Friday, July 30, 2010

Friday book review

"Creepy cute crochet" by Christen Haden
ISBN 978-1-59474-232-3

US crochet terms

This lovely little book is one of my latest additions to my craft book shelf and it is already one of my favourites there. The patterns are fantastic - so very cute  and so very different from any other crochet books out at the moment. Who wouldn't want their own little grim reaper or amazon warrior to brighten up their work desk?

One of the problems I'm regularly faced with is what on earth to make for the male friends and family that I like to send gifts to. Well this book provides 19 perfect gift ideas suitable for blokes and I'm sorely tempted to try making them all. Another great reason to buy this book is that the creatures are very simple and quick to make up, all of them are are based on a basic head and body but once you add the different accessories they become very different and take on their own personalities.

The book starts out with some clear advice about all the techniques that you need to create your own creatures including guidance on working with modeling clay, making yarn hair and some specialist crochet techniques (I found the 'clean fasten off' technique to leave a much nicer finish and I'll definitely be using that a lot with my other crochet projects). Each pattern has a clear ability level, a clear photo of the finished item, stitch diagrams, written instructions and step by step assembly instructions (which I found really helpful in creating a professionally finished item).

After searching through my yarn stash I discovered that I was missing a good few of the colours that I would need to make a lot of the creatures (a suitable yellowy zombie flesh colour is a must and so is brown... I must stock up!) so I ended up just making the grim reaper, the devil and a valiant knight. The grim reaper I made up first and he was the simplest of the three, but I think probably my favourite. With just a simple body shape, a little crochet hood, some embroidery on the face and a little felt scythe he really comes alive (or as alive as a little crochet skeleton can get!)

Next up I decided to try a more tricky creature, the handsome knight - and again I found the pattern clear and easy to follow and had no problems putting him together with the help of the assembly instructions. I love his little shield and the embroidered detail on his little sword. One slight problem I did find was that the templates for the weapons were not to scale which would have been easy to do as there would have been plenty of room to print the full scaled versions.

Last up I made the little happy devil and because I didn't find the finished version in the book to be as cute as I wanted him to be I made a few changes. The eyes I used for my creatures were very small safety eyes so my creatures already look slightly different to the original designs. As well as this I moved the mouth lower down and made it a smile instead of just a line. I also left off his goatee as I didn't think it would suit my devil and I gave him a felt trident for extra devilishness. All simple to do and now I have a few more ideas for ways to personalise any future creatures that I make.

So to sum up, I love this book. Simply love it. If you too need zombies, vampires, ninjas or any warriors in your life then you really should go out right now and get yourself a copy of this fantastic book.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Pretty baby things

I'm starting to make a little progress through some of my UFOs and I thought I would show off the finished baby cardigan that I gave you a sneak peak of a few weeks ago.

The pattern is called "Maisie baby cardigan" designed by Alicia Paulson and available in the book "Vintage crochet". Though I found the pattern clear and easy to follow I was a little disappointed with how much construction was needed - the top half consists of 5 separate parts that need sewing together (including the two separate sleeves that each were worked flat for some reason and then needed sewing up at the end) with the lower skirt then getting crocheted directly onto the finished top half. Because I used a blueish yarn for this cardigan I decided to add a lilac trim to feminise it a little more and I think it ended up working nicely.

To accompany the cardigan I also worked up some simple baby booties this time from the book "Essential crochet" by Erika Knight. The pattern was quick and easy to make up and I love the chunky little flowers that go on the front. I still need to make up little crochet ties for these booties as the soon to be mum has expressed a preference for those as opposed to the ribbons suggested in the pattern.

 As these are all done I've now got a hankering to make some more baby bits and bobs so if you've any favourite patterns that you can recommend I would love to hear about them!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Experimenting with felt

What do you do when your dad is going to be celebrating his 60th Birthday but absolutely refuses to say what he would like you to get him? My dad would not hear of anyone making a fuss for his big day so I was forced to try and think a little bit more creatively and as I always do when I'm stuck for present ideas I turn to my craft stash.

Because I'm out of white, brown and yellow yarn (how this has happened without my noticing I'm not too sure, perhaps we have a yarn elf stealing it?) I moved out of my crochet comfort zone and turned to the next best 3D craft medium - felt.

What the heck is this strange looking little hut? Well it was supposed to be a small Celtic round house based loosely on the buildings constructed at Butser Ancient Farm (check the photo below) although somehow while I wasn't looking it became too tall and thin. I made the main section separately from the roof, added the door detail to it, stuffed it with rice and fiberfill and then had a devil of a time trying to get the roof to sit straight on the top while I sewed it on.

My dad (who is one of the volunteer workers at the farm and has even helped to thatch a few of the buildings there) loved it, so hooray for craft saving the day again!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Beautiful crafty goodness

I'm starting to think that there is no way that I can make enough handmade presents for all my friends and family this Christmas (I'm still going to give it my best shot though) but instead of letting this drive me almost crazy with stress I'm going to try and make the most of some of the beautiful work from other local crafters.

The more I get to know people in my local area the more people I find who also love making things. One of my newest friends embarked on trying to sell her work for the first time at a fair yesterday and so I made a trip out to see what crafty goodness I could find to add to the Christmas box. From my friends stall I bought the beautiful pink card with ribbon and bead weaving  as well as the very delicate snowflake ornament which we will be adding to our own handmade Christmas tree decorations this year.

In a different stall which was the joint work of a number of local women I found the fantastic tote bag embellished with hand sewn felt and buttons which will be perfect for one of my nieces, another lovely card and a pretty notebook with handmade papers patchworked on the cover.

All this came to under £20 which really is astounding if you think of the time, care and love that went into these items. So perhaps this Christmas I'll be able to take the handmade pledge and stick to giving items that are original and beautiful.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Off the hook

Friday seems to have come round very quickly this week and I'm sorry to say that I don't have a book review ready for you. The reason being that I want to get a few UFOs finished off as they have been lingering in my craft corner making me feel guilty.

So I've been hard at work trying to get this little baby cardigan finished (by Alicia Paulson from the book  "Vintage Crochet") for a soon to be little niece. The yarn is almost the colour of the lavender in the garden and so very soft it should be perfect for a new little one.

Give me another couple of weeks to get the next craft book review written up and I'll try to keep you all amused with photos of some finished projects.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Birthday pause...

Sorry for the delay in my usual posts - I've just returned from a long weekend up North with my mother in law and so I'm running a little behind. My husband and father in law were off marshaling at the Grand Prix in Silverstone while my mother in law and I got in touch with our girly side.

We spent a lovely weekend enjoying the nice weather by visiting parks and picnicking as well as watching a very large amount of Pride & Prejudice in the evenings (somehow we managed to get through both the 6 hours of the BBC TV series as well as the 2 hour Kiera Knightley version).

Because I had forgotten to pack any crafting to do while away so treated myself to some lovely Sirdar crofter DK and a beautiful knit pro hook and in those long evenings managed to crochet up two thirds of a scarf. The knit pro hook is lovely to work with, my first wooden hook yet.

After getting back yesterday afternoon I opened up all my Birthday presents and cards and as well as being given the very beautiful butterfly box above I also got some crochet and cupcake books which I can't wait to have a good read through and tell you about in more detail. On top of this I've had my subscription for Inside Crochet magazine renewed and a new subscription to Sew Hip magazine also taken out!

Now I had best start putting out all my Birthday cards - I'll try to be back with a more crafty post soon.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Panda love

You may recognise these colourful fellows as being related to the little panda I made up for my most recent blog giveaway. These two ended up being more colourful as I've run myself out of white yarn and had to find an alternative in a hurry.

As these were to be part of a present for my little niece who is going to be having a baby sister soon I thought it would be a nice idea to make up a mummy and a baby panda. I adjusted the original Lion Brand pattern to come up with a smaller version and I thought that you all may be interested in knowing what my pattern for the mini panda was.

Baby Panda

Work as a continuous spiral without joining rounds. Keep the gauge tight so that the stuffing doesn't show through.


Using white (or a paler shade if you also want a colourful panda)

Row 1: ch 2 and work 6 sc into first ch
Row 2: work 2 sc in each st (12 sc)
Row 3: *work 2 sc in first sc, sc* rep 5 times (18 sc)
Row 4: *work 2 sc in first sc, sc in next 2 stitches* rep 5 times (24 sc)
Row 5: *work 2 sc in first sc, sc in next 3 stitches* rep 5 times (30 sc)
Row 6-14: sc around

Change colour to black (or a darker shade if you also want a colourful panda)

Row 15 - 17: sc around
Finish off leaving a long end

Eyes (make 2)

Row 1: ch 2 and work 4 sc into first ch
Row 2: work 2 sc in each st (8 sc)
Row 3: *work 2 sc in first sc, sc* rep 5 times (12 sc)
Finish off leaving a long end

Legs (make 4)

Row 1: ch 2 and work 4 sc into first ch
Row 2: work 2 sc in each st (8 sc)
Row 3-5: sc around
Finish off leaving a long end

Ears (make 2)

Row 1: ch 2 and work 4 sc into first ch
Row 2: work 2 sc in each st (8 sc)
Row 3-4: sc around
Finish off leaving a long end

Putting him together

Sew the eyes onto the body using the photo as a guide and then insert safety eyes through crochet eyes and secure at back. Embroider nose details on face. Stuff body firmly and sew close using long end. Sew ears to head without putting in any stuffing Lastly stuff and sew on arms and legs. Ta da - your baby panda should now be all done!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Friday book review

"The Softies kit: Instructions and tools for creating 15 plush pals" by Therese Laskey
ISBN: 978-0811858861

This is more of a set of instructions and a few materials than a book but even so is well worth doing a review for. The title is a little misleading as you could easily think that you are getting instructions and all the materials you need to make all of the 15 designs - you actually just get all the bits you need to make up the party cake design. So when I first received this kit back in 2008 I made the cake out of it and was quite put off by how tricky I found it to be. The kit also includes 14 other designs all printed on separate folded instruction cards, all the templates to make the designs and a little basic instructions book to show you all the techniques you'll need for the projects.

While having a browse through my craft book shelf I came across this kit again and felt that I had to give it another go as there are so many adorable softies shown. So while my husband was out with our little boy for the morning I started to iron out scraps of fabric and got to work on one of my favourite patterns - the "flat 'in' fat penguin".

Cutting out all the pieces was fiddly, and the purple corduroy that I had chosen as the main body colour was tricky to cut accurately but as I wasn't in a rush I managed it all fine. Once all the pieces were cut and ready I followed the very clear and simple instructions and before I knew it I had already finished putting together the face. During the next free chunk of time (nap times are fantastic) I got the flippers sewn together and the feet with their embroidered toes. Then once little Sam had gone to bed I put all the pieces together back to front, sewed all the way out and breathed a big sigh of relief when on turning the penguin the right way out everything was in the correct place.

I love this little penguin very much and finding him so easy to make has been a real confidence boost. I'm definitely going to be trying a few of the other designs in this kit and I'm sure the most crafters will also find a good few patterns in here that they too would love to have a try at making.