Wednesday 31 December 2014

Children's Granny Square Bags

There was just enough time today for a couple of quick makes - the last of 2014. It's so cold and frosty outside, I wanted to play with some lovely warm colours, and, having decided to make a little bag for each of my girls, I asked them to choose 3 or 4 colours apiece. Little Miss chose her usual palette of zingy pinks, and greeny-blues ....

.... whereas Little Tomboy went for the rather less girly primary colours ....

Each bag is made up of two simple 6-round granny squares, and one big long strip which forms the sides, base, and strap. This strip is just 2 long rows of (UK) half-trebles, and joined to the granny squares using a double-crochet along 3 sides.

The bags are lined with fabric from my stash - flowery for Little Miss ....

.... and a sort of goldy colour for Little Tomboy.

Add a button to the front of each bag, and a fastening loop (a length of 8 or so chains) attached to the middle of the back, at the top ....

....and ta-da! Two sweet little granny bags :)

Well, that's it for 2014 :) May you all have a happy and peaceful 2015


Monday 29 December 2014

The Day After

During the pre-Christmas rush I find myself longing for Boxing Day more even than Christmas Day. Don't get me wrong, I do love Christmas Day, and it's all about the Little People and their collective excitement, which is both joyful and exhausting in equal measure. But Boxing Day feels a lot more manageable and restful.

I usually sleep really badly on the night of Christmas Eve, and this year was no exception - did I label everything ? Have I wrapped everything? Prepped all the veg ? Bought Brussels sprouts ? Hung the bunting ? It's ridiculous. My sub-conscious brain worries far more than my conscious one does. The answer to "Hung the bunting ?" Was a big fat NO. But here's a photo of it anyway, it still looks pretty even in a heap on the table. 

And then I was woken (for the day) at 4. Yes, 4am. By Little Tomboy totally wide awake and asking "is it time to get up yet?". "No, Santa probably hasn't been yet. Try and go back to sleep". However that didn't put her off and she asked every 10 minutes until I finally gave in at 6.15. The household is then in a state of high excitement for the rest of the day ....

"He's been he's been!"
"How did he know I like tomboy stuff ??!"
"Best loom band set EVER!"
"Look, look, he ate the mince pie !"

(Note the absence of festive coloured bunting in photo. Tut.)

We have scrummy pain au chocolat and frothy cappuccinos for breakfast. Or sweets if you are 11 or under.  I have my eye on this jar when it's emptied (which should be quite soon the rate they're going at).

The excitement continues through the day as more presents are unwrapped, lego is built, new pens are used and board games are played. They realise they can eat sweets all day without any parents being boring and saying no. On Christmas Day I am the parent who likes to say yes  .... 

Can I have another whole selection box Mum ? Yes of course!
Will you play Monster High Top Trumps with me Mummy? Yes of course!
Can you help me with my loom bands ? Yes of course!
Can I have another mince pie ? Yes of course! 
Can we play charades again ? Yes of course!
Will you help me with my new jigsaw? Yes of course!
Will you play my new very energetic dance game on the Xbox with me ? Yes of course!
Can someone get me some toilet roll ? (Seriously) Yes of course!

Yes of course!  Yes of course! Yes of course!

My mother-in-law comes for the day and is great fun, and we have a long silly skype call with my family in Northern Ireland having their own chaotic Christmas Day.

I try - and fail - to ban everyone from the kitchen and cook the lunch (I succeed in the cooking part). Mother-in-law brings the desserts, she clearly can't decide on just one though and brings too many. This year we had a choice of 7 (including a really cute little Christmas cake - I'm the only one who likes it). There were 6 of us. We joked that we really need a desert trolley. And a load have gone in the freezer.

Crackers are pulled at lunch, and later we race the wind-up Santa teddies that came with this year's set. Wind-up teddy Santa racing. What more could you want, really.

Little Tomboy is the champion (phew, that could have gone badly).

They laugh and squeal at the silliness of charades, and they are STILL eating sweets, but us adults are groaning about how much we've eaten and maybe undoing a button or two (ok, I confess I changed into my pyjamas late afternoon). And it's all tremendous fun :)

By the end of it though .... I. Am. Absolutely. Shattered.

Hubby drives Mother-in-law home and I attempt to herd the Little People into bed. Ever heard that analogy about putting an octopus in a string bag ? Enough said.

My own little tradition, and it drives hubby bonkers, is to set aside my presents from him and open them in the peace that ensues once the Little People are in bed, Mother-in-law has gone home, and it's just him and me and a bottle of Baileys. Hubby really doesn't like it that I do this, but it's my one little indulgence on a day otherwise given over - and willingly so - to everyone else.  His presses to me are always brilliant - he's very thoughtful and generous, and I like to take my time over them. This year he gave me lots of lovely crafty things - including the Mollie Makes Crochet book, and a yarn cutter pendant ....

And some practical things - a new phone (my old one is dying) and, just as excitingly - for me, anyway - a new charging plug and cable that are pink. Hurray for girly techy things!

And then the day, with all its exuberance and expectations, is over. And I go off to bed grateful and content in the knowledge that my little family are all healthy and happy.

Boxing Day is a far more laid back affair. Having stashed their presents in their bedrooms, the Little People wake up at whatever ungodly hour they like and just play. I stay in pyjamas all day. I make cups of tea and take them back up to bed. I chat uninterrupted to hubby. I browse my new books. I mess about with hooks and yarn. I throw together a help-yourself lunch on the kitchen table. I remember this is why I bought the crackers, cheeses, pre-pack snack box thingies and salads that have been taking up valuable space in the fridge. I play the odd game with a child that needs a bit of Mummy time. I watch Christmas telly with a child that wants to snuggle for a bit.

I potter about enjoying the relative calmness, reflecting on how fortunate we are, and I promise myself that next year I will pace myself better. (Hahaha!! Who am I kidding?!)

Monday 22 December 2014

Christmas Card Swap

The lovely Amy from lovemademyhome has arranged a bloggy Christmas Card Swap this year. If you haven't visited Amy's blog then you are missing out ! Amy's posts are fun and interesting, with lots of great pictures, and crafty makes :) After replying to Amy to say I'd take part, she emailed me the details of my swap-partner. I was paired with Clicky Needles (I think Clicky likes her anonymity so I'm respecting that) from clickyneedles. I hadn't visited clickyneedles before, so I popped on over, and enjoyed a browse. Clicky's posts are great to read, full of family fun and knitting adventures, ooooh the knitting, her needles surely do click!

We contacted each other and exchanged postal details. Clicky was super-quick and practically the next day I received a beautiful home-made card. It was one of the first cards that we received in fact:)

Isn't it fab :) So elegant and pretty, I'd never thought of making a card using embroidery thread this way, I will definitely be making some like this next year :) I was so chuffed to receive Clicky's card, I know lots of people are opting out of the Christmas Card chaos, but I am a firm fan, and receiving a home-made (well, I am assuming Clicky did make it) card from a fellow bloggy crafter is just lovely, and it was equally as lovely to make one to send in return.

Now. If you are reading this Clicky, please STOP! as I am about to post details of the making of my card to you! If you are anyone else, you may continue.

I'm terribly last-minute about everything so of course I only got round to making my card for Clicky yesterday, and I think I missed the last Christmas post. Honestly, I reeeeeeally annoy myself with my last-minute-ness, but I just perform better to a deadline. Yes, I will be that person still wrapping presents at midnight on Christmas Eve. I kid you not. 

Anyway, back to the card. I dithered about making a card with a crochet embellishment, but I have loads of Christmas cross-stitch books and booklets, so I thought I'd use one of those instead. 

I decided to make the First Day of Christmas' Partridge in a Pear Tree. It was stitched whilst watching Christmas movies and eating mince pies :) Very festive :)

And I put it in a rather jolly red and gold window card. I hope Clicky likes it :)

Friday 19 December 2014

Five on Friday

For about 20 years the same baubles decorated my Christmas tree. I'd bought a super-cheap pack from Woolworths when I was a student and couldn't really justify any fancier ones. Once I started work I was too busy having a social life to worry about improving the bauble-quality. Fast-forward a decade and a bit, Little People came along, and even having a Christmas tree up at all was a risky business, never mind any decent decorations. There was an incident one year where one of the Little Peeps un-decorated the tree, and took every single thing off it and put in in a heap on the floor. Amazingly the tree itself has never come a cropper (yet). Anyway, as well as the Woolies' baubles, the tree has become fuller and fuller with little masterpieces from nursery, pre-school and primary school. These are of huge sentimental value to me, and evoke so many memories, but I couldn't possibly only pick five to show you.

However, over the last couple of years I've acquired, either by making, being given or simply purchasing, some new ones :)  Oooooh! The extravagance! Hurrah! So without further ado, here are my Five Favourite (non children-y) Christmas Decorations .....

1. A few years ago my Aunt gave me, for Christmas, a really lovely set of metal decorations. They're gorgeous to look at but tricky to hang on the tree as they're a bit too heavy, and the branches just bend so the decorations slide off. This snowman stands up very well on his own, doesn't he look smart :)

2.  On the mantelpiece stands my little miniature gingerbread house snow globe. I think this is actually Little Miss', and was given to her by Grandma, but I've commandeered it for our decorations box, I really adore it, it's so tiny and cute, just over an inch wide, but so detailed.

3. My Mum gave me this reindeer, no idea why really as it wasn't part of a Christmas gift or anything, and I think he's meant to go on the tree, but I rather like him standing up, again he's on the mantelpiece. I love his sparkly antlers :)

4. I bought this little wooden tree-shaped hanging decoration last year. Just a supermarket purchase, but I love all the little bells in it, nothing like a good jingley-bell for Christmas.

5. And I've saved the best til last. I bought this little wooden Christmas tree in Moscow about 10 years ago. We'd gone with Little Man when he was only 9 months old, to stay with friends who moved there for a couple of years. In between visiting St. Basil's, Red Square, The Kremlin and Gorky Park, our friends took us shopping, and of course everywhere were Matryoshka dolls to buy as souvenirs, and amongst them I spotted this little Christmas tree. It was February (therefore slightly strange - I thought - for it to have been on display at the market) so I had to wait for ages before I could display it :)

It's quite cute on its own but look ....... just like it's Russian doll counterpart .... it's got little nesting snowman and Santa figures! So sweet!

Our tree is always up early, and I refuse to take it down until twelfth night. I often think that it seems such a shame to have the decorations up for such a short period of time,  but perhaps that's what makes them so special :)

I'm joining in with Five on Friday, thankyou to Amy for organising :) You can visit the other bloggers taking part by clicking the links below.

Sunday 14 December 2014

December Days

Is it really mid-way through December already ? Gosh it's really going by fast :) Big hello to my new readers, followers and commenters - it's always good to see a new name :) I'd also like to say that I don't usually leave such long gaps between posts - I think it's just that the light is so rubbish I don't feel terribly inspired to take many photos, and photos usually in turn inspire my posts.

The last week or so has been the annual chaos of school carol concerts, class parties, nativities, and Christmas jumpers for Christmas jumper day.

Little Man didn't have a Christmas jumper (well, not one that fitted him anyway) so I crocheted a snowman and sewed it onto a normal jumper :) He's quite cute, isn't he ?

I've been making scarves for presents ....

... and I rediscovered my holly bauble basket that I made last year ....

.... this little guy made an appearance again ....

.... and I've got a little production line of gift bags, embellishments and washcloths on the go. No photos of those yet, but watch this space.
There's a few more scarves to be completed, and a couple of pairs of mitts too. Over-stretching myself ? Of course! That's when I'm at my best :) Dashing off to complete another scarf now :)


Thursday 4 December 2014


You're probably thinking "oh no not another blog post about loom band creations" but do not fear - it's a blog post about my new Christmas present to myself - my first actual proper real loom !! Yaaay !
Look look look look loooooook .........

I've always loved loads of different crafts, but never ever thought of weaving before, I didn't realize that there were home-sized options, nor that you could weave with knitting yarn. That was until I read this post ( by lovely Meredith on her brilliant blog Mereknits.

Maybe it was the gorgeous colours in Meredith's table-runner that grabbed me, or just the fact that here was another yarn-centric craft that I had yet to try, but the seed was sown. Over the last few months I've thought more and more about acquiring a loom of my own, and Meredith emailed me with some advice as to what to think about when deciding what to buy. After much research and reading of reviews, to cut a long story short I made a decision, and am now the proud owner of an Ashford Knitter's Loom. It's a rigid heddle table loom which folds up - this felt important because I want to be able to stow it away when not in use. (Which may be never as I am addicted already). 

It arrived on Tuesday and I couldn't wait to get started. I picked out a green acrylic DK from my stash for the warp yarn, and a candy floss pink acrylic DK for the weft. A month or so ago I had no clue about any of this, and obviously I'm not any kind of expert, but during the research phase I've read loads of articles and can at least understand the whole new language of weaving. 

And now for the science bit. Basically here's how a rigid heddle works.
There are two rollers and the middle bit (that looks whitish) is called a heddle. The heddle has about 80 white plastic vertical strips. Each strip has a little hole in the middle, and between the strips there is a vertical gap called a slot.
You decide how long and wide you want your project to be - I decided on a length of about 1.5 m, and about 6" in width (yes I am mixing my units). The first thing you do is set up the warp threads - these are the threads that run down the length of your piece. You need to set up the full length of the warp threads at the start, you can't easily add to this later on. It's not as fiddly as it sounds, but you set the loom up with as many warp threads as your project will need, threading the first one from the end of loom through a hole in the heddle to the end of the table (if that's the right length for your project).
The next thread goes parallel to the first, from the loom to the end of the table, but this time it goes through the slot between the vertical plastic strips in the heddle. The next thread goes through a hole, the next through a slot, and so on, alternating across, as wide as you need.
Now, once all the warp threads are set up, you don't want them flopping all over your kitchen table, so (and I think this is genius) you roll it all onto one of the rollers. In the picture below it's all rolled up on the roller on the right.

You then attach the loose ends onto the other roller. And it's sort of next to this roller that you do the actual weaving.  As you weave more and more rows you need to roll the fabric you've woven onto one roller to get it out of the way, and release some new not-yet-woven warp threads off the other roller, ready to be woven. It's all so compact, I always assumed looms were either huge room sized things, or else so small that they produced tiny little samples. So clever! Who knew!

The reason for the hole and slot thing becomes apparent as soon as you start weaving. So, remember that heddle thingy - the whitey bit with all the plastic strips, and the warp threads alternated between hole and slot ? Well, the heddle can be in a few positions: up, rest (or neutral), and down. When you move the heddle up or down, the threads in the holes are moved up or down too. But the threads in the slots always stay where they are.
So you move the heddle up, the hole threads go up, you weave the weft thread (side to side), one way.
Then you move the heddle down, the hole threads go down, you weave the weft back the other way.
This is how you get the weft thread actually woven through the warp threads in that way that we all learned at school with strips of paper going over a perpendicular strip, then going under the next one, them over, then under, and so on.

So of course I got so carried away with the whole weaving thing, that 3 hours later I had no photographs but I did have a finished scarf :)

I'm so pleased with myself :) I think it's pretty good for a first attempt. I'd read lots of negative reports about using acrylic yarn for weaving, but I thought I had nothing to lose for a first practice, and it seemed to work ok. The resulting fabric (I made fabric! .... I know!) is very soft, and such a different texture to knitting or crocheting, yet made with the same yarn.

I was quite heavy handed with the beating - this is where you squidge each woven row up tight to the preceding row. I think I was a bit scared of the final piece being holey so I crammed them too close together. Keeping a neat selvedge (left and right edges.... why can't they just call them edges ?) was tricky but I think this will come with practice. And I'm sure my tension left a lot to be desired, but overall, not bad eh ?!

In other news, Little Miss had Victorian Day at school last week. They get to go to the local museum where they have a Victorian schoolroom set up complete with slates, chalk, dunce's cap and the dreaded cane! I spent a fun day at my sewing machine turning an old black top of mine, some random black cotton fabric, an old white sheet and bit of broderie anglaise type stuff that my friend gave me, into a Victorian schoolgirl outfit. It's maybe a bit more maid than schoolgirl, but she was happy.

The crochet hooks have been busy, scarves and washcloths for Christmas presents, and more progress on my Autumn Blanket - yes I'm aware it's really winter now but I won't tell if you won't :)