Friday, September 24, 2010

Friday book review

"Super-super cute crochet" by Brigitte Read
ISBN: 978-1907030246

UK crochet terms

You may remember that back in June I featured a designer focus on the work of Brigitte Read who has been a long time favourite designer of mine. Well a month later I was lucky enough to be given a copy of her first book of patterns for my Birthday and as I've finally gotten around to trying a few of the designs I thought it was time to write the book review.

Sadly my first impressions were not as good as I had hoped. A handful of the patterns published in the book have already been made available for free on the roman sock blog and due to the way the patterns have been printed some of the useful step by step photos from the free patterns have not been included. Even though there are a number of patterns that feature Brigitte's brushed crochet technique the instructions in the book have been limited to only two paragraphs and no photos which considering the detailed guide that is available from the roman sock blog seemed a little odd.

There are a wide variety of patterns in this book all for cute animals ranging from the more usual cat, dog, bird pattern to some much more unusual designs including a walrus, anteater, silkworm and star-nosed mole. Most of the designs I liked the look of so there was plenty in here to keep me busy and I found it quite hard to single out only a few designs to do.

First up I had a try at the cute little blue whale which looked pretty simple to do. The main body was a basic oval shape and the tail was worked separately and added on at the end. Because there are only photos in the book of the finished toys it was hard to work out where to put the eyes and where to attach the tail to the back. A close up photo of the back of the whale would really have helped but the focus seemed to be to show how cute the whale was and hide the fact that the tail looked a little odd just tacked on at the back. Other annoyances included that the mouth of the whale in the book was just a piece of pink yarn stitched straight across and positioned to look nice for the photos - not actually embroidered properly. The method used for starting the main body section would not have left the nice tidy top that you see in my photo and in the book photos - I tried it and it left a gap at the top... you need to use a magic circle to get the finish you see here. Lastly the main body construction is made of two pieces which are joined together at the end which leaves a clear ridge at the bottom of the whale's body (I've carefully photographed mine so it isn't noticeable)  which in my opinion looks a bit silly.

So not a very good start so far. For my next pattern I tried the more difficult looking flamingo and was much happier with the finished result. There were a couple of errors in the pattern but nothing too difficult to figure out and even though the instructions for stuffing were contradictory I found this pattern much easier to follow.

(If you want to try this pattern then I recommend you stuff the head before you get too far crocheting the neck. Once you've finished the neck insert a pipe cleaner with a little bit of stuffing as well, then stuff the body before you finish it off.)

The long bendable legs and the funny little wings make this a very cute toy and well worth the time you spend putting all the separate pieces together.

Lastly I decided to try one of the patterns that is also available for free from the roman sock blog - the beautiful Manta ray that I've been meaning to make for a few years now. The pattern for this ray is exactly the same as you will find online except it has all the useful step by step photos stripped out of it so the free version is more helpful then the pattern published in the book. However this pattern seems to be error free - perhaps because it has been available for a long time before this book and so has had plenty of time to be tested for errors. I found it to be easy to make up though quite fiddly to put together due to all sewing in of pipe cleaners and needing to construct a pink felt mouth. I love how he turned out and would definitely recommend making him to anyone.

In overview - although this book was sadly a bit disappointing as I had expected much better pattern instructions from this designer I would still say it has some of the nicest designs for amigurumi animals that have been published so far. There are still at least 10 more pattern in here that I want to have a go at making which means this book ranks pretty high in my collection of crochet titles. So yes I would recommend it as one to add to your collection - though beware that you may also find some of the patterns have errors in them.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Pretty ladies all in a row

Life seems to have reached a new level of hectic here as I've started back at my weekly Mums craft group and also signed up for a card making course. Some how during all this chaos I found the time to make these very pretty little crochet Kokeshi dolls and I'm really glad that I did.

Such a simple design and a great example of amigurumi - quick and easy to make and very customizable. The pattern is available for free here however the instructions for the hair are very wrong so I ended up rewriting them. If any of you want to have a go at these lovely dolls then my corrected instructions for the hair are as follows:


Row 1 - make a magic circle and work 10 sc into it, tighten and then continue work in a spiral
Row 2 - 2 sc in each sc around (20 sc)
Row 3 - *sc in each of next 4 sc, 2 sc in next sc* repeat around (24 sc)
Row 4 - sc around (24 sc)
Row 5 - *sc in each of next 4 sc, 2 sc in next sc* repeat around (30 sc)
Row 6 to 10 - sc around
Row 11 - ch 1, turn, sc into next 20 sc
Row 12 to 17 - ch 1, turn, sc across
Row 13 - don't turn, work sc around the inside edge of the hair and fasten off

I finished my Kokeshi dolls with a little bit of embroidery on the dresses and some handmade felt flowers and they will be very difficult to part with when it comes time to empty the Christmas box...

Monday, September 13, 2010

Learning patchwork

With all the crochet that has been in progress here at Tea Towers it was so nice to go along to my craft group this week and do some hand sewing instead.

We were all let loose on a pile of scraps and after a few basic instructions we made a start. Because I love blues and purples so much I decided to focus on these colours and I was surprised by just how quickly the strips of hexagons all joined up.

I'm still undecided about what these patches are going to be made into - the original idea was that they became a teapot cosy but I'm also thinking that a little patchwork money purse would be very cute. Any other suggestions?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Friday magazine reviews

"Inside Crochet" issue 9
September 2010
UK crochet terms

Inside Crochet magazine has just gone monthly which means two things, firstly I'll have to try and wait to do my magazine reviews until I have the two latest issues (otherwise I'll just end up every two weeks with just magazine reviews and no book reviews). Secondly I'm going to need to get it renewed again at Christmas time as what I thought was a year's subscription now will disappear after 6 months!

This September issue was the first of my new subscription to Inside Crochet and so also came with some lovely white merino lace weight yarn that I can't wait to have a go with. The only problem is that I only got 50 grams of it and trying to find a pattern that will use that quanity is going to be tricky. Hopefully you'll be seeing the start of a project with it soon.

Now on to the contents of issue 9! The new monthly Inside Crochet has a new editor and for this 're-launch' issue she has found some new contributors which is a bit of a relief as we were starting to just get patterns and articles from the same people each time. There are some lovely patterns in this month's issue that really appeal to me, especially the beautiful baby dress that I just got on my hook yesterday and I'm alreadly loving how it is shaping up.

There is also a feature on working hairpin lace with a couple of lovely patterns designed for that technique. My other favourites include a very cute mushroom shaped pouch that I'm tempted to have a play with for a mystery project of my own, a mesh tank dress and the very beautiful flower square blanket made up using sock yarn in blues and silver.

The new magazine format includes crochet news with details of UK based crochet events, an array of lovely crochet related buyables, and a number of book reviews (the September issue also did a review of "Tasty Crochet" - obviously a popular book this month!), photos from reader projects, yarn reviews and a feature on a crochet related website. There was also a great article on crochet in fashion this month with some really fantastic photos from the graduate fashion week which was very inspiring.

So all in all a great new issue - I hope the new editing team continue to deliver!

"Inside Crochet" issue 10
October 2010
UK crochet terms

This month didn't seem to do so well for patterns, most of them I'm not even slightly tempted to make though there are a couple that redeem the issue for me, the lovely little kingfisher amigurumi designed by June Gilbank (I love her designs - the pigs I made recently were also by her), the Damson tunic looks lovely, the petal beret is very pretty and I like the stitch pattern for the Ammonite scarf.

The articles in this issue are what made it worth reading for me as there was another great piece about crochet in fashion with some more great photos of crochet designs on the catwalk. The article about the history of crochet was also very interesting, it spoke about the mystery over when crochet first started and where as well as about the highs and lows for crochet over the years.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Latest upcycling attempt..

These little granny square coasters are part of an attempt to try and make use of old unwanted items like some old duvet covers that I have gathering dust at the back of one of my cupboards.

Originally I had wanted to turn this blue and white striped double duvet cover into a lovely crocheted rag rug for which I've seen a few lovely project photos of in some of my craft books. This project seemed to be doomed to failure though as my original hope to make a circular mat wouldn't stay flat and then when I realised just how long it would take to cut up a whole double duvet cover and then try to crochet it was just too big a time commitment.

So while looking at the bag containing the failed rag rug I came up with the bright idea to try and make coasters instead. Crocheting with fabric gives you a lovely thick material which seems well suited to making hard wearing rugs and so I thought it would also make good chunky coasters. These are just very simple granny squares which after only the first two rows were finished. The downsides to working with fabric scraps though is that it is very hard on your hands as well as being very slow to crochet up, each of these coasters took me about an hour to complete!

To the right you can see the original attempt at a rag rug being used by my little boy... seeing as I had wanted to make it square and it was about a metre long I would have still been doing it this time next year if I had continued with it. Maybe next time I want to try and make a rag rug I'll have a go with the plaited method instead.