Friday, November 27, 2009

Friday book review

"Bend-the-rules sewing" by Amy Karole
ISBN: 978-0307347213

Last year while I was seriously thinking about buying myself a new sewing machine I bought this book from the author of one of my favourite crafting blogs - angry chicken. This is a very approachable book for a complete sewing machine novice like myself and starts out with a great section on sewing basics (including a very useful shopping list of kit you will need when you start, some basic hand sewing advice and a little detail about buying fabric).

The second section is devoted to 30 projects all of which are simple, attractive and would be easy to make adjustments to if you want to produce a more unique item. There are some lovely patterns in here for simple bags which I will hopefully get around to trying out one of these days as they would make perfect gifts in this new anti-plastic world. There are also some very cute projects for kids, the little woodland elf hat pattern has been my favourite since first browsing through this book last year.

As Christmas is fast approaching I thought I would take a little time out from my various Christmas crafting projects and whip up this little hat for my own little elf. Instead of using pre-felted wool I bought some velvety green stuff from our limited local haberdashery and as this is a devil to sew normally I just stuck with hand sewing the whole thing instead of trying to fight the sewing machine into doing it for me. I'm very pleased with how it looks and I'm glad that it fits okay (it's a little loose but it'll do) as strangely this project didn't mention what age child the hat is aimed for. I also found that the line drawings included in the instructions were not too clear and so it took a bit of guess work to figure out what side of the pieces I was supposed to be sewing together.

Even though there are a few problems with this book it is still a great starting guide with lots of practical tips for those new to sewing. The projects are lovely and look so simple that they should encourage anybody who is just starting out sewing to have a go.

Sorry for the lateness of this Friday review - my little Imp (oops - Elf) apologises but as he has just figured out crawling and hoisting himself up on things he doesn't really like to sit still for too long.

Monday, November 23, 2009

A crochet filled weekend

This weekend seems to have gotten past me even faster than usual, but it may be my own fault this time as I did spend most of it crocheting. Another of my friends has had a baby and so instead of working away on my increasingly worrying pile of things that I need to make up as Christmas presents I decided to crochet baby things instead.

However, it was time well spent I think as over the last 3 days I have surprised myself by managing to make 3 lovely matching baby items that I think will be well received (even if they aren't exactly the right size for a newborn...). First up I used the "Baby it's cold outside" pattern by Julie Armstrong Holetz, a very popular choice among fellow Ravelry users and after making it I can see why, it is a really easy pattern that produces a lovely little cardigan. I did something strange with the sizing of mine and used a double knit wool with a smaller hook size than recommended (the pattern calls for a chunky wool) in the hopes that by following the pattern for 6-12 months it should be small enough for a newborn. I think it worked - it seems about the right size if very slightly on the large size.

To match the cardigan I had a go at making the ribbed baby hat from the Nola Theiss book "Crocheted gifts in a weekend" - but after getting halfway through changed my mind and frogged the whole thing as that pattern uses tons of wool and I just didn't have enough. So instead I just winged my own pattern and I'm pretty pleased with how it came out. It has a little cuff in the same contrasting colour as the cardigan that I added by crocheting around the back post of the stitches in the previous row. I'll try and write the pattern up soon in case anyone else fancies having a go so be sure to keep an eye out for it

To finish off the set I whipped up these little booties from "Crocheted gifts in a weekend" which after all the pairs of these I've made I almost know the pattern by heart. This time I added some little flowers to the ends of the ties for a little added cuteness.

Sorry for not managing to get my normal Friday book review up last week, it is written and almost ready to publish, but I've been trying to get a little elf to pose nicely for the photograph and I've had a little trouble with that - I think he would prefer to be a little imp :-)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Fantastic Mr. Fox

Today is my lovely husband's Birthday - his 30th no less, so I wanted to make him something extra special, foxy special.

If you are a fan of the Simpsons then you too may have seen the episode with the lemon tree and remember Homer shouting at one point that he was "Cunning, like a fox!" Well for some reason everything is ..... like a fox! for my husband (he has been "sleepy, like a fox" and "hungry, like a fox" even "Ferocious, like a fox") so I've been toying with the idea of making him a fox for some time.

Then I came across the fantastic blog tiny owl knits by Anja who makes the most perfect Amigurumi that I've ever seen and I fell in love with her tiny fox. Unfortunately she was at that point no longer selling copies of the pattern for her fox and so in desperation I sent her a message asking if she minded my trying to make my own fox based on her photos. She then very kindly sent me a copy of her pattern for free and I was able to make up this fox from the great instructions in that.

If you too would like to make yourself one of these exceptionally cute foxes then you will be happy to know that she is now selling the pattern again as a Ravelry download so head over there now and buy yourself a copy of it.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday book review

"Finishing techniques for crochet" by Betty Barnden
ISBN: 978-1844484348

This lovely new (published this year) crochet book has just arrived in our local Library and I was very lucky to be the first person to snatch it up. After being a crocheter for so many years it still surprises me that there is still so much left for me to learn about it, and this book has some fantastic tips and tricks to share that will be of help to new and experienced crocheters alike.

Even though this title is aimed at those who already crochet to help them achieve a more professional finish with their work there is a really good section at the back with all the crochet basics that you would need as a beginner which includes clear photos of the steps in the stitches and even close ups for showing where to insert the hook when working into the foundation chain.

Within this book there are answers to all the technical questions that other crochet books don't answer or gloss over like: Just how do you join your crochet item together? (there are tips on weaving in the loose ends, four different ways of sewing different types of seams as well as working different crochet seams), and how do you go about blocking your work at the end? How do I work a button hole? and how do I put in a zip?

This book touches on a large number of different crochet techniques from filet crochet, working with beads, doing surface crochet, changing colours to produce pictures, felting crochet and adding embroidery to crochet all of which should give you lots of ideas for taking your work further and producing more individual pieces. There is a section in the book with patterns for different crochet edgings, as well as another section which has trims and other motif patterns.

Then you come to the final section, a small set of simple patterns for some basic crochet items like bags, hats and jumpers which each include notes on how you can modify the patterns to create unique items to suit your own taste. There is a rather sweet little child's sweater in here that I'm keen to make for my own little one so I'll let you know how I get on with that if I get around to it.

This is a nicely presented and well thought out book and probably contains information that would be useful for crocheters of any level. I've added it to my wishlist and I look forward to having it on hand to refer to in the crafty years to come.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Yet again Halloween has managed to surprise me... before I knew what was happening it was only a week away and I had some last minute crafting to get done. Thankfully there is a fantastic pattern freely available on the Planetjune blog for these cute little pumpkins so after a bit of frantic crocheting I had these 3 finished and ready to start the Halloween celebrations.

Photo thanks go to my lovely husband who has spent some time fiddling with his new SLR camera to capture these pumpkins in the middle of lighting candles.

Seeing as the pumpkins really took very little time to make at all I also had time to make some very quick Halloween cards to go with them... just a few sheets of black sugar paper, some plain white printer paper and a silver pen and Bob's your uncle I had made some cards.

Now I should just go and dust off the old witches hat, find my broomstick and maybe carve a real pumpkin or two... perhaps I'll even go and do a bit of trick-or-treating too :-)

Happy Halloween everybody!

Monday, October 26, 2009

New arrivals

Just a quick post to show off a couple of crochet bits that are on their way to yet another new baby (for some reason there seems to have been a baby explosion recently so keep an eye out in case it starts raining babies too).

Orinoco is here again to show off my handiwork, you can see him wearing a deep ribbed crochet hat and some cuffed booties both patterns from the "Crocheted gifts in a weekend" book by Nola Theiss.

The pattern for the hat was meant for an older child but after substituting the chunky yarn for a much finer yarn and using a smaller hook the hat should hopefully fit a newborn okay. The ribbing on this hat is lovely and adds a real thickness and warmth to the hat - this will definitely be a pattern that I try again in the future.

Sadly the bootie pattern wasn't nearly as good. The cuffs were supposed to be knitted so the whole pattern was designed around that and required lots of sewing up of separate pieces. They have also turned out to be a little bit flat looking - not nearly as cute as they did in the book.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Friday book review

"The Glass painting book" by Jane Dunsterville
ISBN: 978-0715304280


"Glass painting projects" by Jane & John Dunsterville
ISBN: 978-0715308332

Because of my crazy plans to try and craft most of the gifts that I will be giving away for Christmas this year I've gone and spent a lot of money on candles and new glass paint and now find myself slightly short on inspiration of what to paint... which is where Jane Dunsterville comes in with her lovely glass painting books.

Back in 1996 when "The glass painting book" was originally published I was lucky enough to meet Jane Dunsterville at a craft show where she had a stand selling her then new book as well as her own range of glass paints. After spending quite some time gazing at the stall wishfully my mum offered to buy me a copy of the book with a starter kit of paints and that purchase started my love of glass painting.

"The glass painting book" is aimed at beginners and starts out with advice about materials and then the first chapter contains some basic projects which introduce new techniques to help guide you gradually through starting off painting. There is a chapter with projects that focus on using colour, a chapter for more advanced projects which introduces 'special' techniques and a final project chapter about painting on plastic. All the way through the book there are 'design directory' pages which have outlines that you can use to make all the projects listed as well as some variations to try. If you are starting out in glass painting and need some guidance about how to start as well as plenty of inspiration for things to make then this would be a fantastic book for you.

"Glass painting projects: Decorative glass for beautiful interiors" is a more advanced glass painting book and geared towards doing large projects that will be on display in your home. There is much more detail about different techniques including guidance on using adhesive lead on glass panels, applying coloured adhesive (for projects that need to be more weather proof) and guidance on glass etching. The projects range from some lovely projects for painting panels on interior and exterior doors, lamps, some very beautiful painted mirrors and a whole host of other household glass surfaces that could do with making more glamorous. Most of the projects also seem to have a design style period and there are some lovely Art Deco and Rennie Mackintosh projects that I would love to try my hand at. This is a really beautiful book and the projects in here are awe inspiring, if you are thinking of taking your glass painting to the next level then this would be a great book for you to read.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Friday book review

"Crocheted gifts in a weekend" by Nola Theiss
ISBN: 978-0806909714
US crochet terms

When I first learnt to crochet I was given this book as a Birthday present and struggling through the sometimes erratic patterns has taught me a lot about crochet over the years. One of the first things that I made were two of the sweet little ducklings from the duck family pattern and these little guys with their wings that look like floats (as shown in the photo on the right) were so well received that I ended up sticking with crochet instead of doing more knitting. Frank the duck was made much later on, for my husband who for some reason fell in love with the idea of having a crocheted duck.

This book is aimed at both beginners and more experienced crocheters so it has a large range of projects with different levels of difficulty. There is the usual short glossary of stitches at the beginning of the book which also has some very clear black and white diagrams. The projects include patterns for scarves, hats, baby and young children clothes, some rather odd 'for the home items' as well as some lovely crochet toys. There are still projects in this book that I mean to get around to making one day, and even though this book is getting a little dated now (it was originally published in 1995) most of the patterns still seem appealing.

The booties that I always seem to be making are also from this book and are pretty quick and easy to do. After having made a large number of pairs I now find the pattern easy to follow, but some guidance about where to place stitch markers would have been useful first time round.

All in all this crochet book will always stay a firm favourite with me, but before you rush out to find a copy for yourself remember that this isn't necessarily the best written book out there and I have found a number of errors in some of the patterns that I have had a go at.

If anyone else has a copy of this I would love to know what you think and perhaps see some photos of what you've made - I seem to be the only person on Ravelry who has photos up of what I've made from it!

Thursday, October 8, 2009


I've recently returned from a lovely 5 day break at a nearby Center Parcs which is the first holiday I've had since becoming a mum. I'm now refreshed and ready to start knuckling down to my Christmas crafting, but before I got started on any of the things I have planned to make as presents I got side tracked by the frog hat pattern in issue 3 of Inside Crochet.

This is a lovely pattern by Jane Bibby with simple instructions that you can use to make a variety of sizes (I'm very tempted to make a large hat for my husband but I don't think he would wear it). My little boy has been out a couple of times today wearing this hat and lots of people have stopped to admire him in it. Now I've made him a hat I should probably do him some matching booties as well though I may have to come up with my own pattern for them as there do not seem to be any that I like online.

During my holiday I did try to get some crafting done in the one evening I had free so I had a go at silk painting, unfortunately it didn't work out quite how I had hoped... I found the outliner hard to apply and was unsure about how much was needed to stop the paint from leaking out of the outline. I also found that I can't draw butterflies freehand so next time I think I'll just stick to tracing someone else's artwork.

The red smear at the bottom is my attempts at ladybirds, also not my best work. I'm hopeful though that I will do better next time with a little more preparation and thought - I may even be able to make a few more Christmas presents from my labours.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Friday magazine review

"Inside Crochet" issue 4
October/November 2009

For the last few days I've almost attacked my poor postman when he delivered our mail but failed to bring the latest issue of this magazine. Some kindly spirit must have been watching over him though as it has now been delivered and he is free from the threat of an anxious crocheter armed with a 3.5mm hook, at least for another two months that is.

Why did I want this issue so badly? Well, at the back of the last issue was a photo of a 'Hooded stroll jacket' by Rebecca Velasquez which I have fallen in love with. I've never made myself a proper garment using crochet, (shawls and a poncho really don't count) and for the last year I've been thinking I need to stop worrying about messing it up and just have a go. This jacket would suit me so well, and I've gotten it into my head that I simply must have it, whatever the cost.

Ahem - perhaps not whatever the cost, after greedily reading through this fantastic issue I did a bit of yarn research and was shocked to discover that the recommended yarn for this project was not available from within the UK and would cost approximately £75 to order it from the American manufacturer. Thankfully there are 3 other alternative yarns listed, but to get the quantity of yarn I need for this jacket I would have to spend between £30 and £40 just to purchase the budget yarn recommended. This has been a bit of a wake up call for me so I need to do some more research into this before I go ahead and splurge that much on yarn when I may still make a mess of the jacket...

As for the other patterns in this issue there are a lot that I really like, including a lovely felted backpack (and an article all about felting/fulling to help get you started) some lovely tops a couple of scarves (just right for the upcoming autumn months) and a cute scull laptop pouch by Rockpool Candy. The only disappointment was that I was expecting more amigurumi in this issue and all that was included was a rather lumpy looking caterpillar which was so basic it really didn't deserve to be written up as a pattern and I can't imagine anyone bothering to make it.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Friday magazine review

"Inside Crochet" issue 3
August/September 2009

After reading two fantastic issues from this new magazine I decided that I didn't want to risk missing any issues and so was very happy to find that one of my Birthday presents was a one year subscription to it.

Unfortunately the 3rd issue has not lived up to my expectations as most of the patterns it contains are for items that I would never make. The cover project is a good example of this - these odd fingerless crochet gloves are meant to be worn with your wedding dress, and even if women do want to wear gloves on their wedding day there isn't much chance of these matching their outfit, even the model wearing them hasn't managed to make them look appealing.

Out of the 14 different patterns within this magazine I only really like 3, one is a pretty top called 'Lucienne' by designer Annette Petavy which I am very tempted to have a go at. There are some fun and slightly crazy looking frog hats (by Jane Bibby) shown on the front cover of the magazine which I will be making up to keep my little boy's head warm this winter. And lastly there is an unusual pattern for a pebble rug by Rockpool Candy which is made in natural shades and the individual pebbles are then felted before sewing together into an arrangement that suits you.

There are a few more interesting crochet articles in this issue including an article about the properties of yarn made from different plant fibres which I found very interesting. The next issue looks much more promising though and as I received it last weekend I'll be able to feature it in next week's Friday review.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Back in the crochet mood

Thankfully my craft block seems to be clearing and to help get back into the swing gently I decided that crochet was what my hands were wanting to do.

I really love making baby bits, they are so quick and satisfying, just a couple of hours of work and you end up with a gift ready to send to a mum who usually is just as excited about it as you are. The hat shown here is from another "Happy Hooker" pattern, this time part of the Sejia set by Bev Ireland. I had to add an extra increase row in this hat though as my hook size was too small (I really must get round to buying a size 4mm hook one day...) and thus the hat would have turned out tiny. I also just worked the hat in two shades of purple as that's what I had to hand, and I'm glad I did too as it matches the little two tone booties that I also made.

The booties are from "Crochet gifts in a weekend" by Nola Thesis and though I've made up the basic bootie a number of times this is the first time that I've had a go at making the ballet style version. Orinoco the octopus also loves the hat and booties and wanted me to show here how good he looks in them. Sadly I haven't got the energy to make another 6 booties for Orinoco so his other feet have had to go cold.

As well as doing crochet I've also been folding these pretty little stars from some cheap Ikea gift ribbon that I picked up last week. They are fiddly and time consuming but strangely addictive.

These stars are called Frobel stars and I first came across them years ago in an old girls activity book that my mum owns. You are supposed to make them from strips of paper and depending on what thickness you make the strips you end up with a large star or a tiny one. These are smaller than a British 10p piece and now I've made them all I'm not too sure what to do with them... too small really to use on the top of presents. Any suggestions?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Friday book review

"The Happy Hooker" by Debbie Stoller
ISBN: 978-0-7611-3985-0
US crochet terms

This book has quickly become a classic and is possibly one of the most popular crochet titles out there at the moment. The very well known author of "Stitch 'n' Bitch handbook" & "Stitch 'n' Bitch nation" has taken her popular format and used to it show off crochet as stylish, fun and versatile.

The instructions are one of the best things in this book, you get over 90 pages of detailed and illustrated instructions which give you clear and precise directions for first starting out and then goes on to working in rounds, different stitch types, reading patterns and finishing off your work. For years I only worked in the back loop of stitches giving my flat pieces a lovely corrugated appearance that, while nice for somethings, was not quite right... Then I read all the way through the instructions in this book (which set me straight on a number of simple mistakes that I had unknowingly been making) and I would recommend to any crocheter of any level of experience to do the same.

With 40 projects ranging from tops, hats, bags, toys and for some reason a bikini (why do some many crochet books think that a crochet bikini is a good idea?!) there are plenty of things that will get you desperate to grab your hook and have a go. For myself I would love to make at least 30 of the projects in this book and one day I will (it will be a beautiful time just me with some chocolate buttons and a pile of lovely soft yarn...), but until then I'll just get out this book every now and again and gaze at the photos, wishing.

So far the only project I've worked from this book is the Sweet pea shawl (if you are a Ravelry user then you can find details and finished projects here) which I made up to match my wedding dress. I used a lovely soft bamboo yarn which was silky and light and the end result is just beautiful. If you do sensibly go out and buy this book then be sure to also download a copy of the errata before you start on any of the patterns.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Friday book review

"The gentle art of domesticity" by Jane Brocket
ISBN: 978-0340950982

This lovely volume has been in my craft library ever since it was first published a couple of years ago. Because I've been an irregular reader of Jane Brocket's beautiful blog Yarnstorm I was aware at the time of the book being written and as the blog is so lovely I was desperate to get my hands on a copy as soon as possible.

Once it arrived it certainly didn't disappoint as I read it from cover to cover within days and enjoyed every single page immensely. The book just so lovely to look at, each two page spread has been beautifully laid out with just the right amount of text and photos artfully arranged that before you know it you've read through a whole chapter and your tea has gone cold.

The domestic topics covered in this book are varied and many but all seem to flow together well by being arranged into the following chapters: Inspiration, Colour, Texture, Patterns, Practical, Style, Comfort, Luxury, Sharing, Nature and Travel. Before you know it you will be looking at the world around you in a different way and noticing different colour combinations as well as perhaps having a go at a couple of the simple recipes (I can vouch for the flapjack recipe - delicious!) or reading a couple of the books that are recommended.

Out of all of my craft books this one has to be the most inspiring. There are no set projects in this book but there are hundreds of photographs of beautiful things from knitted socks, well loved books, delicious looking cakes, vibrant cushions and quilts that you would love to curl up in on a winters evening. The idea of embracing home and making it a place of comfort and refuge really resonates with me and each time I sit down with this book I get the urge to do some baking or pick up some sewing and curl up on the sofa.

This has become one of my few books that I regularly go back to when I need a little inspiration and a reminder that day to day life is vibrant and beautiful.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Blogging block

Hello everyone, sorry for being so remiss in posting lately. I haven't even got a very good excuse, I've just been a bit uninspired and because of that I haven't been doing much crafting recently. However, I'm going to have to knuckle down and get some Christmas crafting started as otherwise I won't have any presents to give to friends and family this year!

There has been a bit of crochet happening at Tea Towers over the last month though and both items I'm pretty pleased with.

First off are a pair of simple crochet slippers that I've been meaning to make for myself for quite some time. My original pair were a present from my Mother-in-law and I've loved wearing them so much that they are now in tatters with a number of holes in the soles of them. To replace them I used the closest colour match of yarn that I had in my stash and followed the very clear pattern by Lisa Gutierrez. These will probably get worn out in a couple of years too, but as I can now make a pair up in a couple of evenings they hopefully won't get too holey before I whip up a replacement.

Next up is a simple crochet crown which I made up for a friend's daughter who is at the age where her favourite things are princesses, pink and loves to 'dress up'. This crown was inspired by some of the lovely sewn crowns that I've seen on a few blogs and also in one of my sewing books somewhere... I would have preferred to make this up with fabric instead of going to the trouble of crocheting a crown shape and then making that up into the crown you see on the right, but as I didn't have enough suitable fabric for the front of the crown I pulled a hook and a ball of yarn out of my stash and did it that way.

The crochet part of the crown was perhaps the easiest part of the construction, sewing on the hundreds of sequins and then making a basic pipe cleaner framework to hold the crown straight and allow it to be bent into shape was fiddly. After I finished with that I had to add some pink felt to the back to hide all the mess as well as adding some lengths of ribbons so that the crown could be tied on. I've heard from the Mum that the crown was very well received so all well worth the effort :-)

Because I've been a bit slow in getting my posts up recently I have come up with the idea to do a regular Friday book/magazine review which will mean I've got regular content appearing here and will hopefully ease the guilt I feel at not posting my crafty progress more regularly. This plan should work fine until I run out of craft books... but looking at my craft shelf I should have enough material for a good long while yet :-) Keep an eye out for my first Friday review tomorrow and let me know what you think!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Captain caveman!

When we were kids we all loved watching this rather daft American cartoon - think Scooby Doo but with a caveman. For some reason one of my nicknames became 'Captain caveman', possibly this had something to do with my never brushing my long hair, so my sister Liz was very pleased with herself when she found me this t-shirt for my Birthday.

Unfortunately it was a men's medium which meant it was far too large for me, but as I really wanted to be able to wear it I decided to try a little t-shirt reconstruction. To help me get the courage to cut the top up I had a lovely glass of Baileys (all it takes is one drink for me to get a little giggly now) and then got stuck in. I pulled out one of my many tank tops to give me a guide to cut and drew around it remembering to leave 1/2 an inch for seam allowance.

Once I had my two pieces cut I then spent some time hand sewing round the neck and the sleeves before getting out the sewing machine to do the easy straight seams. I even remembered to do an over locking stitch on those seams to give them a little more strength. After the t-shirt was assembled I added some blanket stitch around the neck to reinforce my seams up there as well as give the top an extra finishing touch.

My last step was to try the t-shirt on and I breathed a real sigh of relief when it actually fitted me! I really love my new top and right now I'm fighting the urge to have a rummage through my husband's wardrobe to find another top to transform :-)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Birthday haul

One of my favourite traditions when it comes to Birthdays and Christmas is gathering up all my presents into a pile somewhere and admiring them all for a week or two before I find new homes for them and they become part of my day to day possessions. Perhaps Librarians really are dragons and this hording of mine has something to do with me building up a pile of treasure? Does anyone else do this with their gifts?

This year I have amassed quite a large pile of books and they are all so lovely, new and exciting.

From the top:

1) "Family roundabout" by Richmal Crompton
This was one of the domestic fiction books recommended by Jane Brocket in her fantastic "The gentle art of domesticity" - I've been borrowing what I can from the Library, but as I had no luck getting hold of this one I decided to treat myself.

2) "The wonderful weekend book" by Elspeth Thompson
With a little boy in tow our family weekends seem to have become a bit restricted so I've been looking for some inspiration to try and break out of our routine and make the most of our weekends together.

3) "Cherry cake and ginger beer" by Jane Brocket
Who could resist a cook book about childhood treats inspired by children's fiction? Not me that's for sure!

4) "Garden plants & Gardening techniques" by Andrew Mikolajski and Jonathan Edwards
With all the extra time I've been spending at home I've been getting into the garden more and to help me improve my gardening know how (which is pretty basic at best) I also received a couple of surprise gardening books this year.

5) "Simple Sewing" by Lotta Jansdotter
I've heard very good things about this book - it seems that all of the craft blog reviews have only good things to say so I'm really looking forward to having a read through and trying a few projects.

6) "Homemade" by Ros Badger and Elspeth Thompson
This is such a beautiful book - so good in fact that it while having a quick look through I got hooked and read it from cover to cover. My review of it is below.

7) "Weekend sewing" by Heather Ross
This is another well known sewing book that has received great reviews - the pattern you may be seeing here is simple and quick so hopefully these projects will give me the confidence to dust of the sewing machine and have a try.

8) "Gardeners advice" by RHS Wisley Experts
This looks to be a beautifully presented book on gardening which has all kinds of useful information, especially for garden novices like me.

"Homemade" by Ros Badger and Elspeth Thompson
ISBN: 978-0007284795

From my huge stack of Birthday books I've so far only managed to read through one, but it was certainly one that was worth taking my time over.

"Homemade" is written in seasonal sections giving you plenty of ideas and inspirations for some beautiful and simple things that you can make or do. Most of the projects have brief instructions, but some are just ideas accompanied by beautiful photographs to give you the freedom to create something unique. The projects range through a wide crafty spectrum including baking and gardening to sewing, knitting, crochet and card making as well many other types of projects that are so simple there isn't really a term for them.

There is a real emphasis on re-use in this book which I just love. Most of the suggestions for keeping back items that most would just throw away I was pleased to find I already did. Hopefully my large stash of 'too nice to throw away' items will start being found uses for, I've already thought up a few things to do with the lavender shown in the photo that I have been carefully snipping from our garden.

Friday, July 17, 2009

From old into new

I'm very sorry that I didn't manage to do a blog post for you all last week, instead of getting up to my usual craftiness I had my annual Birthday as well as a party, so I got distracted planning for that. On the plus side though as a result of the Birthday I've been very lucky in receiving pretty much everything that I asked for from my Amazon wishlist so there will be some more craft book reviews coming this way soon.

The old looking frame in the photo on the left is actually an old cupboard front that we found whilst clearing out our loft after moving into our new home last year. Most of the stuff in the loft was junk, and the cupboard that this frame came from was also in pieces so everything but this went to the tip. I hung on to this frame though as I had a vague idea about turning it into a pin board, and now almost a year later I have finally done this.

After a good amount of sanding and then a few coats of a nice silky blue paint I had a frame to mount a piece of cork board into. I'm also hoping to alter some drawing pins by adding a little wooden ladybird to each which I've had in my stash for, oh only about 15 years! This pin board can then be hung in my little one's room where I can keep an eye on all the baby related events that are coming up and not forget about them like I usually do.

As well as getting coated in blue paint I've also been reading through another craft book from the Library:

"Childhood Treasures: Handmade Gifts for Babies and Children" by Caroline Zoob
ISBN: 978-1845972158

This has got to be the most beautiful and inspiring book of craft ideas to make for children. The photos within it are just gorgeous and Caroline has obviously gone to some effort to find all the treasures that are shown.

The book shows handcrafted toys and blankets which the author has made herself as well as many items that she has borrowed from the homes where they are treasured. Using these as inspiration she gives instructions and ideas for items that you can make for the special little one in your life, some nice and simple and other projects with a bit more time and effort needed.

The main idea behind the book seems to be that giving a little one a beautiful item that you have made for them to love and cherish will mean much more to them than an item bought and only played with for 5 minutes. There is also the idea that beautiful things should be shared with children so that they can remember them as part of their childhood and perhaps even pass them on to their own children one day.

This really is a lovely book - I've spent weeks gazing at the photos in it and even though I can borrow it when I like from the Library I think I'm going to have to add it to my list of books to buy.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Slightly frantic

The last week seems to have whizzed past at a super fast rate with me being a crazy mum and dashing about with the push chair like a woman possessed.

On top of general life hectic-ness there has been the added complication that it seems like most of my friends and family manage to have their Birthday in July - and I somehow forgot this. So after realising that my little niece's Birthday was fast approaching I had to make my crochet hook a blur to get her a present made in time.

Looking at this little green guy you probably wouldn't have been able to guess that he came into the world in such a hurry, he seems to be far to relaxed for any of that nonsense. He has told me that I need to calm down and he is now setting off to my niece's home and hopefully he'll be there in time (he was muttering something about being faster than a hare...).

In other crafty news that I wanted to tell you about something came through the post for me from the wonderful M.Patrizio ( A while ago she offered to send out some of the spare Art Star Craft Bazaar postcards that she had and so I asked if she would post one out to me all the way over her in the UK. She very kindly did and she also sent me some of her gorgous fruit stickers (with a little Timmy on them too) which I love :-)

These stickers have already been started by my husband who wanted one of the mushrooms - so now I must hide them away. Oh and check out the cute Timmy sticker on the back of the envelope that they came in - so sweet!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Giveaway result

Nigel mark II is finished and eager to get going to his new home - he's already found a comfy jiffy bag for his journey and is now waiting impatiently for me to draw the winner of the giveaway.

So without further ado I shall consult the Random Number Generator for a winner.

Drum roll please...

Post number 4 was Katy who said:

"Wow, that top is very cool. I love the circles on the crocheted part - can't believe you made this yourself! Very Talents.

I am in love with Nigel, very small and sweet - he could sit of my desk at work and bring me a bit of happiness during the day :-)"

Congratulations Katy I'll be in contact to find out your postal address - Nigel is very much looking forward to staying with you and seeing a little bit of the other side of the world! Thanks to everyone who took part in this giveaway, it was lovely to get so many comments and I'm just sorry that I don't have the time to make you each a Nigel. Perhaps this may give some of you the push to try a little crochet now though?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Tiny giveaway

Finally I'm finished with the crochet top of doom! It almost killed me but I've finished and now I have that rather dangerous feeling that I can accomplish anything... So to help stop me starting another horribly complicated project I made up this very cute little guy instead.

Please let me introduce Nigel the elephant. Nigel is a fun loving curious sort of beast who wants to play and explore. He was going to be offered here as a giveaway but sadly my husband saw him first and has laid claim to him.

However, as I enjoyed making him so much I'm itching to make another and if you want to be in with a chance to win him all you have to do is leave me a comment on this post before the end of 23rd June and I'll enter you in the giveaway which will be drawn next week on Wednesday 24th June. Please remember to leave me a way to contact you so that I can let you know if you have won.

If you don't win the giveaway then not to worry - why not try and have a go at making one of these little guys for yourself . The pattern is freely available from the beautiful Roman Sock blog - well worth a good look if you also love wonderfully cute crochet critters :-)

The top of doom is looking pretty good after being finished off and the edging that I put round all the motifs really brings it together and makes it a less delicate piece of work. If you are not detered by my struggles then why not check out the original instructions for this beautiful top on the CrochetMe website

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The terrifying UFO

Possibly this top doesn't look too terrifying to you... but when I look at it my heart always skips a beat and I run screaming from the room. Hundreds of loose ends to work in! Hours and hours more work trying to crochet together the motifs on the bottom edge not to mention needing to finish the whole thing off with some sort of single crochet border to give the work a bit more strength.

This top also fills me with guilt every time I look at it, it was meant to be a Birthday present for my sister and is now looking like it is going to be almost a year late. Well I'm trying to be better at working at it when I have a spare moment or too but the work is still going slowly. To try and help me motivate myself into finishing I've made a pact with myself not to start a new project until it is done, which is part of the reason why I've not joined in the SEWN giveaway and made anything for that (the other reason is I really have no idea what to make!). Once this top is done though all bets are off and I'll try to host a giveaway with something cute and homemade - any suggestions?

I've already got another sewing project lined up for when the top of doom is finished and that will be using this lovely fabric from Ikea which my husband picked out. This is to make a custom pillow case to fit his oddly shaped ergonomic Ikea pillow. Not too sure whether I'll try something as complicated as making a specially fitted cover or just stick to a simple case that is a little smaller than the normal sized pillow cases.

This has also been a great week for magazines with me getting a chance to read both issues of the new UK crochet magazine "Inside Crochet" and receiving the new issue of "MixTape" through the post.

Inside Crochet is the new UK crochet magazine, in fact it is the only UK crochet magazine being published at the moment and it is fantastic. For some reason I was unaware of it's existence until a couple of weeks ago when I noticed it on the shelf of my local WHSmiths and I very eagerly picked it up. I held off reading it though until my trip up North to visit the in laws as I was trying to justify spending the £5 but after reading it I thought it was well worth the cost. There are some lovely patterns in there (and a couple of not so great patterns - but really the good to bad ratio is very high) that I can't wait to have a go at, I may even make my first piece of crochet clothing (the top of doom doesn't count as it is embellishment to a shop bought top) from it. The second issue I snapped up as soon as it appeared in the shops and there are even more patterns in there that I like. As well as some lovely patterns there are a number of well written articles - some even by people that I know of from the blogosphere. Hopefully I'll be able to wangle a subscription for my Birthday next month as I really don't want to miss an issue.

MixTape is a little crafting magazine from Australia that features loads of inspiring articles and one or two little craft projects. This issue is the second of my Mother's day present subscription and it made my day when it hit the doormat yesterday morning. I've already almost finished reading through it and there are a number of articles in this issue about Craftivism - doing craft for good causes as well as articles on eco-crafting and crafting with kids. All great stuff well written and in the lovely new all colour format that really brings this little zine to life.