Friday 14 April 2017

Baby steps into advanced crochet

Its been a year give or take a few days since I completed my learn to crochet course and my Easter wreath is hanging once more in the kitchen, bringing the Spring indoors.  I recently revisited a coaster pattern and played around making several up in neutral shades for a birthdy present.  It's satisfying to see how much easier and quicker these were the second time round, and also how my tension has improved and regularised.  

Coffee and mint coloured coasters in Drops Paris cotton
So now the basics are well practised I've started trying patterns that are more challenging and working with different wools, including Drops pattern 'Baby Steps' in Drops Baby Alpaca Silk.  I've put my review of the pattern on Ravelry (@CharGoonan) but in short, it's pretty decent once you've worked out how to follow the instructions for the size you're making.  There are three useful questions and answers in the comments section of the pattern online which I'd recommend reading before you start to help with this.   

Here are my baby steps into complex crochet...

Size 6-9 months

A little present for a little boy

Friday 7 April 2017

Enjoy today

Enjoy today.  The sun is shining, and that's a pretty good reason to.  Enjoy today, because it will be over before you know it. This is the deeper message behind my blog title which I've pinched from my latest cross stitch.  

This sentimental pattern was picked up from the Knitting and Stitching show in November 2016; I bought it when my mum's back was turned with the intention of stitching it for her after she got quiet emotional reading its sentiment.  Little does she know that I caught her buying a pattern when my back was turned (ironically, it's of a clock showing time passing) which hasn't been gifted to me yet. Judging by where I found it the other week, in with her old work papers, I think it was a Christmas present which was forgotten about. Perhaps this will remind her. I do hope there are no tears when I present this completed project as a birthday present next week (and that I don't get told off for it's unframed appearance)!  

You can probably make out that it's a very straightforward chart made up entirely of whole cross stitches.  If you're interested in making it too, it's produced by Lizzie Kate, 'Let them be small'.  I kept quite true to the pattern using DMC threads; the only change I made was to substitute the main text colour from brown to a variegated blue from Classic Colourworks called mermaid's fin. I think the subtle varieation adds some more depth and is effective against the rustico aida.  

The last seven hours or so of stitches were completed listening to S-Town - the new podcast from the team at Serial and This American Life.  Imagine my pleasant surprise when the story, which delved into the life of a man from 'Shit' town Alabama, unfolded and touched on his work as a clock restorer and sundial maker.  The man named John had a tattoo of a Latin motto, reflecting his sentiments as a maker of sundials - vulnerant omnes, ultima necat - ‘they all wound, and the last kills’.  Time is a gift, but it's also a punishment.  I hope this cross stitch will remind not only my parents, but also myself, to live a full life and not to worry about the little things. 

Thursday 23 March 2017

Take two: lined bedroom curtains

Its been barely 18 months since I excitedly blogged about finishing my lovely lined bedroom curtains. Who would have guessed that I would get less than one year's benefit from them?!  The last six months has seen me move to London, meaning my blood, sweat and money has remained hanging, albeit prettily, on two windows over 200 miles away in my parent's house. 

And so I'm left with a feeling of déjà vu as I put the finishing touches to another pair of bedroom curtains after four days of back breaking work and a couple of evening sessions.  This time, I only have one pair to show you, I consider myself lucky to have a decent sized bedroom window in this city!  
Making only one pair sped up the process, as did using curtain tape rather than making the heading myself.  

I decided to make standard window ledge length curtains using hand stitching techniques and followed my four blog posts which turned out to be decent reminders.  

Getting the curtain tape in place
The new technique of applying curtain tape was passed onto me from my mum who opted to finish her bedroom curtains this way.  After lying the curtain flat on the floor I measured 156cm (the finished length of the curtains) from the hem, and folded and pinned the top seam allowance down, so that it sat on top of the lining.  I tacked this in place and then cut a length of curtain tape to 5cm wider than the curtain.  At one end I tied off the cords (the end that will be in the centre of the window) and at the other I made sure they were loose (the end that will be nearest the finial).  I used the extra length so that I could turn 2.5cm of the tape under the hem of the curtain at either side.  Once this was in place I tacked the tape down only a few millimetres from the folded edge of the curtain. 

Cord bags
The final step before sewing was to add a small bag for the cords to live in once they have been gathered.  To make the bags I cut two strips of fabric 12 inches long x 2.25 inches wide. Fold each strip in half length ways right sides together and invert the fold by 2.25 inches. Then sew the side seams using a 0.25 inch seam allowance, before snipping the corners and turning right side out.  I placed one bag under the bottom edge of the header tape, just inside the lining side seam, on the end that will be nearest the finial.  

Sewing the heading tape
I was then ready to take the curtains to the machine for the final sewing part.  To sew the header tape down, start at the bottom edge of the tape, near the edge that has had the cords tied.  Sew a small amount there, then sew the width of the tape and then turn again to sew the long top length. Continue to sew the other side and come back on yourself so that you cover the part with the cord bag.  Then stop and turn the curtain the other way so that you start at the same point as the first line of sewing, only this time you're going in the opposite direction (albeit the same direction that the top edge of the header tape was stitched).  This little diagram illustrates what I mean:

Now all that's left is to try and stay in this flat for at least one year to get my monies worth!

Bedroom curtains:  February - March 2017
Item Supplier Quantity £
Snowfall leaf fabricAbakhan 6.5m @ £5.98 per metre 38.87
Crease resistant cream liningAbakhan 6m @ £4.94 per metre 29.62
Curtain weights Abakhan 6 @ £0.16 each 0.96
Steel curtain hooks  Abakhan Bag of 30 0.9
Thread Any haberdashery - already had
3 inch rufflett regis pencil pleat tape netcurtain2curtains 6m @ £2.50 per metre 15.45
Curtain poleB&Q 1 27
TOTAL £112.80

Sunday 25 December 2016

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas, everyone

My post on the Knitting and Stitching Show 2016 had a massive omission in it which is this - I completed the crochet kit bought at last year's show and surprised my mum with it today.

And whilst we're nearing the end of the year, I thought I'd take a look back at the cross stitch projects I managed to fit in around everything else (ok, two of my planned things didn't even get started)!

There was the cat coasters for a belated house warming present for my friend, which led to her creating an even more charming feline ginger ball for her kitchen wall.  Then there was the wedding card for another friend, who had a fantastic day,  And a few bits for myself; a message board for the kitchen in my flat along with one (out of a planned six) Christmas coaster by my favourite designer, Emily Peacock. 

But there's no crafts to be done today; I've got some trifle and Christmas cake calling me. 

Merry Christmas.

Friday 23 December 2016

Knitting and Stitching Show, Harrogate 2016

How quickly the year has flown since the last Knitting and Stitching show;  I can't help reading my blog about it and thinking I've achieved a fair amount more than I was expecting.

After the workshop for beginners on crocheting granny squares, I blogged about my learn to crochet course in Ramsbottom, which I finished in March.  Since then crochet definitely became my thing for 2016.  From my Easter wreath and chick, to my pumpkin at Halloween, I crocheted something for every holiday this year, and lots in between.  I haven't yet started on a granny square quilt, but it's on the cards.  And all of this whilst moving my life to London in September; those long train journeys are responsible for about 10 coasters! 

But of course we finish the year with Christmas and I love this free Christmas lights pattern from my trusted teacher at Cotton Pod.   In a bid to not spend any more money I decided to make a set using the shades of wool I already have; so behold my pastel fairy lights.

Apart from developing my crochet skills I also made good progress with my other investments from last year.  The batik has been professionally framed and hangs in my kitchen, some of the fat quarters were used to make a Japanese patchwork bag present for Mother's Day and my mini seascape cushion sits on my sewing chair to remind me of warmer days.

The other fat quarters were all chopped up and are well underway to resembling a quilt which I have aptly named 'The quilt with no name'.  This is going to be my big project for 2017, let's see if it's finished before the next Knitting and Stitching show comes around.

I completed my factory dress from Merchant and Mills, and to get more value out of the pattern, and also because I love the finished dress, at this year's show I bought some nice navy floral cotton from one of the exhibitors to make it again, this time for the summer months.  

The only disappointment is my efforts with my patterns from Sew La Di Da which have unfortunately not escaped their envelopes. Unfortunately I was unable to return to my sewing classes due to my London move and I've not yet found any courses near my new place.  I suppose there's a slight mental barrier to starting them because of this; I've always associated dressmaking with my chatty class and it just doesn't feel right to plough through on my own.  But I do miss my dressmaking very much, so first thing in January I will be enrolling on a course and making these patterns my priority.

That's a lot in one year (the centre picture was after the 2015 show)

So, having looked back on last year, here's this year’s purchases!
My purchases - Harrogate 2016

There's a wedding sampler for my brother and his fiancé, which needs to be done for August 2018.  I’m so excited to be a bridesmaid for the first time, I wonder if that will bring extra sewing tasks my way... There's also another cross stitch, this one will be for my parents, and perhaps it will be a mother/father's day present. Both were bought from Trudy Ann Designs, available online here

For me I've got a lovely crochet scarf to work on from Janie Crow, available online here.  It's incredibly soft with alpaca wool and I can't wait to make it over the Christmas break (that's the plan at least).  I went for the grey colour, isn't it pretty?

I needed two new crochet hooks as well and now my airport liquids bag is looking like a shabby excuse for these hooks.  

And to round it off, here are some of my photos from the day of things I liked or that I found inspiring.  

A simple Christmas wreath, a cheap and quick alternative to a real green one

Ceramics and homeware by

Vileseline Christmas star decoration - free instructions were available

As always Harrogate delivered a fantastic arrangement of stalls, inspiration and variety.  Until November 2017, I've got a lot to get through!

Tuesday 20 December 2016

The quilt that has no name - part 1

This is the pattern of the quilt, from the book Fast Quilts from Fat Quarters

After the Knitting and Stitching Show last year I blogged about a quilt I wanted to make which, terribly, remains nameless.  I bought  all of my fabric at last year's show and in an effort to be super effective I immediately pre-treated it.  But as this is my first quilt, I decided to ease myself in gently by attempting the Japanese patchwork bag fist. I was glad I did, as it helped me with using a rotary cutter to cut layers of fabric accurately, which requires miles more pressure being placed on the ruler than I imagined. Or maybe I'm just getting weaker. 

Anyway, before I could even start cutting I spent a few hours making a full size cutting plan in mount board and covering it in sticky back plastic.  The book did helpfully suggest this as a useful tool, and it certainly kept me from destroying lots of fabric during the many, many hours of crossed eyes cutting that made up my month of March. 

The book calls for the cutting plan to be made to scale

There are over 1000 pieces in this quilt!

April and May were consumed with starting the construction process.  Playing around with different combinations of blocks is fun whilst also slightly frustrating to my inner OCD tendencies -
 when I can't quite get a perfectly balanced and pleasing spread of fabric shades, patterns and scales of pattern.

The centre star

Experimenting with block combinations
And since then the quilt has, again shamefully, not been given the priority it deserves.  The second half of 2016 has been so busy with relocating for a new job that the sewing machine desperately needs dusting down.  I'm determined this quilt will be finished by November 2017 - two years on from buying the fabric.  I'll need to write all of these new year's sewing plans down at this rate to keep track of my arbitrary deadlines!

Monday 31 October 2016

Halloween 2016


I was planning on a patch, but I'll settle with these two. One of which is now soup. So just one crocheted pumpkin this Halloween, but how cute is it?!

I used a kit from Cotton Pod which I impulse bought on a trip to Stitch in Ramsbottom for some wool supplies (I'm making more coasters again)!  The pattern was very easy to follow and the pumpkin was complete in two evenings.  I can't wait to make more of these next year.

Now it's time to plan the Christmas crochet makes...four weeks to go until the Harrogate Knitting and Stitching show!