunning! This was my favourite one....isn't she gorgeous?
After our browse we had a yummy meal before heading over to the Sage to see The Feeling. Boy they were good! And what it made it even better was that we were in the smaller of the halls so were really really close.


We sang our heads off and danced to our hearts content. A good night was had by both of us!

On Tuesday we headed off to the lovely market town of Hexham. It has the most lovely yarn store called Woolaballoo....isn't that a fabulous name? We spent a fair time in there chatting to the lovely lady there and came away with a couple of modest purchases. 


I got a skein of this gorgeous yarn. I just fell in love with the colours. And it's so so soft! I think a nice lacy scarf is the plan for this purchase. 
I also picked up a lovely wooden stool from the Antiques store there. I've been after one for a long time so was very pleased with it. It's pretty battered and needs a makeover but it's perfect to use as a bedside table in the guest room.
*note to self* TAKE A PHOTO OF THE STOOL!!!!!

A fair bit of hooky was done that week. My lovely visitor brought me some gorgeous Icelandic yarn to play with. Well... what's a girl to do????
Yes, that's right.....abandon the granny stripe blanket finishing in favour of playing with the new yarn!


The colours are warm and autumnal and the squares are BIG! Like 7 1/2 inches with the border added to them. I'm making a winter snuggle throw for over the back of the sofa. It's on the blocking board as we speak. Just the joining to go and then the fun part of adding a lovely deep lacy border. I think this may just be one of my quickest projects yet! Which is just as well as I seem to have managed to gather another 4 WIPs!!!!

Join me next time to have a peek at the Mandalas we made during the week and some styled photos!
Til then...
Mx

14.10.13

Clean, sort, tidy, clean, sort, tidy......

*sigh*.....there's not a lot of hooky been happening round these parts of late. Sad times. I have withdrawal. I've taken to trawling pinterest just to get a yarn/hooky fix.
Work has been crazy busy. Last inspection happened today...YAY!!!! I've had a rotten cold. I'm sick of snots. I'm sick of sneezing. My cats are sick of me sneezing as I seem to scare the life out of them every time I sneeze.

I've also been Spring Autumn cleaning. Like the whole house from top to bottom. Including the dreaded cupboard under the stairs. Nope I haven't gone mad! I just figured it was about time my little domain had a spruce up. Well that and my lovely friend from Holland is visiting on Friday for a girly week of fun and gossip. She has duly been instructed to oooh and aaah at the tidy home. And if she doesn't I shall not take her to the yummy local yarn shop as promised. Mean aren't I????

So remember the room of doom all those weeks ago? It now has a bed and has been prettied up. Oh it looks beautiful!

I chose a simple wooden bed. I was originally going to get a day bed but decided against it. I'm pleased I did. This bed is gorgeous and so so comfy. Good old Argos. AND it was on special offer. Even better!


Naturally a new bed requires new bed linen. Gorgeous organic cotton in crisp white. See how beautifully it was packaged? Wrapped in tissue paper and tied with ribbon. 

We did have a little disaster whilst building the bed. Clumsy madam that I am. Somehow I managed to knock the rather ancient lampshade with the new mattress. It shattered into pieces! Such a shame as I really liked that plastic funky retro shade. Anyway it was a great excuse to order a replacement. Fingers crossed it will arrive in time!

So aside from the cleaning and snotting and sneezing....I've been trying desperately to finish off a blanket that has been in progress for about....oh....3 years?
If I'm honest I've been delaying finishing this blanket as it's made from Stylecraft Acrylic yarn. I was pretty much a learner hooker when I started it so the cost was a real bonus, but boy!, I've developed such an aversion to the texture! It literally sets my teeth on edge! But, having said that, it'll make a fantastic picnic blanket. 


It's very large and also very bright! Ziggy loves it! In fact I'm struggling to keep him of it. He clearly doesn't have an issue with the texture.


I'm now sewing in a zillion ends. It's driving me mad! So glad I weave in ends as I go now.
I'm planning to add a pretty simple border. Shades of blue to try and calm down the colour explosion! One things for sure...I won't lose this picnic blanket in a hurry!

Til next time
Maria x

8.10.13

That Felty Feeling Part 2

Now...where were we? Ah yes! I was about to throw the bag into the washing machine!!!
Well despite my misgivings I decided to throw caution to the wind and go for it. So into a laundry bag went the bag, I added a towel to the washing machine to get some agitation going, machine set to 40 degrees medium wash and then the nail biting began!

I swear to god that was the longest wait ever!!! I tried to distract myself by keeping busy but I couldn't resist peeking nervously into the machine a few times! Couldn't see a thing haha!!!

And then the time came......


Ah yes....just the right amount of fuzziness!


Stitch definition still present! Whoop Whoop!!!!
One very happy Maria :-)


Next came the task of choosing a lining for my bag. I opted for for a polka dot pattern in a linen/cotton mix. A perfect weight for a bag lining. Now I'm not a great sewer so the next bit was pretty scary stuff! I placed the bag on top of the lining and cut around it leaving a 1 inch seam allowance. I decided to double line the bag (won't do that again!!!). So basically I made a lining that looked the same on both sides. Miraculously it actually fitted snuggly inside the bag. I attached the lining by hand sewing. Having come this far, I really didn't trust my machine sewing skills! 


I even stitched in my very own label!


So this is the finished bag. I'm very pleased with it! I added some handles that are just the right length so the bag snuggles very comfortably under my arm.


A little peek of the lining. Oh I do love polka dots!!!!!

So now I'm no longer a felting virgin, I plan to do another felty project. Next time real fuzzy felt! Not a sign of a crochet stitch in sight. Ah I'm itching to get started already!

Before I go, can I suggest you pop over to my good friend Anita's blog. Yours truly is a guest blogger over there today :-)

Til next time!
Maria x

7.10.13

Getting a feel for felting part one!

Arghhh!!!!! Where does the time go? It honestly feels like 4 days since I last posted rather than a couple of weeks. But, to be fair, they've been crazy crazy busy weeks. There was a birthday to celebrate (obviously I'm 21 again!!!), 2 major inspections at work and a guest room to finish (remember the room of doom???). So I'm in catch up mode again. But's getting there. Oh it's all starting to feel calmer. Much calmer!

In the whirlwind of hustle and bustle over the last few weeks I've haven't had much hooky time. Sad times! However I did manage to finish my felted bag. Being a complete and utter Virgo I like things to be perfect. I'm obsessive about neat finishes, so the thought of willingly chucking a finished and very pretty crochet item in the washer when it clearly states on the yarn label HANDWASH ONLY!!!! kind of goes against the grain! However I really wanted to try out this felting malarkey.

So in true Virgo form I did a test felted square. I used Icelandic lace weight wool.


Beautiful colours all neatly caked (guess who treated herself to a yarn winder???) with a dark grey for the edges. I chose the Maybelle flower pattern with this edging technique. Very simple but effective.


I loved how the dark grey just seemed to make the coloured flowers pop! Now yes I wanted a felted finish to this bag but I still wanted to see some stitch definition. So next came some experimental washing of a sample square! I tried a 40 degree quick wash. When I took it out of the machine I thought it needed more felting so back in it went! 


Yup, 2 washes gave just the right look I wanted! Happy with that I went on to hook up enough squares to make a nice sized bag.


I joined them using that gorgeous bright green and a double crochet stitch. At this point I seriously was having second thoughts about flinging it in the washer! I mean doesn't it look lovely? 

Check back tomorrow to see whether or not I was brave enough!!!
Til then...
Maria x

15.9.13

Water Mill Blanket

On one of my yarn buying visits to Holland I picked up some gorgeous mercerised DK cotton. Well to be honest it wasn't the yarn that sucked me in rather than the colours! Oooh gorgeous gorgeous colours!
To be honest I can't even remember on which trip I acquired the yarn. Last year? This year??? Ah who cares!!!! I planned to make a ripple blanket with it...


But you know? I really wasn't happy with it. I just didn't think it showed the yarn off to it's best. So in true Maria form....I unravelled and started again :-)

I decided on a simple granny wheel with graduating colours.


Much better! Obviously this photo is before blocking ;-)


As this summer has been very kind....I spent some happy hooky time in the garden.


I spent many a happy hour hour making colourful rounds. Being a Virgo I like to do things in order...so rounds of colours before moving on to the dark blue and finishing off with the lime green. 


Before I knew I had used up all of the dark blue and it was time to start the joining. Ziggy clearly approves of the bright and zingy colours!


The finished blanket! A much than usual blanket due to the dark blue being discontinued...grrrr....don't you hate it when they discontinue lovely colours???

It's still a decent size though and is destined to live in the car. My seats in the car are almost exactly the same colour as the dark blue and it looks lovely draped over the back seat :-)

After all these blankets I think some smaller projects are in order now!

Maria x

14.9.13

To Block or Not to Block.....

That is the question!!!
Over the past couple of weeks I have read lots of debates about blocking and crochet. Many have the opinion that it is simply not necessary and it's more a knitting thing.
Practically every crochet book I own has images of unblocked squares and motifs and there is no time devoted in the book to the subject.
I have to confess that I was once one of these blocking sceptics. I'm essentially a lazy so and so and anything that delays completing a project AND involves lots of tedious pinning of squares has got to be  a waste of my valuable spare time. Right?
WRONG!!!!

Oh my!!! What a difference blocking can make!

First thing you need is decent blocking equipment. I've seen lots of various methods on my trawl through blogdom. From a blanket/towel over the bed to ironing boards! Let's face it. Us hookers are an ingenious bunch!!!! You can spend a fortune on blocking boards, but that's not necessary. A trip to the DIY store, some gingham fabric, staple gun and half an hour is all it takes. Check out this post over on A Creative Dimension for some easy to follow instructions.

So what's the difference?


Before blocking.... 12 slightly curly squares!


And on the blocking board! I use a LOT of pins! But make sure your pins are stainless steel....the last thing you want is rusty marks on your finished work of art!


And the final result! Just look at the difference it makes! Not only do you get lovely uniform pieces but there is a lovely drape and feel to the blocked work.

My blocking board has 1 inch gingham covering it. I did make the mistake of covering it with a smaller gingham (you can still see it underneath!) but like I said...I'm lazy and can't be bothered to count loads of teeny square so I simply put the larger gingham over the top! 

On the blocking board right now...


Are some teeny triangles for a scarf I'm making. So it's not just squares....any shape can be blocked.

Join as you go? Well block as you go! Easy as that! Once you finished a section of join as you go pin it out on the blocking board as you would if it was separate motifs. Once dry...on to the next section...and so on. This way by the time your project is finished it'll be all blocked too!


Please don't look too closely at the join as you go technique! It's my first attempt and I'm finding it a little puzzling at times lol. My corners need a little attention methinks! Hopefully by the end I'll have it sussed!

Maria x

10.9.13

Trying new stuff - Bohemian Blanket

I have been fairly conservative with my yarn choices in the past. Usually opting to stick with what I know. Mainly cotton (the non splitty variety!) and I have to confess to making the obligatory Stylecraft Acrylic purchase. Won't make that mistake again! Not that there's anything wrong with it. It's just really not for me. I don't like the texture. It sets my teeth on edge! I've almost finished a granny stripe blanket made from the Stylecraft. I shall grit my teeth and finish it one day. It'll make a fab picnic blanket!

I fell in love with this blanket a while back. Oh I really wanted to make it. And it just so happened that my friend had all the yarn to make it but not the time. Brilliant! Yarn purchased :-)

I was a little nervous about starting as 1. I've never used a colour change yarn before and 2. I've never worked with anything other than my usual yarn type.

Well what a revelation!!!! I LOVE the colour change and also the yarn. It was a really easy pattern to follow and I quickly amassed a stack of completed squares.


The colours were just divine and it was exciting seeing each square emerge as no two were the same!


Blocking in the sunshine!


I honestly couldn't believe how quick this blanket cam together!


Ta daa!!!!! All joined and edged.


Doesn't it look gorgeous? 


From start to finish this blanket took just over 2 weeks! Now I don't consider myself to be a quick hooker by any stretch of the imagination and I should also add that I work full time! The squares hooked up in super quick time.

Maybe it's time to expand my yarn choices ;-)

Maria x

9.9.13

The Stash Mountain

How much stash do you have? Now be honest! Do you make careful considered yarn purchases with a project in mind, or or you more of a stroke, feel, need, must buy and then I'll think of something to make at a later date type person?
I fall into the latter category I'm afraid! Actually no....strike that!!! I love yarn! The feel, the colour (oh how I LOVE colour, the smell....I love it all. And I always accumulate yarn with all good intentions of whipping up something gorgeous and meanwhile the stash pile grows and grows.

Unfortunately I can't crochet as fast as I can think up new things to make!

Obviously, I returned from Holland with a little new yarn ;-) Hmmmm...... well it was a LOT of new yarn. More than ever! I had prepared though...and took with me two of those vacumn bag things. Two large bags. Very large!!! No problem I thought. This time the yarn will fit in the case easily. Of course it did! After much huffing and puffing, repacking, jiggling of stuff in the case and then jumping on the case. It did in fact fit in......JUST!!! Put it this way...if I had been stopped at customs there is no way I  would have been able to repack the case. And opening said case may have maimed unsuspecting customs officers!

Wanna see how much fitted in the case?


Those vacumn bags are worth their weight in gold! I came home with.... the yarn for the new blanket that I started while I was there, a sport weight cotton for another blanket, some extra yarn for a blanket already in progress (I ran out of the green!), the yarn we dyed, some zphagetti yarn to make a rug (more of that disaster in another post!), some Icelandic lace and medium weight yarn to try and some Drops Delight to make their Romantic blanket. Phew....so just a little yarn! 

I made myself the promise that no more yarn would be either bought or accumulated by other means until I had at least finished 2 more projects. I'm running out of places to hide store my yarn mountain!
I need more storage!!!!

Maria x

8.9.13

Ooooops!!!!

I'm really not good at this blogging malarkey despite all of my good intentions!
Sometimes life just gets in the way....

Well, since I last blogged (all those months ago!!) I've been on holiday to visit a friend, accumulated obscene amounts of new yarn, and actually finished some projects!
So let's rewind time (if only!), go back a little and I'll try and play catch up....

We'll start with my holiday to visit a good friend who just happens to live in one of the most BEAUTIFUL villages in North Holland :-)

We had big plans for this trip. A whole week filled to the brim full of yarn bombing, yarn dyeing, retail therapy (it goes without saying!) and of course a little hooky time :-)

Long before my planned trip the members of our online crochet group had been furiously making contributions to the great yarn bombing event. It's a great group of ladies! From complete beginners through to experienced designers. And you know what the nicest thing about this group is? Everyone is very supportive! There are no negative comments allowed! Anyway I digress..... the village where my friend lives is very sleepy and quiet. Anything out of the ordinary makes the front page of the village newsletter! A few months back the village was yarn bombed!!!! OH MY!!!! It hit the front page!!!! And you know what the yarn bomb was? A lonely scarf wrapped around a tree at the entrance to the village! Seriously!!! In all honesty it looked liked some kind soul had found a misplaced scarf and wrapped it around the tree in the hope that it would be reunited with its owner. Well!!!! We decided that the scarf needed a little company and hence the yarn bombing plan was born :-)

After a little much sewing together of random pieces of brightly coloured crochet the time had come....we ventured out with some step ladders and our crocheted decorations!




Don't they look fab?! We had a great time decorating the trees! It also caused a fair bit of interest from passerbys lol What's difficult to see from the photos is that behind the trees is a ditch. I think I was clinging to those trees for dear life whilst sewing the crochet in place!!!

In between the yarn bombing antics we also tried our hands at some totally natural yarn dyeing. Did you know that common weeds hedgerow plants can seriously produce some of the most gorgeous colours??? Mother nature is a clever clever lady :-)

First we soaked the yarn in a mordant of alum and cream of tartare. This prepares the yarn to take the dye. Don't ask how.....it's just magic!

First job while the mordant was doing it's magic was to gather plants! We headed off into the hedgerows and came home with a mixture of comfrey, wild carrot, elder leaves, alder leaves and others that I can't quite remember right now!



Next we prepared the leaves/plants for the dye bath. We used an enamel wash pot and also added some copper pennies! This was then heated up and the yarn added.


I think this was the wild carrot! A lovely mustardy yellow that actually dried much lighter. I've since read that oxygen in the air affects the final colour.


A weeks worth of hand dyed yarn! We also had some cochineal and logwood to play with hence the reds and purples.


The yarns neatly caked and labelled. I think we were both surprised at the lovely range of colours we produced!

How gorgeous do they look? I feel a snuggly winter blanket in the making :-) 

I also managed to make a start on a new blanket while I was there.... 


A gorgeous mix of sport weight cotton. Mercerised and plain. I love how the sheen of the mercerised cotton works with the plain cotton. This is very much a work in progress! More of this in the future!

Ok I think that's enough gossip for today :-) Thank you to Anita for sharing her pics! I'm rubbish at taking photos when I'm holiday!!!!!

Til next time!
Maria x