A tale of two blankets

This time last year I was working on two blankets. One of them was my 2014 ‘Granny Square a Week’ blanket and the other was a blanket for little man, inspired by his love of a certain hama bead Super Mario character we’d recently made.

Well I did manage to complete my 2014 blanket and on time! Here it is:

IMG_20150113_205109

It was a real labour of love. 2014 was not an easy year for me and I’m glad I didn’t attempt to do a square a day, otherwise I’d still be hooking it! Despite that, I’m really pleased with it. I decided half way through that I’d make it for little miss and thankfully she loves it. I know the colours don’t all work perfectly but for me it does sum up the year and each square has a special memory and meaning.

Blanket number two was completely different. While I was making this blanket for little miss, little man expressed a wish for a blanket of his very own. I was racking my brains to see how I could achieve this when I saw him playing with the hama bead Super Mario Character we’d recently made. I don’t know it was because I had squares on the brain thanks for my granny square blanket, or what but I realised that if it worked in hama beads, I could probably make it work in crochet squares (I subsequently found out later that I am, unsurprisingly, not the first person to think this). Here’s how it turned out:

IMG_20150109_135506428_HDR

Little man loves it and it lovely to see them both cuddled up in their respective blankets.

(If you fancy having a go at the Mario Blanket, I’ll publish a pattern in my next blog post :) )

Summer Holiday fun

Here in the UK we’re most of the way through our Summer holidays. Any of you out there who are parents will appreciate the hard work it takes to entertain little ones who are used to being challenged and stretched every day at school. There are huge parts of the holidays that are fun and other parts that are rather mundane (real life doesn’t stop just because the children are off). Getting the right balance can be rather tricky! We’ve had indoor picnics; made sofa dens; played outside; gone to the park (many times); walked the dog; had a afternoon home cinema (watch a film with popcorn, floor cushions, their favorite blankets etc); as well as done a couple of days out type things. However, by far the best thing we’ve discovered to do (something that we’ve come back to again and again) is playing with Hama beads (I think they are called Peerler beads in the US). If you don’d know what they are, they are little plastic beads that you put together to make a picture and then iron to hold the beads in place. Not sure what I mean? Well here’s a couple that we’ve made:

IMG_20150707_171512975

These are coasters. They make great coasters as they are heat proof and can be washed. Here’s another one (we like floral designs, can you tell?)

IMG_20150824_172231826

Little Miss is a little young to make them but she does love to sort the beads out. It’s been a great way for her to practice her colours. Little Man is old enough to get enjoyment out of them. He’s been working hard to build up his collection of various characters.

FB_IMG_1428783567022

He likes Mario. They both like certain yellow beings that appear to have taken over……

IMG_20150707_171709

They are seriously Minion crazy! We haven’t made any into keyrings yet but the next ones that will inevitably be made are earmarked for keyrings. Despite all of these, the thing I’ve discovered, that I personally think is the best thing about hama beads is that they pack flat but are great little toys. They have seriously saved many a long car and take up almost no room! They are definitely a hit in this household! If you fancy having a go yourself, there’s loads of inspiration on pintrest. My Hama Bead board is here.

It’s been a long time!

Looking back at my last blog post, I can’t believe it’s been so long! A lot has been happening offline (which, if you follow me on twitter or facebook you are probably aware of). It’s rather an exciting time for me. I’ve decided to spin and sell my own yarn. I think I mentioned about this time last year that I had discovered spinning and was absolutely loving it! Well a few other people have loved what I’ve been spinning too, so now I’m testing the water and selling what I’m making. It’s very early days but I’m enjoying doing the craft fairs and a local shop has even agreed to stock my yarn!

IMG_20150428_185733820_HDR

And a close up (The two brown ones on the left are 100% Alpaca and are soooo soft!).

IMG_20150428_214810

I’ve also been playing with dying merino:

IMG_20150514_154249572

This rainbow colour way has been particularly popular. This is how it looks spun up:

IMG_20150509_133453

It’s also amazing how just changing one colour can effect the over all colour of the finished yarn. This colour way is pink, purple and yellow:

IMG_20150514_154320667

In this colour way, I’ve kept the pink and purple but swapped the yellow for grey:

IMG_20150514_155010

Here they are spun up.

IMG_20150701_195850

Ahhhhh I love them so much! I’m not yet stocking them in my online shop as I’m still revamping it but you can keep up to date with what I’m doing via Facebook and order through there if you want too :)

That’s all for now. It’s good to be back!

A weekend in Brighton

I was lucky enough to spend last weekend in Brighton for my sisters Hen weekend. I won’t share the many fun and exciting things we got up to (what happens in Brighton stays in Brighton etc etc), but I will give you a sneaky peak at where we stayed.

IMG_20141012_084301558

It was so trendy that it had random bits of black rope hanging from the ceiling…..I’m not sure why……Seriously though, it was a great place to stay.

I said I wouldn’t share any details of the Hen Do, and I won’t, however I did slip out on Sunday morning (you know what it’s like when you have kids…..you wake up whether they are there or not *sigh*). It was a beautiful fresh morning so, as I love the sea I went in search of it. It was such a treat being able to have a relaxed walk all on my own (and by that I mean without little people pulling at my leg all the time demanding attention) that I had to take some pictures. Enjoy.

IMG_20141012_085846106

Apart from the stunning building, notice the clear blue sky. You would never guess that we are now half way through October would you?

IMG_20141012_090448879

The Pier.

IMG_20141012_090720272

Stones.

Well me trying to show little man that I visited a pebble beach but in an arty way…….I’m not sure I can really pull off ‘arty’ lol.

IMG_20141012_092406301

The Sea.

IMG_20141012_091313027_HDR

The Pier again.

IMG_20141012_090933126

Selfie on the beach (Hubby, Little Man and Little Miss had just sent me a pic of what they were doing, so I thought I’d send one back).

Long lazy days and a new hobby.

Wow, it’s been a long time since I last blogged! Have you all had a good Summer? Here it feels like the summer has gone on forever. The weather has been amazing and is in fact still amazing (25oC in the middle of September?!). The Summer Holidays have been going on for 8 weeks (Little man is going into reception and they do a staggered start) and I’d love to say that they have been filled with long lazy days, but I’m not sure that’s possible with two little people! We have had fun though and the weather has definitely helped by providing lots of opportunities for out door activities. I won’t bore you with everything we’ve done, as I’m sure you don’t really want to know; but I will share with you my new hobby.

IMG_20140909_113735216

Isn’t she beautiful? Hubby very kindly gave her to me as I’ve been spinning on a drop spindle for a while now, which is great but takes a long time. He is of course the best husband ever (he even has an official badge). If you’re interested, I bought it from here. It’s so clever, it folds away (perfect for keeping it safe of little people). I am totally addicted. If you haven’t tried spinning but love crochet or knitting, I’d recommend it. It’s very cheap to start (you can get drop spindles from as little as £6) and there is something very relaxing and satisfying about making your own yarn. I found it really helpful starting on a drop spindle as you get a good feel for the wool; how it moves together and, as it’s slower, it’s a lot easier to correct mistakes.

IMG_20140906_164936851

Here’s some fleece ready to spin. Isn’t it lovely? It came from here. Doesn’t it look like a big ball of candy floss? It’s so soft!

IMG_20140909_113758730

I would have taken pictures of me spinning it but spinning selfies don’t really work ;) Here is the wool you’ve just seen spun onto two bobbins, ready to ply it together and make the final skein of wool. And what am I going to make with this lovely piece of handspun yarn? Well I’m glad you asked:

IMG_20140825_122456332

Toft’s Alpaca has just released a book of all their lovely crochet softies and ‘Bunny Hop’ needs at least one new friend (probably the elephant, but I also really want to make at least one sheep and a monkey). ps. the cushions in the background are the first things I spun….I made little man and little miss floor cushions and I couldn’t help sneaking them in!

If you want to see more spinning loveliness, I have been happily pinning (told you I was addicted!)

A story of 3 Dresses :)

Summer is well and truly here in the UK. Wimbledon is entering the second week; the world cup has entered the final stages and it’s almost time for the British Grand Prix. We had our school Fête this weekend and although it rained pretty much the whole time, there was something rather wonderful, watching people walking round under their umbrella’s, sipping a glass of Pimm’s and eating a punnet of strawberries and cream while their kids ran around having fun (you don’t get more ‘English’ than that!).

For me Summer doesn’t just mean the chance of long lazy days, sitting on a picnic blanket, soaking up the glorious weather (or just as likely, huddled under an umbrella waiting for the rain ‘to pass’); it means more sewing. I guess as someone who does a number of different crafts, it only makes sense that when the weather gets warmer I put down my hook and knitting needles and dust off my sewing machine. When it’s really hot the last thing I feel like, is being surrounded by balls of wool! This summer I’ve set myself the challenge of making some clothes. I haven’t made that many before as, to be honest, they scare me! I’ve plucked up the courage however and started with a few dresses for little miss.

IMG_20140629_134345671I found this pattern (it’s super easy if you fancy trying it….hence why I chose it). As you can see, I decided to start with a couple of little dresses for little miss (mostly because they need very little alteration and tailoring, unlike clothes for me!).

IMG_20140607_132508780Cutting out :)

IMG_20140613_132620120Here’s the final dress. All I did was cut two dresses, one out of the main fabric, one out of the lining, then I sewed them together and added the finishing touches. It was really simple and actually quite fun, so I made a couple of more.

IMG_20140619_090135189One with butterflies…..

IMG_20140626_143239626….and one with strawberries.

If you fancy having a go, I’d recommend a bold print like the butterflies or the strawberries as they look great on.

A new Adventure in Crafts…….learning to felt!

So, when my friend told me that she was thinking of running a ‘learn to felt’ workshop, I was very excited. I’ve always loved and admired the things that she makes and having the chance to learn a new craft was very tempting (you know how I love all things woolly). I signed up and a couple of weeks ago, spent a very nice Saturday afternoon, relaxing and learning how to create felt pictures.

IMG_20140531_140516408These are some of the things Pippa makes…..aren’t they beautiful? You can see why I was so keen to learn!

IMG_20140531_140457400When we walked into the room there was a large table full of the things she’d made as well as magazines and books full of things to inspire us. I love the person in the boat. As someone completely new to felting, the way the waves were created was fascinating. If you want to check out more of her lovely creations, pop over to her facebook page.
l.·.............................. # k[poooooootThere were also two large tables in the room for us to sit at. We were each given a foam pad, a felting needle and were then told to choose some wool to felt (I mean, how on earth can you choose just one colour from a basket full that looks so beautiful?!). You’ll be proud of me, I did choose just one colour.

IMG_20140531_131804186_HDRPippa then explained all about the wool fibre and how we needed to start to create a felt base for our picture (we were going to create flower pictures). I have to admit, I was torn between wanting to felt the wool and wanting to spin it (It was so soft, and look it’s calling out to be spun!) however I persevered and did as I was instructed.

IMG_20140531_132142425This is the first layer.

IMG_20140531_132652862_HDRA couple of layers in.

IMG_20140531_132713275_HDRPippa then showed us how to stab the wool correctly. Now if you haven’t tried felting like this, I highly recommend it. It’s amazingly therapeutic! The idea is that you stab through all the layers of wool to bind them together. Basically you are allowed (and encouraged) to stab it….a lot.

IMG_20140531_134157218_HDRHere’s how mine turned out. The holes do disappear a little if you rub the, now sheet of felt, between your hands gently.

IMG_20140531_140036906_HDRNext we were taught how to make a straight line (it’s not as easy as you’d think).

IMG_20140531_141852456_HDRThen onto making our flower shape. Now I’d like to stop here and say that I was impressed how good the results were. I honestly haven’t tried anything like this before, yet my flower looks like a flower and my straight line is straighter than I can draw one! That is mostly down to how clear and easy to understand Pippa made it. I know she’s my  friend but I believe that part of being a friend is offering honest feedback and I was trying to stay objective. So I can honestly say I was impressed with how professional she was and how easy she made it. I really felt like I was sitting relaxing and was completely unaware of learning, yet came away remembering everything and being able to make my own things at home afterwards, which is a real achievement (how many times have we been to workshops where you get home, try to make something else and realise that you have no idea what to do or where to start….or is that just me?).

IMG_20140531_143223732Anyway, back to Pippa’s workshop. This is my finished piece. What I loved what how different everyone’s picture were.

_20140531_201727Here are a few of them.

IMG_20140531_142547700_HDRThere were two ladies sitting on the table with me, one made this beautiful flower (I love the steam and leaf, such a good idea!)

IMG_20140531_142619307The other lady wasn’t happy with the flower she’d made so made it into a butterfly instead. I think it looks great and love how versatile and fluid the creative process can be with needle felting.

IMG_20140531_143953095 You’d think by now that it would be time to go home as the workshop was only 2 1/2 hours however it wasn’t. It was time for a cup of tea and slice of very yummy chocolate cake in Karen’s Kitchen.

When we came back Pippa said we could ‘go crazy’ and make a picture of whatever we liked. We were given free range of all her books and magazines to get inspiration and paper and pens in case we wanted to sketch our designs. There is a reason I prefer making things with my hands…..this was my ‘sketch’:

IMG_20140531_172729691You wouldn’t believe that my two sisters are very accomplished artists would you? It really did pass me by lol!

Anyway this is what I ended up with and was actually very close to the picture I had in my head.

IMG_20140531_201614059I decided to make a woolly sheep as I felt it was fitting. You can’t see it here as my phone camera isn’t great but I managed to use different colours of green to create a textured grassy background. Pippa is running another workshop next week on learning the basics of 3D needle felting. I’ve already signed up and really looking forward to it! If you want more information about her courses, click here :)

Little Crochet Bird Pattern

I have decided to help a little with The Craft Clubs yarn bombing attempt. Do pop over and have a look. I can’t wait to see what they end up with.

IMG_20140529_180346059

Anyway, I decided that I wanted to make something a part from flowers and butterflies (if you want my daisy pattern its here), so I came up with this simple bird pattern.

I used a 3.5mm hook and DK yarn. You will also need a wool needle to sew the eye at the end.

The pattern is written using UK terminology

Abbreviations:

  ss–  slip  stitch

Tr – Treble

ch – chain

st – stitch/stitches

Fancy giving them a go?

IMG_20140529_141426Ch 4. Join to first ch to make a ring.

IMG_20140529_141545
Round 1:  ch 3 (counts as 1 tr) work 13 tr into chain ring. ss into 3rd ch from beginning (14st).

IMG_20140529_141552
Round 2: ch 3 (counts as 1 tr)  work 2 tr into each st from previous round. Join with ss to 3rd ch from beginning.

IMG_20140529_141600
Round 3: chain 3 (counts as 1 tr). Work 1 tr into same space then 1tr into next st *2tr into next st, 1 tr into next st*. Repeat from *to* until the end. Join with ss to 3rd ch from the beginning of the round.

IMG_20140529_141606
Round 4: ch 3 (counts as 1tr) work 1 tr into same st, work 1 tr into next 2 st *2tr in next st, 1 tr into next 2 st* repeat *to* until the end. Join with ss to the 3rd ch at beginning of round.

IMG_20140529_141613
Round’ 5: ch 3 (counts as 1tr). Work 1tr into same st. *1 tr in next 3 st, 2tr in next st* repeat *to* 1 more time. 1tr into next 3 st Turn.
‘Round’ 6: ch 4 *miss one st, tr into next st, tr back into the st you’ve just missed, ch 1* repeat from *to* until last 2 st from round 5. Miss one st, tr into last stitch then tr into missed st. Fasten off.

IMG_20140529_141629

In contrasting colour work first two rounds.

IMG_20140529_145721

Fold bird in half, sew the contrasting colour circle on then sew up bird from the bottom of the tail to the beak end (leaving the top of the tail to the bottom of the tail open).

IMG_20140529_145709Attach another piece of thread to where you want the beak. Ch 4 and ss back into same place that you started. fasten but don’t cut off. Using the same tread, sew eyes. Fasten off.

IMG_20140530_091328I’m going to hang mine up eventually. If you want to do the same, attach some thread in the middle of the back. There you have it :)

IMG_20140529_180346059Mine are going to join the other flowers and butterflies that will be making their way to yarnbomb but I’m sure more will be appearing around the house very soon…… ;)

Rainbow cake Tutorial

IMG_20140329_154245340

We recently celebrated Little Miss’ first birthday. It was a lovely time even though she was too little to remember it. Still, I wanted to mark the occasion so I made her this birthday cake. I first saw it on one of these ‘awesome cakes I want to make’ type facebook links and I loved it. However when I came to make this, the link no longer worked so I can’t direct you to the original post. I know that the original post was just a picture not a walk through, so I already knew I had to make it up as I went along (It’s worth noting here that there are probably much better ways of doing this as I actually made it up as I went along, I have never ‘learnt’ how to make or decorate cakes). Would you like to see how I did it?

IMG_20140329_093230517First make 2 Madeira cakes (you can find the recipe in most cake books or online as it’s a basic for occasion cake baking). Level the top of each cake so the are flat.

IMG_20140329_093511858Cut each cake in half.

IMG_20140329_093124988In two of the halves, cut a rough oval shape. Make sure you have cake around the sides so that the cake remains stable once finished. These will be the middle layers of the cake. We’ll fill this hole later with M&Ms :)

IMG_20140329_100004070Take the bottom layer and cover with butter icing.

IMG_20140329_100050077Put the first middle layer on.

IMG_20140329_100139735Cover this with icing.

IMG_20140329_100205302Put the second middle layer on top.

IMG_20140329_100242581Fill hole with M&M’s.

IMG_20140329_100341861-001Put more butter icing on top.

IMG_20140329_100351523_HDRAdd the final layer.

IMG_20140329_100407363Turn on it’s side so it’s up the right way.

IMG_20140329_101843876Now cover the outside with butter icing.

IMG_20140329_102112203This will stick the icing to the cake.

IMG_20140329_102208656Now roll out your blue icing. I didn’t buy blue icing (although I know you can get it). I bought some white icing from tesco and some blue food colouring and worked it in until I got the shade I wanted. If you want to do it like this, my top tip is to use a cocktail stick to apply the food colouring as you don’t need very much of it.

IMG_20140329_102608766_HDRNow pick it up (I used the rolling pin to carefully roll and carry it then unwrapped it onto the cake).

IMG_20140329_102843519Smooth down with a cake smoother (it’s worth getting one of these if you want to get a smooth finish). Cut off the excess carefully. It doesn’t matter if the corners at the front are a bit messy as these will be covered up with small marshmallows later.

IMG_20140329_104412290_HDRNow to make you rainbow. Choose the colours you want and mix them if necessary. Then roll out a sausage in each colour, starting with the top colour (in my case, the red). You can see that close up, it isn’t that neat. Next time, I’ll work on getting it neater but by this stage I was starting to run out of time!

IMG_20140329_154245340Finally, using a little butter icing to start, pile up white mini marshmallows and add candle and edible glitter if desired. When you eventually cut into the cake, make sure you cut a big slice to get the full effect of the hidden M&M’s!