Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Keeping things small

The main problem that I have with crafting is the desire to do big, impressive things. Like when Christmas is approaching and I want to give everyone I know a handmade gift, I start crafting manically and quickly realise that I've taken far too much on again and that I'm not enjoying the making process.

So my new motto for this year is little projects, lots and lots of little projects that take only a few days to complete and should mean I have handmade presents galore for gifting.

I made up this little crochet purse for a little girl down the road and it was very simple to do. You crochet up a long rectangle nice and tightly which when folded in half lengthwise makes the body of the purse. Using a contrasting coloured yarn slip stitch the first side of the purse together, slip stitch across the bottom edge and then join the other side of the purse together. Sew in a zip and add some felt, sequin and beads for decoration and ta da - you have just made one cute little purse!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

New growth

The sun has started coming out quite a bit recently and our little garden is seems to be coming back to life. Seeing the bluebells come up reminded me that I needed to start my sweetpeas off so that they would be ready for summer. So with the aid of a couple of egg boxes, some potting compost and a little gentle watering I now have some little seedlings coming through. Hopefully these little guys survive my tender care (there are some very sad looking plants on the window sill that could have probably done with a little less of my attention) and will be just as pretty as their parent plants were last year.

In crafty news it seems that my Curious Alien pattern is being well received as it was mentioned here on the Free Amigurumi Patterns blog which my sister found and pointed out to me.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Friday book review

"Super-Cute Crochet: Over 35 Adorable Animals and Friends to Make" by Nicki Trench
ISBN: 978-1906525392
UK crochet terms

After being so disappointed by Nicki Trench's "Complete guide to Knitting and Crochet" it was a very pleasant surprise to flip through this well presented and much better written crochet book which she published last year. Having a different publisher seems to have made a world of difference to the finished result with it having a clear layout, lovely photographs and being obviously much better edited.

Each pattern has a little story behind it which draws you into the designs and makes you want to start creating your own friendly amigurumis which will have their own little quirks and characters. The tiny details on each piece are so lovingly added that you are bound to fall in love, the tiny embroidered flower on the kitty shown on the front cover is a great example of this - and don't you just love her tiny little flower patterned dress? Most of the patterns will have some little added touch - a bit of ribbon on one or a little sewn head-band on another and proves that the details really do matter.

After finishing off one of the little mice from this book I felt the need to make up one of the bunnies as an Easter present, but was sadly less satisfied with the result. May I present to you bright pink evil bunny...

Not too sure where I went so wrong here but this little guy is not my best work by far. I think I should have chosen a less garish colour for him and perhaps tried harder with the embroidery on the face... oh well, perhaps someone else will love him better?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

This little piggy...

...went to my Mum's house for Mother's day, isn't he just adorable? My Mum is a huge pig fan - she hopes to one day own a house in the country where she will keep several dogs, cats, a donkey and of course a couple of her favourite pets - pigs.

Last year I made her this little pig so to continue the tradition I decided to try out the fantastic 'Pass the pigs' pattern on the romansock blog. The pattern was of the usual romansock high standard (I would highly recommend all the patterns by Wibit as she writes them very clearly with lots of beautifully taken photos to illustrate) and turned really well. I love his little snout and sticky out legs :-)

Before my Mum could get her present though this little monster took a shine to him and decided to charge round the house with him clutched firmly in his fist. Thankfully he survived his time being pulled about, chewed and otherwise loved and was given to my Mum at the weekend looking almost as good as new.

Now I'm off to make another to keep the monster happy :-)

Friday, March 12, 2010

Friday book review

"Cherry Cake and Ginger Beer: A Golden Treasury of Classic Treats" by Jane Brocket
ISBN: 978-0340960899
UK weights and measures used

This is another 'not quite crafting' book that I wanted to share with you all as some of you may know of the talented Jane Brocket from her lovely blog Yarnstorm or perhaps from one of her other books like the beautiful "The gentle art of domesticity".

This book is a baking book with a lovely twist - all of the recipes have been inspired by descriptions of snacks and treats in children's fiction. There are some really lovely recipes to be found in here, and with each recipe there is a short piece about the book it is from as well a short extract. The illustrations throughout this book use the original illustrations from the children's books featured and really give you a good dose of nostalgia.

There are recipes in here for the famous Bruce Bogtrotter's chocolate cake (Matilda), Amy's pickled limes (Little Women), Strike-me-pink raspberry jam cakes (Mary Poppins) and so many more. Everyone who I've shown this book to has been fascinated by it and all have found something that they too want to have a go at making.

My strongest recommendation for this book would be that all the recipes that I've tried so far have been a great success, and I really am terrible at baking. I'm the sort of person who can burn chocolate by trying to melt it in a microwave, I've had some real disasters with baking in the past but with this fantastic book I seem to have managed to turn that around.

I started out by having a go at making the Chalet School Apple cake as I remember fondly reading quite a few of them as a girl. The cake was quite fiddly to make, but the well written instructions guided me through and I turned out of my oven a very moist and delicious apple cake (top right photo) that almost looked professional!

High on the success of this I tried Mrs Glump's Melt-in-the-mouth shortbread and again ended up with some very tasty shortbread, the first batch disappearing quicker than snow in July and the second batch being very happily eaten by some of our neighbours. The recipe for coconut kisses (an easy way to make little coconut macaroon type treats) was also a great success, as was the two batches of ginger biscuits that I've done (and for which I have orders for more!).

My most recent attempt has been the coffee and walnut cake (above left) which is heading off to my Mum's tomorrow so I'll let you know how successful it is once I've had a chance to taste it.

To help save the cake from the snaffling hands of my husband I've had to take the precaution of baking up a mini batch of ginger biscuits to go in his 'snaffle jar' so hopefully there are enough there to keep him out of mischief for tonight!

Edit: The coffee and walnut cake was a great success, so much so that I've just made another one to scoff at home today!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Spring is in the air

We've been having some beautiful sunny days in this little corner of the UK, a few of the bulbs in the garden have started to wake up and I can almost smell spring in the air. What could be a better time to bring a few more little bunny rabbits into the world?

These little guys are so very easy to make up that I've been whipping each up in just over an hour. They are also really great for using up small amounts of left over yarn so I've been doing some good stash busting too. The pattern is freely available from the Lion Brand web site, but you need to sign up as a member to view it first.

There will be more bunnies being made here in Tea Towers over the next couple of weeks so hopefully I'll be able to show off another photo of my new bunny army before they all go to their new homes. Oh, and don't you think that they bear a striking resemblance to the Nabaztag rabbits?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Friday magazine review

Mixtape - issue 11 (late 2009)

For my first Mother's day my husband subscribed me to this little zine that I had been hankering after for some time. Sadly though this will be my 4th and final issue of this as during my time subscribed to this the magazine has become colour through out as well as increasing in size which has caused the cost of it to go up as well.

I've really enjoyed getting this quirky zine through the post, just getting post all the way from Australia is pretty exciting, but I never really knew what to expect when the latest issue of this came through the door. The articles are mostly to do with crafting, there are features about specific artists works as well as book reviews a few simple how-tos and always something unexpected, like this week's short article about old fashioned motel signs.

But unfortunately £40 for 4 issues is more than I can justify right now so my husband will just have to be even more creative when thinking up what he is going to get me for this Mother's day. However, I think the price is fair for the lovely magazine that you get and I would recommend it to anyone else who is tempted to try something a little different. Hopefully Mixtape will continue to go from strength to strength and perhaps someday I'll get to read it again.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Searching for a home...

This little mouse has made his way into my home in the last week - he came over very quietly while I was busy crocheting up Easter gifts (which I will hopefully be able to post about next week). He seemed lonely and said that he wants a home. Sadly we don't have any suitable mouse holes here at Tea Towers so for now this little fella is going to make do with a roll of kitchen paper and hopefully by next Christmas I will have found him a new home.

I can't believe that it is already March and my grand plan of starting to make Christmas presents in January has slipped this far. This little mouse was from a pattern in "Super-cute crochet" by Nicki Trench and he was simple and easy to make - just right if you really don't know where to start when you have a huge list of presents to make. I don't have a clue about who I am going to be giving him too yet but hopefully he won't be the only little crochet critter you see on this blog in the next few months!