Friday, 30 March 2012

muddy hands...

Some things really haven't changed that much since *E* was very small. There was nothing she liked better than being in the garden, tending her plot, digging, planting, watering, watching, waiting and finally enjoying the results whether they be vegetables or flowers.

We still have her tiny red metal wheelbarrow that she doesn't want to part with, though these days the radio flyer serves as a better one. There's something quite heartwarming about a 14 year old who's into all kinds of music, tweeting, messaging friends, homework, swimming, riding, etc. but still likes having a 'plot' and getting her hands muddy. Currently the sunflowers raided from the bird seed box are doing well, some flowers called 'fairy bouquet' have been started off (proper name Linaria) and two seed trays on the kitchen window sill will eventually need to be potted on (more flowers). Hopefully we'll have some colourful posts in a few months!

Just a short post today... that bloomin' cold I've been trying to ignore turned flu-like today so I'm off for an early night. First evening of the Easter hols too. Mum's can't be ill!

Thursday, 29 March 2012

crochet blossom square...

Pattern for blossom square:

Using a 3.5mm hook and dk cotton in first colour: wrap cotton round finger to form a loop, (3ch, 3dc) 4 times, ss in base of 3ch.

ss in 1st ch sp, in same 3ch sp *(2tr. 2ch, 2tr), miss next dc, popcorn in next dc, rep from *3 more times, ss in top of tr.

It should look something like the picture below:

Change to 2nd colour, ss in 3ch sp, ch3, 1 tr, 2ch, 2tr, *popcorn in sp between 2tr, 1tr in 1ch at top of popcorn, popcorn in next tr sp. In 3ch sp (2tr, 3ch, 2tr) rep from * to end, ss in top of tr. It should now look like this...

Change to 3rd colour, ss in 3ch sp, now you simply granny around to finish: ch3, 2tr, 2ch, 3tr in same 3ch corner space, 3 x 3tr clusters evenly spaced along each side with (3tr, 2ch, 3tr) in each 3ch corner sp. ss to finish.

Popcorn stitch is simply 5tr in the same place, remove hook after 5th treble and poke through top of first treble, then put back through top of fifth treble, yarn round and pull through to close popcorn, chain 1 to secure.

ss = slip stitch
ch = chain
tr = treble
dc = double crochet
sp = space

all UK terms.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

freshly mown grass...

This is where I did my pondering and crocheting this morning. Just one vital change from yesterday - an old rug under foot. Catches dropped crochet hooks nicely thank you.

I was thinking back to when I started crochet and how I believed it was best to crochet in cotton. I also believed it was the least splitty yarn to work with (not necessarily true). It is nice to work with though so I had a little peek in my cotton basket. Eek, I'm so easily distracted once a current project is all planned and under way!

That little peek, coupled with thoughts of Spring and a fascination for popcorn stitch led to the creation of a little square that reminds me of blossom...

I realise it's a humble offering (aimed at beginners) but I thought I'd post the patten for this blossom square tomorrow and then try and post some simple squares from time to time and somehow stick 'em in the sidebar with vaguely representative names. I had high hopes of posting the pattern for the blossom square today until I realised that it takes a while to redo something you did whilst daydreaming about freshly mown grass.

When I first learnt how to crochet I was hungry for squares, motifs, blocks or whatever you prefer to call them. I still dream about coming across the ultimate book of crochet squares, maybe one for every day of the year, none that require a minute hook size or a degree in advanced hyperbolic crochet!

I'm so happy we have a little role reversal going on in this household. Mr H does all the cooking. Fabulous. I hate cooking. I mow all the grass. Equally fabulous, he hates mowing. So today, not only did I manage to haul the mower out from underneath bikes, badminton nets and diving gear I even managed to start the darn thing after ten pulls with the choke fully on. Mmmmh, first cut of the year and the smell was divine.

I can never fathom why the dog treats the hoover with a lofty contempt but gives the mower a piece of his mind... he runs alongside it barking furiously. In true chicken style he drops down into the stream if I get too close. Hence mowing the grass equals wet muddy dog...

'What do you mean my paws are too muddy to come in?'

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

dogs, deliveries and drama...

Thank you for a lovely weekend Archie! Next time we see Archie he'll have lost his sweet little barrel belly, his wiggly wonky gait and trusting demeanour. He'll probably be fully grown, a little wary of strangers but probably still stealing shoes and handbags and dragging them back to his bed!

I've no idea how hot it was here today but it was like a summer's day. I put three loads of washing through and got two pegged out (including the dog's furry friend) when Harvey alerted me to the door.

My blanket yarn had arrived! The perfect excuse to sit on the deck and crochet the day away! It did feel slightly mad handling aran wool in the heat but at least they are only small pieces at a time. I'm not joining as I go because I want a complete line of stitching along each side as opposed to just a couple of loops.

I'm so pleased with the colours, especially the slate blue which really made me feel like I was creating a beach from wool. I had my handful of pebbles nearby...

I was on my sixth hexagon when distaster struck! A catastrophe that only Mr H could solve when he came home from work...

Note to crocheters with decking... beware of the cracks! Luckily Mr H never minds using his smart new power drill thingy; just as well because he unscrewed the wrong plank to begin with. I had to use my nicest smile and say with an innocent look, 'oh gosh, I could have sworn it was that spot, it must have bounced or rolled!' That's when I decided to add a new tool to my crochet bag...

A shiny, aluminium, orange torch to match my shiny, aluminium, elusive, orange, 6mm crochet hook. Handy for searching under sofa's too!

Monday, 26 March 2012

cutting and pasting...

This blanket is taking a while to come together (do you like my virtual cut and paste pinboard?) I've made a decision to do hexagons. I've made a decision on the wool weight (aran, because 5-6mm hook size is more comfortable for my wrist and it'll grow quicker). I've been hunting high and low for the right yarn colours; thank you Deramores for the most user-friendly website possible. However, the toffee, mustard and wheat tones (top right in the pebble pic) are proving problematic.

I've taken the plunge and ordered some of these colours in 400g balls. Along with my existing stock of dappled grey, flecked off white and 50p ball of tweedy mustard, plus any yarn that I come across whilst the project is on the go... I think I'll have more than enough to create the effect I'm after. I'm also toying with the idea of doing some of the hexagons in two similar tones with the darker shade for the last round of trebles to create a sort of shadow, 3D effect... you can see I've been trying it out in this pic - the dark grey, mustard and off white hexagons are all in two tones.

I'm sticking to yarn with a wool content rather than 100% acrylic but I'm disappointed that it can't be 100% wool. This is for two reasons: 1. I can't find 100% wool in the right colours and 2. when I find some of the right colours they are in 50g balls at a cost that would require a second mortgage to make a blanket with. I probably need to think about owning sheep and spinning my own in the future!

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

pottering about at home...

In true *J* style he fished out my Mother's Day card from the bottom of his school bag this morning. In true Mum style I told him how lovely it was... and he quietly turned it round 90 degrees and smiled sympathetically at me. Oops. Just in case you're wondering, it's brown tissue paper branches with tissue paper blossom on a watercolour background. Branches work anyway up don't they?

I love my little jam pots. I come from a family who 'decant' everything into something nicer for the table, and I like the rustic look so these will be used the next time we sit down to a weekend breakfast of chunky toast and jam. These are quite common at the Antique Centre where I sell my furniture but I've never come across them in a charity shop before. They're not marked and are probably a cheap take on Tremar pottery.

It's been gloriously sunny here today and I've been outside a little despite developing a bit of a heady cold. *E* has always had a corner of the garden ever since she could walk. Last year she enjoyed pottering about in her corner but noted that she started a few things off too late. Her sunflowers didn't peak until October so it was agonising waiting all summer for them to bloom. This year she raided the bird seed for sunflower seeds and started some off early. I wasn't sure about the quality of bird seeds but sure enough they have sprouted. I think her upcycled fat ball tub cloche helped protect them from some of the freezing nights we've had.

These will be potted on of course, they can't go straight in the ground here because we have a Springer Spaniel who thinks he can help with the pruning. It's our fault for heaping praise upon him when he helped out with a bonfire one evening by bringing all loose branches to the fire and dropping them. He does this with each and every bonfire now even if the branches are still attached to trees.

I'm still getting used to only having two animals to feed every day. When we had four it felt like a more major part of my day. I'd love to have chickens but I'm not great with birds full stop, and the fields have plenty of foxes roaming about. I wouldn't want to wake up one morning to a massacre!

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

baring all...

It's not every day you bare your top half for 7 complete strangers! If you find a lump, like I did, don't let the thought of that put you off. Get it checked out. Even the needle biopsy wasn't as painful as I expected it to be, and I'm a bit of a wimp when it comes to needles. I was fortunate enough to be able to take along a good friend, who did and said all the right things and took my mind off things in the waiting room.

Mr H must have been more worried than he let on because looked rather anxious when I got back, and he suggested a nice lunch out at one of my favourite cafes. Halfway there he realised that there would be a few charity shops and even managed not to moan about the possibility I might want to pop into them!

I found two little pottery jars for jam and marmalade (I haven't taken a pic of those yet) and a book I've been hoping would turn up in a charity shop, for 10p. My favourite find of the day is the ball of yarn pictured above. A whopping 150g of pure wool (it looks like Rowan Felted Tweed but probably isn't) for the grand sum of 50p. I think this might find it's way into my pebble beach blanket because it's quite a good colour match with one of the predominant south coast pebble colours. Happy days!

I keep reminding Mr H how lucky he is that I'm not a Jimmy Choo type wife! Two jam pots, an old book and a 50p ball of yarn and I'm as happy as a pig in clover!

Monday, 19 March 2012

pebble beach mood board...

Little bit under the weather today so I snuggled under the 'me' blanket with all my bits and bobs nearby - roll of crochet hooks, dog, various piles of wool, a pile of pebbles...

If you've just tuned in, this previous post 'to the sea' will explain how I've come to be putting a mood board together for a blanket inspired by a sussex pebble beach.

I finally narrowed it down to hexagons on the basis that I like those traditional patchwork bedspreads. Something tells me that it would look more 'pebbley' if I used DK (as per smallest swatches above), but I know I'd get bored if it took too long and was too fiddly. The grey and cream hexagons are in aran weight. I'm going to dig out some chunky and work up a hexagon in that just so that I've explored all possibilities.

I've got various bowls and glass vases full of interesting pebbles but this weekend I'll have an opportunity to hand pick a few more, for colour reference. I realise my mood board is missing some bluey greys, some dusky pinks and some ochre. It's going to be a major challenge to find a wool range to meet my colour needs. I'd rather avoid acrylic if I can. It would be a good project for hand dyed wool - I have a book on this and it looks as though the colours I'd need are fairly easily achieved using basic ingredients. Those ochre tones could probably be done with onion skins. Far too much bother for me at the moment though. I already have enough creative pursuits going on for one house to cope with!

I've also done a few plain squares for *E*s sunflower blanket...

I keep squinting at this and wondering whether it would stitch together better like this or whether I should add another border round the sunflower squares and perhaps a yellow or green around the oatmeal squares. Either way this looks like an improvement on the original which was started very soon after I learnt to crochet and I was just buzzing with the fact that I could finally crochet so I didn't give much thought to how long a whole blanket of sunflower motifs would take!

I love being able to log my progress and create photographic mood boards. In my days as a graphic designer this used to take a while and usually involved A1 mounting boards and a can of spray mount. They'd have to be physically taken or sent by courier to the client. So much time was wasted back then!

Sunday, 18 March 2012

a lush mother's day...

Hope all you Mum's were well and truly spoilt today. It was a tough day for mine, she's just lost her Mum. We both had a laugh and a cry yesterday and both felt a little better for it.

*E* was philosophical this year and put it to me that since she'd 'aced' last year and bought me gifts that were absolutely perfect for me (they were) this year I would have to tell her what I would like!

I told her that it was cheesy but I'd really like the classic chocs and smellies (in the UK bubble bath, shower gel etc. are sometimes collectively known as 'smellies'. I'm really not sure if that applies overseas, perhaps someone could enlighten me?).

So chocs and smellies are what they carefully chose. *E* chose the 'Grass Shower Gel'. This is one of my favourite smells and Lush have managed to create a gel that you'd actually want to wash in. Clever. *J* chose the 'Sweetie Pie' gel stuff that looks like purple slime with glitter in. It smells wonderful. I can just see him dipping his hands into the sample dish and saying in a delighted voice, 'Mummy would really like this Dad' (meaning this is so cool we've got to buy it!)

The 'Tulip Bath Wand' is also very clever, you swish it under water until you have the desired level of bubbles and then leave it to one side to dry for the next bath. There's nothing I like better than a soak in the bath or special shower gel.

You can just make out the fabric it came wrapped in. *E* said, 'I made Dad buy that because I know you think wrapping paper isn't eco'. How well my daughter knows me!

Saturday, 17 March 2012

yarn calling...

I was doing a spot of spring cleaning in my knitting cupboard this morning, hoping that some yarn would jump out at me and say, 'Hey there, I'm your next crochet project!' Those of you who regularly find themselves resorting their yarn stash will know exactly what I mean!

Nothing jumped out but this little lady turned up! She was tucked away in my dk box. Poor wee thing has been there for several years! She's an impkins doll. I don't know much about them except that they seem to be exclusively made for the purpose of dressing in knitted items.

*E* was small when I ordered her online (I forget where from) along with a pattern booklet. I had grand plans of knitting up each and every one of the outfits...

...and making a cute little suitcase so that she had the ultimate small scale, easy to cart about, doll with an outfit for every occasion. I slightly overlooked the fact that the needle size was likely to be quite small.

I had carpal tunnel problems before I learnt to knit, and with hindsight, if I'd understood what the problem was better I would never have picked up the needles in the first place. I've been wearing these lovely creations every night for quite some years (not sexy I know).

I went from hardly being able to knit at all to being able to knit for half an hour to an hour a day depending on the size of the needles.

Now that I can crochet and have relatively few wrist problems associated with that I still need the wrist supports through the night; as 'carpal tunnellers' will know - you lose the feeling in your arms when the wrists curl up in the night.

Anyway, I've waffled on a bit here - the small needles proved too much for the impkin doll to have a comprehensive wardrobe so she's stuck with her Dr Seuss style gillet and hillbilly dungarees. Cool or what? *E* wasn't so impressed. Maybe she'll take up where I left off one day; she can knit but it's not high on her list of enjoyable things to do. Kids eh?

Friday, 16 March 2012

colourful little corners...

I've been thinking about colour a lot lately. Some interesting comments have been left on my 'poll' post. I am replying to these by email in case anyone was wondering why I'm no longer leaving a reply in the comment thread.

*E* has always been particular about colour. From the age of about 3 or so until she was about 8 we had a very long relationship with purple. Yes PURPLE! I gladly obliged with clothing and so on. I was just happy to avoid Barbie pink. Then a few years ago she announced that her new favourite colour was lime green. LIME GREEN for goodness sake!

Unfortunately you can't see just how bright the lime green wall is in her room. These pics were taken on a dull day. It's a wall that's grown on me and thankfully, two years after rollering it on, she still loves it.

Children have that special 'unfiltered' way of producing art, and that also applies to picking out colours so I often ask *E* for advice when I'm choosing wool.  It's usually good advice and far less conservative than my own choice would be.
Though even as a child I was never this colourful! Not exactly sleep inducing this duvet cover! This is Mr Chubbs by the way.

Finally, this is who keeps dogs and little brothers out of her room. More my kind of colour splash to be honest... with a background of lovely natural linen. I hope you liked the peep into *E*s colourful room - it was about as much as I could cover without embrrassing a 14 year old any further. There are posters of the music variety, black hoodies, vans shoes (red), converse high tops (purple)... but that's a whole other post!

Thursday, 15 March 2012

a fun poll...

I've been wanting to try out the fun 'poll' feature. I know I don't have a huge readership but I'm very grateful for the readers I do have. Thank you all. I've had such lovely positive comments.

I've been researching my next crochet project (see previous post) and looking at all kinds of sources for inspiration. There's so much colour inspiration out there if you like the explosion in a candy store style. There's not quite so much in naturals which makes me wonder if the world has gone colour crazy... hence the poll.

When the children were small I kept the colourful stuff in their rooms. The older *E* got the more she bemoaned the lack of bright colours elsewhere in the house. For a while I opened my mind to colour. It has been a journey... not a deep and meaningful subject you might think but something I felt I wanted to reconcile in my mind at least.

My conclusion is that I'm not and probably never will be that person who wants everything to be bright and colourful. I love looking at colourful blogs and admire the bright crochet blankets. I can cope with splashes of colour as long as the backdrop is natural or neutral.

I've also concluded that colour is a personal thing and it's probably best to stay true to yourself in that respect. I think that's where our house style is headed. *E* has a lovely bedroom which is always a joy to walk into but I wouldn't want the whole house to be that bright... I'll give you a sneak peek of her room sometime. The rest of the house is my domain - if I left it to the man of the house we'd be swamped with all things orange! Argh!

dreams and schemes and circus crowds...

I took a leaf out of my own book yesterday afternoon, and settled down with a notebook, pencil, crochet reference books, tape measure and wool. Oh and vital ingredient - tea.

I'm getting much better at allowing myself a little time in the day. This hasn't always been the case. I'm one of those people who feel guilty if I sit still in the day. Though finally, I've come to realise that this time is quite valuable if I'm to reclaim a little of the 'me' who got swallowed up being a wife and mother.

I still have dreams and schemes... but I need time away from the crowds to think them through.

My knitted snood is shelved for the moment. I can only knit for 20 minutes on smaller needles (4mm or less) before it gets too painful. Somehow crochet doesn't spark the carpal tunnel off in the same way so I can crochet for hours, thank goodness for crochet!

My granny stripe blanket is also on hold because it's just too upsetting to look at it right now. About 75% of the wool in it was given to me by my Nan so one day when I've finished it I'll have a lovely 'memory' blanket.

The sunflower blanket for *E* is being unpicked and redesigned to incorporate some plainer squares (to speed it up a bit). More on that later.

The table runnner has hit a problem. The ecru cotton a certain shop has stocked for ages, is now suddenly only available in bright white or a muddy unbleached colour. Ecru seems to have been removed from the range. I'm stuck with 15 hexagons in ecru. I made a few hexagons in white and unbleached but they don't look good mixed together so I'm thinking of turning the runner into two circular mats made using 7 hexagons each or a rectangular mat. Neither are particularly appealing. I need to think on.

So, I have a few ideas for cushion covers, a few vague ideas for blankets, some tempting easter projects in magazines (though we're not really big on Easter apart from the chocolate!). I've got a basket of cheerful cotton yarn waiting for the right project. It's just as enjoyable planning the next project as picking up the hook to begin...

...don't you think?

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

off the hook... the 'me' blanket

I'm cherishing these days with *J* being only eleven. The pre-teen stage; before I end up with two teenagers under one roof (help!). I've been prefixing his age with 'only' since he was very small. If *E* shouts at him I say, 'that's not necessary, he's only eleven!' She asked me the other day when I might stop using the 'only'. Good question. Later this year when he starts secondary school I suppose!
He's a generous soul and gladly nipped under my finished crochet blanket this morning, five minutes before he needed to be on his way to school. He observed that, 'even though it's got lots of holes, it's really warm!'

I've grown to love the half treble stitch (like a treble but you pull the yarn through 3 loops in one go). It worked well for this blanket edging, where dc would have been to dense and treble would have been too open. I think it also helped prevent wrist fatigue - I went round the blanket once in dc, then twice in blue htr, then once in white htr, then twice more in blue htr again. Heck that's 6 rounds. Goodness knows how many hundreds of stitches that was.
I edged the ends in zig zag; it seemed a good idea to keep it as a feature and I couldn't face trying to use different height stitches to even it up to a straight line. I haven't blocked or pressed it. I'm not planning to either, I'm happy with it the way it is. Simple, natural (well 63% wool anyway) handmade.
Here are some tips using what I learned along the way (advanced crocheters look away now!):
  • Have a plan for what colour you might edge it in - after starting in red I decided to add some more rows to the start so that it began with blue - so that when I joined in the edging it was all in sequence and also joined neatly - this would be simple in straight rows but wasn't a good idea in granny zig zag!
  • Lay it out on a flat surface often; I may have avoided ripping back 6 rows if I had done that!
  • If you're not doing a random design it's best to make sure you have enough to complete the job. It's not difficult to work out how much wool is in a stripe - just weigh it before and after adding a new stripe and calculate the difference. I mention this because it seemed to 'eat' wool like there was no tomorrow.
  • Finally, it's worth spending a little time planning a blanket, with a tape measure, wool and paper to hand. I jumped straight in but would have been a lot more confident if I'd planned it.
...and in case anyone is wondering, some woolly blanket facts and figures:
The 'me' blanket measures approximately 95cm x 135cm (37.5" x 53")
The blanket weighs 675g
The cost of the wool actually used works out at roughly £10-£12
I started it on Feb 29th and completed it 13th March. That's two weeks and there were days when I didn't find time to work on it.
Finally, the good news is that it really is going to be mine! Woohoo. I've negotiated this by promising *E* and *J* one each with wool they've chosen.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

crochet puzzle in a packet...

I've been buying Mollie Makes since issue 1 and gathering the cover craft kits in a small basket with our next summer caravan holiday in mind. They are light, portable and have everything you need in one neat packet. Perfect. *E* and I will have a field day.

This month I decided to have a go at making the kit as soon as the magazine arrived in the post. I couldn't resist a crochet kit! I don't like pink and I'm not big on flowers (I may have mentioned these facts before) but I do like to tackle new things.

Boy, this one was a little puzzle in a packet. Not as simple as it looks for a beginner like me. It was a lot easier once I ditched the bendy plastic crochet hook!

After our breezy, foggy, chilly dog walk and pegging out another lot of freshly washed cricket kit I finally sat down and figured out the edging for my granny zig zag blanket. After a marathon 7 rounds of edging I'm quietly pleased with the result, even if it's not going to lie perfectly flat in places. It's for laps not beds so not an issue on this occasion. (That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!)

*J* has agreed to model it for me, well model under it shall we say. I'll have to use the first light of the day tomorrow because my trusty old iPod prefers a hefty dose of light for a good pic and we only have not-so-bright lamps here at the moment due to the main lighting circuit being out of action. This house was built, plumbed in and wired up by a man who bit off more than he could chew shall we say. There are less kind ways to describe this man, but I leave that to Mr H who often does just that while his legs dangle from the attic hatch as he tries to fix the bodged work of this anonymous man.