Monday, June 28, 2010

I love my craft group :-)

For the last year I've been regularly going to a mums craft group which is organised and heavily subsidised by a local charity. This is the one time in the week where I get to leave Sam with a creche while I go off to chat and craft with a group of other mums. It has taken about 6 months for Sam to become comfortable with me leaving him as he is so used to my always being near him, but now he is very happy for me to go out of sight while he plays with all his favourite toys.

So now I get the full two hours to sit and join in whatever craft project the group is doing that week - bliss! For the last 4 weeks we've been making paper mache money box mushrooms and I've found that gluing lots of newspaper to rolls of cardboard and plastic plates has been very relaxing especially as I also get a cup of tea while I'm there.

As I had finished up my mushroom today I got the chance to try my hand at paper pricking - which is a craft I hadn't even heard of before. You place the piece of card that you want to embellish on top of a block of foam, and after gently taping a metal punched template over it you are ready to use a little pricking tool to prick through the template onto your card. The repetitive pricking can be quite addictive and this is another great craft to do while having a chat as you don't really need to think too much when you get going.

I love the finished effect that paper pricking gives - so simple and detailed at the same time (to see the detail more clearly click on the image to enlarge it).

Friday, June 25, 2010

Designer focus - Brigitte Read

After reading the lovely comments on the previous 'designer focus' post I did (about the talented KristieMN) I thought I would try to make it a regular feature of my blog, Doing this will also give me a chance to show off again some of my favourite crochet toys as well as perhaps having a go at making up some new ones as well.

Thankfully there are a good number of very talented crochet designers around and with a lot of them also offering free patterns finding people to do a focus on shouldn't be too hard. If you think of anyone that you would like to see in this focus slot then please let me know - I love finding new crochet designers!

So let's move on to today's focus which is about some of the patterns by Brigitte Read who has the following two fantastic crochet blogs:

Roman Sock - cute crochet inspired by the natural world

Curiosity cute - a newer blog with a slightly more sinister feel to it than Roman Sock.

This very talented crocheter has also authored the recently published "Super, super cute crochet" which I am very much hoping will be among my Birthday presents next month.

When I first came across the Roman Sock blog it took my breath away - I couldn't believe just how beautiful some of the work that Brigitte did. Back then Brigitte had all her crochet patterns available for free and even though she has started charging for some of her new patterns she has left those free patterns up for everyone to make use of. These patterns are available as PDF downloads and have all been written to a high standard with clear instructions and lots of quality photographs to help lead you thorough the pattern.

Brigitte is also well known for coming up with the 'brushed crochet' technique with which you can transform a normal crocheted toy into something which has very realistic looking fur - without having to try and crochet with the very tricky fuzzy yarns that are usually used to get a similar effect. Unfortunately I've yet to make up anything to test out this technique though I really do want to have a go at the lovely pattern for the meerkat as these look just fabulous.

Even though I haven't tried any brushed crochet I have made up a number of Brigitte's patterns and I've been very pleased with how all of them have turned out. At the top of this post you can see a couple of little owlets that I whipped together in a couple of hours recently from Brigitte's Instant Crochetfication pattern selection. These little patterns are very quick makes and are all very cute, just what you want when you need a quick crochet fix. 

The little elephant that I made up for one of my giveaways last year is also from the Instant Crochetification range, and though I really love how the finished elephant turns out he is quite a fiddly little critter to make and takes me about 3 hours to complete, even after having now made three of these little guys now. 

Recently I also made up the Toad pattern (see left) from the Instant Crochetification range and while I'm happy with him as a finished item he didn't turn out quite as nicely as I wanted. For some reason I had real problems placing his back legs so that they would look right and enable him to sit up right. He looks a little pensive for some reason - I wonder what he is thinking about?

My favourite pattern that I've made so far has to be the beautiful Greek Tortoise that you can see in the top right of this post. The design was well thought out and surprisingly simple to make up and came out far better than I could have hoped for. Out of all of the things I've crocheted over the years this little tortoise has been one of the hardest to part with so perhaps I'll have to treat myself by making another one day.

Coming a very close second favourite would be the Tree Frog pattern (second photo down on the left) which I also fully intend to make up another for myself. My frog ended up being less froggy than the original pattern as I didn't have the requisite amber cats eyes so I stuck with the pair of green ones I had and kept my frog all green. Though there were a large number of different parts which all had to be sewn together at the end leaving a ton of loose ends to work in he was well worth all the effort.

The last creature that I have to show you is from the Pass the Piggies pattern which for some reason isn't clearly available on the blog sidebar like the other patterns but you should be able to find it here. I'm always on the look out for new pig patterns as my mother is a big pig fan so this little guy got made up last year as a Mothers day present. He was another quick pattern to make and both my mum and my little boy really loved him.

So to sum up - Brigitte Read is a crochet genius and you should go and take a look at her blogs right now. Oh, and if I do get my wish and get given her new book then I'll be sure to post a review here soon :-)

Friday, June 18, 2010

Friday magazine review

"Inside Crochet" issue 8
June/July 2010
UK crochet terms

Because I've only recently returned from holiday I've not been able to make anything from the latest issue of Inside Crochet so please forgive this project-less review, I'll try very hard to make it up to you next time!

This issue focuses on more summery projects with a good number of light weight crocheted cover ups that would be great for those cool summer evenings. There are also a few other projects that catch your interest with a very cute tea pot cosy (which I may have fallen a little in love with) as well as a chunky bag that has a great woven/plaited texture, a very sweet little crochet top for a young girl and a quick crochet project for kids to try. There are also a good selection of interesting articles to read through including a short piece about the fantastic SIBOL project that I wrote about in my previous Friday review.

Overall this was a great issue, there are a good number of pretty patterns that I'm sure would suit a range of tastes as well as some interesting articles and crochet news that focuses on events in the UK (including a brief piece about the upcoming Stitch yourself event being held by the Science Museum). This issue marks the last of my current subscription, though I'm hopeful that one of my family members will renew it for me as a Birthday present as I really do enjoy getting it through the post and so far it has been well worth the £25 for 6 issues. So keep your fingers crossed for me and hopefully there will be more Friday reviews for this magazine soon.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Last minute panic

Last week the Tea Towers residents (ie: myself, my husband and little Sam) were all away on a quick break at one of the UK Center Parcs during which time I managed to completely forget about a number of impending Birthdays... So after finally getting through most of the laundry on our return I notice in my diary that I needed to do some Birthday related crafting - and quickly!

That's where Sasha the Seahorse comes in. My little niece loves sea life and is particularly fond of seahorses so when I found the free pattern for Sasha on Futuregirl's fantastic blog I was determined to have a go at making it for her. This little seahorse was pretty quick and simple to make thanks to the detailed and clear instructions. I found cutting out the pieces to be the fiddliest part while the sewing was strangely quite easy and satisfying.

Now I'm off to tuck this in with my niece's Birthday card and then I should probably check my diary again in case there are any more Birthday related surprises lurking in there.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Wild beast a-roaming

My latest crochet request has been for a lion and after the success of the lovely amigurumi panda which I made with a free pattern on the Lion Brand website I decided to try another of their free patterns.

The pattern for this little lion used fuzzy yarn for the mane which would probably have looked great, but after a less than enjoyable experience of using fuzzy yarn I opted for latch hooking on a mane with normal non-fuzzy yarn.

I'm not as pleased with this little guy as I was with the panda (who is now happily living in Texas and has his own personal bamboo plant) though he is still pretty cute. He was pretty simple to make up and I'm sure his new owner will love him very much.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Robbie the Robot

As I seem to have been inundating you with crochet recently I thought I would share with you a photo of my recently finished Robbie the Robot.

Robbie has been made from a very well loved old pair of jeans that I had worn so much they had holes everywhere. He has been put together without a pattern (probably my first proper sewing project that has) and has been entirely hand stitched. He has a little bit of crochet for his arms and legs which have pipe cleaners in to make him more poseable. He has only been lightly stuffed to make him more hugable and my son has already spent some time giving him a few :-)

I really love Robbie and I already have plans of trying to make a Robbie mark II, perhaps as a smaller version. I'm also trying desperately to think of other bloke friendly toys/gifts that I can make as there are not many guys who would want to be given some of the cute girly stuff that I make. So if you have any ideas then please let me know!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Friday book review

"Crochet inspiration" by Sasha Kagan
ISBN: 978-1933027128
US crochet terms

This book has been sitting on my craft shelf for a few years begging me to have a go at some of the beautiful things inside, but until I found out about the SIBOL (Sunshine International Blankets of Love) project I didn't really have any need to make anything from here.

Fired up with all the lovely images of different granny squares over on SIBOL I dove into my stash and spent a good few hours to come up with these 4 different 6" squares.

From the top left clockwise we have the Accent square, the Circle square, the Grannies-Lace square and lastly the 3-D Rose square.

For some reason my accent square seems to be a bit squiffy - I'm going to have to try a bit of careful blocking on it to see if I can straighten it out. The other squares all seem to have turned out similar to the illustrations so I'm pretty pleased with them. These squares will be making their out to the project soon, possible with some extra squares as I've developed a bit of a taste for doing them now.

This is a beautifully laid out book with great colour photos of all the motifs and projects. It is divided into 5 main sections with stitch patterns for different crochet fabrics at the start, some beautiful crochet motifs, lots of different squares, some very beautiful flowers and a few projects at the back to give you some ideas about how you could use the patterns. This is a book that you could find yourself turning to for all sorts of things and I do find myself spending hours gazing at the photos to give me ideas and inspiration for the work that I do.

This isn't a book that has been aimed at beginner crocheters, there are no diagrams/photos of how to work the basic stitches and all of the patterns have been written in a heavily abbreviated form which can make them difficult to follow. There are a good few errors in the patterns which should be easy to spot as each pattern also has a crochet diagram underneath. Even so this is a book that I would highly recommend a more experienced crocheter to own as it contains such a wealth of lovely crochet patterns.