Thursday 29 January 2015

Craft Room Makeover Part 1

I've been waiting waiting waiting to publish a new post, ideally with great ta-das and exciting reveals of amazingly impressive projects. Or project singular even. Sadly though, this was not to be. I've been really restless this last week or two. Starting things. Not finishing things. Sometimes not even starting things at all. I decided that the root of this, or part of it, at least, is my increasingly disorganized craft room. I'm really really lucky to have a whole room to dedicate to my crafting, it's not a very big room - after all I live in deepest suburbia in the increasingly densely populated south of England - but it's a room nonetheless. The furniture is a mish-mash of bits we've stopped using in other rooms - an old dining table, an unused desk, a bookshelf that someone gave us, a toy storage unit that was replaced by something more grown up. Hubby keeps telling me just to buy new furniture, but I quite like the old bits and pieces. Plus I really can't be bothered trying to decide what else to get, and it just seems so wasteful when there's nothing wrong with any of them.

However I have a really bad habit of piling stuff up and never putting it away properly, not least because there wasn't enough storage space for it all. Plus, my wool storage just wasn't doing it for me. Stacked about 6 balls high it kept collapsing and was generally just a mess. This room was not the restful, peaceful and inspiring place I wanted it to be.

So, for the last week, my spare time (what there is of it) has been spent rearranging and reorganizing. I didn't want the chaos to affect any of the other rooms so it was a bit like one of those square tile puzzles where you can only move one thing at a time then move the next thing into the space just created by moving the first thing, and so on. It's still a bit of a giant WIP but it's getting there. Lots more to sort out - paperwork, fabric, ironing, but lots is looking rather lovely, and the most important bit - my Beloved Yarn Stash - is looking fab-u-lous .... Here's a wee peek (can't show you any more as the rest is still obscured by Messy Stuff) ....

I commandeered 2 CD racks from around the house. We only ever listen to electronic copies of the music now anyway, so the CDs were evicted and are now occupying a couple of shelves elsewhere. They are several disks deep as we don't need to get them much. The CD racks are pretty sturdy and quite tall, so I've laid them on their sides, one on top of the other, along the back of my desk :) Each little CD cubby-hole holds 4-6 balls of yarn. What a happy sight to work/play next to :) I could spend hours just gazing at it. I might even sleep next to it.

I'm also fortunate to have a brilliant embroidery floss collection. My friend's Mum, who was a passionate cross-stitcher, passed away quite suddenly a few years ago. I knew her myself, she was a lovely lady. My friend and her sisters had to sell a lot of their Mum's belongings and add the monies to her estate. My friend sold me the job-lot of all of her Mum's stitching stuff - books, magazines, and threads - and look - one of those gorgeous vintage concertina sewing boxes ......

I thought about painting the box off-white, and doing the whole distressed thing (the box would be distressed, I might too) but actually I'd rather keep it the way its original owner had it. The floss collection was (is) amazing, look at the range of greens alone ....

Everything was numbered and labelled, Shelagh was super-organized. When I came into ownership of the collection, the sewing box was empty and all the cards of floss were in those whitefish plastic flat boxes with dividers ..... which are now in use by the Little People for their equally impressive loom band collection. And the floss cards fit perfectly into the sewing box, as you would hope. Shelagh kept all her spare cards and number stickers in this little original Oxo tin. I think she must have won it in a raffle, you can still the raffle ticket stuck on the bottom....

During my sort-out I found this old cross-stitch that I completed years ago but never got round to framing. I loved making this picture, it the kit was a gift from my Mum, and although it's a bit olde-fashioned for my usual tastes, I do rather like it, so I must get round to finding a frame for it.

As lots of shelves and boxes were cleared up, various random crochet motifs and swatches were unearthed. Maybe they will become a freestyle something-or-other. I had a great idea for them earlier but I seem to have forgotten what it was. Don't you hate that ? I'll just have to wait for inspiration to strike again. It looks like a dreadful jumble doesn't it ...

There, that's a bit better ..... 

My Playroom Thingy squares are multiplying, I'm nearly ready to assemble .....

And I've got a few new little bits on the go .....

Last, but most definitely nowhere near least, look look look look loooooook ...........

Fancy winning those little treats ? Next week I hope to reach my 100th post (I know!!!! 100!!!!), and I'm planning my Very First Giveaway!!! Whoop!!!! That little lot (deliberately half hidden, by the way, in order to keep it a surprise), with the addition of a few bits more, will be winging its way to one of you, my lovely readers, and I'll give you more details in a few posts' time :) Y'all come back now, y'hear ?


Monday 19 January 2015

Cappuccino Cowl

Inspiration strikes in the oddest places.
On Saturday we went out for lunch at our local cafe. It's an independent business, and we like it as we can walk or cycle there, and go to the park on the way home. Plus, the food is great and not too pricey. As we left the house I grabbed some notebooks and pens to amuse the Little People during our meal.

Lunch was lovely - veggie brekkie for hubby, sausage and chips for the Little Peeps, and a goats' cheese salad for me. For afters the Little People had ice-cream (with squirty cream and sprinkles, obviously) and coffees for us. Well, mine was a tea (but we'll come back to that) which I asked for in a to-go cup. The cup had one of those cardboard sleeves on it, with wiggly vertical grooves. Well, they were begging to be coloured in, so I made the Little Peeps share the pens, and while they slurped their ice-cream, I pimped up my cup. Although the selection of pens I'd brought was rubbish (there wasn't even a red for goodness' sake) I do enjoy a bit of doodling and colouring.

On the way home we swung by the park for a bit (spot the grubby plaster-cast coloured mitt anyone ?) and as I sipped my cuppa to warm myself up, the old creative cogs began to whirr. Hmmm. Doesn't that cup actually look quite good ? Aren't those colours together quite pleasing ? Wouldn't they make a jolly nice colourway for a new scarf or scarf-like thing ? 

As soon as we got home I headed for the yarn cupboard and looked for just the right colours. My Stylecraft stash yielded four of the five that I wanted, and for the fifth - the pink - I had a Paton's yarn, the Stylecraft pinks that I had weren't quite right.

I made a really simple granny-stripe cowl, it's quite straightforward but I'll add the pattern at the end of this post, there's nothing worse than thinking "I'd like to make that" and then being uncertain about where to begin (totally flattering myself that anyone might like to make something similar). 

A pattern of two rows of each colour, and then the whole thing repeated.

Working in a granny pattern of groups of three trebles is so relaxing, I find I don't really have to think much about it, so it's a good background activity to do whilst chatting or watching telly.

The colours are really unusual for me, not a red nor a purple  in sight. I used Stylecraft Special DK in (from the bottom of above photo) Mocha, Meadow, Spice, and Camel. The pink is Patons Fab DK in Candy. 

I'm calling it the Cappucino Cowl. The Tea Cowl doesn't sound as good. Actually it sounds a lot like tea-towel. Cappucino Cowl it is then.

There are no decent photos of me wearing it, or of its full length, as the light is so dodgy at the time of year. But it looks quite delicious rolled up, I think. And I wore it today - it's very cosy :)

Isn't it great how you can draw inspiration even from a pack of random and mostly-dried-up pens :)

Cappucino or a cuppa anyone ?

Cappucino Cowl Pattern

5 colours of DK yarn
5mm hook
Note: pattern is in UK terminology

sl-st slip-stitch
ch chain
ch-space chain-space
dc double-crochet
tr treble-crochet

Chain 257. (Counts as 256 ch plus 1 dc)
Row 1 : dc in 2nd ch from hook, dc in every st to end.
              sl-st to top of first dc of previous round, to form a loop (ensure work is not twisted)
Row 2: ch 3, 2tr in st at base of ch3, (skip 3, ch 1, 3tr in next st) to end. ch 1, sl-st to top of ch3.
Row 3: ch 3, 2tr in ch-space at base of ch3, (ch 1, 3tr in next ch-space) to end. ch 1, sl-st to top of ch3. Fasten off.
Row 4: with new colour , join in any ch-space. ch 3, 2tr in ch-space at base of ch3, (ch 1, 3tr in next st) to end. ch 1, sl-st to top of ch3.
Row 5: ch 3, 2tr in ch-space at base of ch3, (ch 1, 3tr in next st) to end. ch 1, sl-st to top of ch3. Fasten off.
Row 6-22: repeat rows 4-5, changing colour every 2 rows. **
Row 23: ch1, dc in every st to end

To finish:
Use the loose end of yarn at the very start to slipstitch or sew onto the end of the foundation row of chains, this closes the little gap that was left.
Sew in all ends.
Block or press lightly with a medium iron, depending on care instructions for your yarn

** I changed yarn after every two rows of granny trebles, so my pattern was 
- dc row in Mocha
- 10 granny rows in (mocha, mocha, meadow, meadow, spice, spice, camel, camel, pink, pink) twice
- 2 more rows of granny trebles in mocha
- finished with a dc row in mocha

Friday 16 January 2015

Five on Friday

For Five on Friday today I thought I'd share with you some crocheted items that I made before I started blogging. It's only been around 18 months but some of these projects feel like years ago. Off we go then on a (fairly recent) nostalgia trip ....

Children's hats ....

Minecraft creeper, Hello Kitty, and a Minion. Pretty much sums up my Little Peeps - a die-hard gamer likely to explode any second, a pretty cutie-pie and a mischievous small thing. They don't wear these any more, they are either too small or no longer considered cool, but I will keep them for sentimental value, I think :) I used lots of Pinterest ideas for inspiration, but just made them up as I went along. After all I had life size models trying them on every 10 minutes.

Teddy blankets ....

These little blankets were my first attempt at granny squares, and also my first foray into blocking. I made them both on holidays in Northern Ireland, and the crocheting was done largely on the beach.
Yes, there are beaches in Northern Ireland, and yes it's sometimes even warm enough to sit on them. With the safety net of a beach tent though, you never know where the next rain cloud is coming from.
The blue blanket is being modeled by Ted - Little Tomboy's teddy. I've blogged about Ted before, he's quite a character. Our 4th child I think. Yesterday I played Snakes and Ladders with Little Tomboy. Ted played too. (I won, in case you're wondering. I wasn't too popular). Today, Little Tomboy informed me that I had to leave her curtains closed all day, as Ted was having a lie-in. Flopsy, Little Miss' rabbit-teddy, is snuggled under the pink blanket. Flopsy is as equally loved, but a bit more shy, and a lot less demanding.

Granny Square Cowl

I made this just over a year ago, late in the winter of 2013. It was my first flirtation with James C Brett Marble Chunky. I have a love-hate relationship with this yarn. I adore how it looks, and feels, but I find working with it quite irritating. That being said I have since bought it again so I guess it can't be that bad. When I made this cowl, I just wanted to make Something, but wasn't sure exactly what. I tried a few different things and wasn't happy with any of them. In the end it was more a sort of "sod it I'll just make granny squares and do something with them" type of project. And so the cowl was created. I hated it. It just wasn't right. Too stiff, too curly, and I didn't like the colour-changing-granny effect. However it was the warmest scarf-like thing I had last winter and I wore it constantly. Now it has softened up beautifully, become a wardrobe staple and of course I've grown to love it.

First Fingerless Mitts

Oh, these mitts are a dilemma. I made them really just to use up some Aran wool that my friend gave me when her mother-in-law cleared out her loft. And I mean Aran as in that creamy stuff my Mum made me too-tight jumpers with and then forced me to wear them - shudder). The pattern was from Simply Crochet, I think, and I also embellished them with a heart. I was really happy with them when finished, and they are fabulously warm. BUT I hate the colour. Sigh. It's exactly the colour of a plaster cast. I broke my wrist a few years ago and had a cast for 7 weeks (nightmare - couldn't drive, write, lift laundry, type properly, cook, dry my hair, putting on my bra was a contortionist act) and when I wear these mitts I look like I've broken both wrists. I keep waiting for someone to ask me what I've done. Oh and they get super grubby super quick. But they're soooooooo cosy to wear.

Chunky Poncho

This was another trial with James C Brett and his marble chunky. James, James, James. Could you not have made it a bit less fuzzy and splitty ? Well it's not really splitty, it's just I find it so hard to distinguish the stitch outline to know where to put the hook. The poncho was made from this Drops pattern. (If you've never visited the Drops pattern website before, go and have a browse, there are loads of free patterns, I highly recommend it). I'm not the right shape to carry a poncho off that well in public in front of other actual people, but it's a winner for wearing in front of the telly :) I love the colours here, gorgeous earthy tones, and it is gloriously snuggly and warm. James, perhaps your marble chunky isn't so bad after all.

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.

Tuesday 13 January 2015

Settling Back In

It's been a week since my last blog-post. It's a bit like confession isn't it, and I'm not even Catholic.
We've been gently lowering ourselves back into the murky waters of early mornings and school runs, after a lovely Christmas break. 

The early starts are a killer for me, I'm not a morning person, so that part of the routine is always challenging, but at this time of year, when it's still dark when I get up, and still dark upon leaving for school in the morning, it seems really hard. Thankfully all the after-school clubs haven't re-started yet, so the Mum-taxi service to and from football, basketball, dancing, gymnastics, drama, or - my favourite - sewing club - has yet to resume service. I'm not a big club fan, I survived quite well without attending every club going, but it just seems to have worked out this way, and I suppose I should be happy that they like to try different things. Just the girls though, Little Man is a home bird, no clubs for him!

I seem to done a lot of pottering about this last week, sorting, clearing out, doing all those post-Christmas/New Year jobs like rehoming old toys, donating old books and shredding old paperwork. Jobs that are very therapeutic but don't exactly make for riveting reading.

I spent a pleasant hour or two sorting out my crochet books and magazines. They're in the top part of my old bureau, the fold down desk-y bit broke so I can't stuff random paperwork in there any more. Instead I have all my crochet literature (which is much prettier and far more important than those silly old bills and bank statements) all filed and on display.

Although, and now I'm talking to you Simply Crochet, what's with the stark black top part of the spine on issue 27? Bring back the properly coloured colours please. Thankyou.

The slow cooker has been earning it's keep. As a vegetarian family with one child who does't like "shiny" sauces - you know, the sort that have gravy, flour, cornflour, roux type bases - we eat a lot of tomatoey based meals from the slow-cooker. 
Last night was (meat-free) meatball pasta bake, tonight is quorn paprika, tomorrow the other half of the mixture for tonight's dinner will become a lasagne. And later this week we'll have jacket potatoes done in the slow-cooker.

I love that you can bung something in it in the morning, or even the night before, and it's just ready and waiting patiently for you at tea-time. So you don't get that "oh groan what will we have for tea tonight" feeling at 5pm. If anyone has any vegetarian non-shiny non-tomatoey sauce slow-cooker recipes, fire them over please! Always looking for new ideas :) By the way, is it "tea-time" or "dinner-time" in your house ? I always say tea-time, I have VERY vivid memories of my Mum shrieking "TEA'S READY!!!!!!" repeatedly, and getting annoyed if we didn't come straight away. In a very similar way to myself nowadays.... So maybe it's the Northern Irish way to say "tea-time" ? I'm sure my Southern English Mum friends say dinner-time. 

On the crochet-front I've started a hat. For myself. I love hats, but not on me. I can't work out if it's because I wear glasses, or is my face too round-y ? Anyway, I thought I'd tailor-make myself one. I'm totally making it up as I go along, it's so great when you can try it on pretty much every round! I'm using a really gorgeous deep berry red Sirdar wool-blend DK. But to speed things up, and chunk up the hat a bit, I'm using two strands at the same time, with a 6mm hook. It's supposed to snow overnight (I have my doubts though) so I'm hoping to finish it tonight.

The playroom project (you'll be so disappointed, it's a bit funky but not that amazing) is progressing. I tried to get a decent photo of some of the squares but the light is just so bad. Here's one that is neither glaringly bright nor overly dark .......

.... but the teal colour on the right is a big lie. it's actually a very bright green. More like this ...

.... I love this green. What would you call it ? It's not neon, lime, sage, mint, pistachio, emerald, forest, petrol, not even really jade. Is it Mid Green ? Just "Green" ? 

The WIP that's taken up most of my time is the cross-stitch I'm doing for Little Tomboy. She spotted this kit at Hobbycraft one afternoon, it was reduced to a fiver - bargain! - so I agreed to make it for her. I'll do an over the top reveal once I've done the last few bits and framed it somehow. Here are a few sneak peeks though .... 

Cute little flower detail in the corner ....

Some of the writing yet to be outlined ....

And some of the writing with completed outlining detail ....

I love how the outlining adds so much depth to the picture.
It's not my usual choice of picture, or style, but Little Tomboy is going to love it. Well I hope so anyway :)

I'll be "Five on Friday"ing this week, see you then :)


Tuesday 6 January 2015

A Year In Books - January 2015

It's so tempting to leap aboard every blogging band-wagon with gay abandon, I read so many interesting and varied posts, and think how fun they sound. But posts take time to write, and I do want to try and keep my blog primarily-craft-and-especially-crochet focused. Plus, if I joined in with every linky-up thing I would spend all my time blogging and not doing any actual doing. And that would mean not crocheting. And that would be Not Good.

The theme though that I do constantly find myself thinking about is The Year In Books organised by Laura at Circle of Pine Trees. I've often seen posts linking back to this, usually with eye-catching photos of book covers positioned at jaunty angles. I do some of my reading on my kindle and just assumed that photos of it would just be really duuuuuulllll ....

.... however I was blog-hopping this morning - as you do - and read this post by Shelley at The Little House In The Corner - another lovely crafty crochet homey blog. Shelley provided me with a solution to the boring kindle photo - arrange the kindle artfully on a pile of colourful crochet! Genius! Simple genius, but genius nonetheless. Why had I not thought of this before ? And now there's no stopping me from blogging about books, so here we go .....

As a child I devoured books. I couldn't get enough of them. From Enid Blyton to Lewis Carroll, Anna Sewell to Judy Blume, I'd read anything. I continually had books on loan from the library, and asked for them for birthdays and Christmas. My reading continued through school, whilst at university and during my office-working life (not actually AT work I hasten to add), but nowadays life seems to have got in the way of reading much. I'd like to rectify this, so hopefully joining in with A Year in Books will give me that push that I need to get back on board the reading train.

I'm being stupidly over ambitious and aiming for 3 books a month. Yes, yes, I know I'm running before I can walk, but let me explain. My three books a month fall into these categories:
  1. The Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris, given to me over a year ago for Christmas by a friend.
  2. Charity shop purchases - I keep buying them and not actually reading them.
  3. Kindle backlog - again I keep buying them and not actually reading them.

I'd like to read one from every category every month. And inspired by Shelley I thought it might be fun to have, as"props" for the photos, whatever crochet projects I'm currently working on.

So, a bit more detail about the books I've chosen for January. From the Sookie Stackhouse books, I'm just finishing the third, Club Dead, and this month I plan to read book 4, "Dead to the World". They sound a bit grim don't they. They're actually surprisingly cheery, and a very light read. Think chick-lit with a southern vampire twist. The stories are all centred on Sookie Stackhouse (no surprises there) who lives in a version of today where Vampires have "come out" as it were, and live openly in day to day society in normalcy if not harmony with people. Each book is a story in itself, although each does contain minor references to previous books. 

I probably wouldn't have chosen these for myself. I'm not a huge fan of vampire tales, but I had read Stephanie Meyer's Twilight series and my friend knew I'd enjoyed them (the films not so much). As with the Twilight books, I would say that the Sookie Stackhouse series is probably more favoured by the late teenage market, however some of my favourite books would be aimed at that market too, Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy being a perfect example, so I think its ok for an - ahem- 40-something - grown adult to enjoy them too :)

Dead to the World is pictured next to some yellow solid grannies, squares for a Top Secret Project for the Little Peeps, unfortunately I've built up its part too much and they're expecting a colossal crochet play arena or something. They're going to be disappointed. Oh well.

From my charity shop backlog I'm going to give "A Girl Named Disaster" by Nancy Farmer a go. This looks the meatiest of my 3 choices, and it's for that reason that I'm most looking forward to it. According to the blurb (that's what my Little People call the synopsis on the back :)
"Nhamo is an unloved and unwanted orphan who determines to leave her village rather than face a hateful marriage. Alone for the first time in her life, she paddles upriver towards Zimbabwe in her canoe."
Hmmm. Better get the tissues handy. I love books like this. Books that transport you to another place, another climate, another culture. Books that immerse you in a world radically different to that in which you live day to day. Can't wait to get into this one.

A Girl Named Disaster is shown with a backdrop of Autumn Blanket, yes I know it's not been autumn for ages, but who cares ?!.

Finally I've chosen something a bit lighter from my kindle - "The Great Christmas Knit-Off" by Alexandra Brown, on a recommendation from Clare at Summerhouse by The Sea. (Thanks Clare!). Clare took part in A Year in Books last year, and this was her December read. Despite having 3 billion (ok, 108) books already on my kindle, I bought it last week (when it was technically still Christmas), and yes I know that buying a new kindle book does not reduce the backlog. Must try harder next month.
The Great Christmas Knit-Off will be a bit of light-hearted fun, I hope. And let's face it, with a title like that it has to be entertaining. 

The Great Christmas Knit-Off is shown nestled in a very very variegated scarf which is a very very nearly finished very very late Christmas present, in fact for the friend that bought me the Sookie Stackhouse books. Ooooh nice link back to the top of my post there :) How convenient :)

Must dash, lots of reading to do :)


Friday 2 January 2015

Twinkly Tealight Holders

Back in December, when I was drowning in a sea of tinsel, wrapping paper, and pine needles, I'd seen a brilliant post over at Christina's blog A Colourful Life (, and then, another lovely post on a really similar theme over at Gillian's Tales From a Happy House blog (

Both posts featured empty glass jars of some type, varying colours of tissue paper and watery glue .... the making of tealight holders. What fun :) I mean, who wouldn't enjoy designing a tealight holder and then making it in the comfort of your own kitchen with Christmas sweets to hand ? The answer to that question is that apparently 11 year old boys with autism don't enjoy it. Tantrums a-plenty. The mess; the scissors being too blunt, too big, too small; the paper not cutting right; the colour being wrong; the pieces not being square ..... but you live and learn, eh ?! So it was just us girls then.

We set about making a design each on paper first. Mainly so I could gather all the necessary materials without twenty questions at the same time.  And if you are a 10 year old girl it is practically the Law that all design type projects require One Direction pencils. Luckily Little Miss has a few.

Little Miss was the self-proclaimed expert, having done decopatching (to use the grown-up term) at both school and Brownies. She is the most laid back of my children and just got on with it, a lovely quick sketch of a rainbow and then she just dived straight in. 

Little Tomboy is a bit fussier, and wanted a very precise design (oh groan - precise usually spells disaster in 7 year olds I've found - expectation rarely matches end result. I helped her design a Stampy-Cat face (those of you with Minecrafters may know what I'm on about) which luckily she was very happy with once its decopatching interpretation was complete.

I went for a sort of glowing heart against a cool blue backdrop. No sketch. Life on the edge. All we needed was some  empty jars (rummage in the garage), ordinary tissue paper (rummage in children's craft box), children's paint brushes (rummage in paint sets and give several brushes a good wash - yuck), and watered down PVA glue. I was fairly unscientific, I used maybe about 1 part water to 2 parts PVA but I think I should have made it more watery. Another lesson learned! Our materials were gathered, we got stuck in to choosing paper, and then chopping it up.

Then it's just a case of pasting and layering. I guess there are a million and one ways to achieve differing effects, but we kept it simple. Paste some glue over an area of the jar, lay on a small square, paste some glue over it to sort of seal it, repeat. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Totally relaxing, really calming, very zen. You can't really go wrong. And if you do, just pick it off, or cover it up, or go with the flow and change your design as you go along.

Loads of fun. I may or may not have continued on my own for an hour after Little Miss and Little Tomboy wandered off .......

I did another 4 (yes, f.o.u.r) jars, er, I mean tealight holders, one to represent each season. 
For winter, a blue background with a few stars twinkling through. 
For spring, some tulips against a light greeny-blue background.
For summer, greens, blues, and pinks in a rainbow affair.
For autumn, orange, red, and purple to resemble fiery tones.

As the afternoon grew darker, and I realized I really should stop messing about and cook something for tea, I called it a day - it was time to light the candles - hurray :D

Aaaah lovely. Don't you love the soft twinkliness glowing through the semi opaque layers of colour. Very calming, and soooo pretty :)