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Crochet Chat: Hats, Cowls, and Gloves, Oh My!

Welcome to another installment of Crochet Chat. I’m really enjoying doing these Facebook Live chats all about crochet, and this week it was great to connect with Aly from Bug, Bird, and Bee to discuss easy projects for winter gifts.

I’m rather late in posting this video, because life simply got in the way last week. I initially did a Crochet Chat broadcast last Wednesday, but for some reason the sound simply didn’t work and I had to do it again on Thursday. I then got caught up on Friday between physio and attending my first ever Parent/Teacher Association meeting (in which I ended up volunteering to be the Secretary, and so had the minutes to type up) so didn’t have chance to post it last week at all.

And then we celebrated our 6th Wedding Anniversary at the weekend, so I was not going to spend it online. And so here were are, almost a week after my initial attempt at Crochet Chat number 3… better late than never, hey?

This week I talked about quick and easy gifts you can create with just a few basic stitches, and a single ball (or skein) of yarn. These gifts are ideal for keeping you warm throughout the bitterly cold Winter months, and so they would make great Christmas gifts too. I’ve included links to the patterns I mention underneath the video. As always, do leave me a comment to let me know if you want any more information!

Built for Speed Beanie from Crocheters of Awesome

Broom Broom Boy’s Beanie from Bugalugs Handmade

1-1 Cowl (One Skein. One Afternoon) from Between My Fingers

I’m a Fan Cowl from Between My Fingers

Crocheted Shell Wrist Warmers from Drops Design

halloween-crochet

Crochet Chat: Seasonal Crochet & US vs UK Stitch Terminology

Welcome to the second installment of my new weekly feature – Crochet Chat! Every Wednesday, at 12pm GMT, I shall be going live on my Facebook page to talk all about crochet. I’ll be covering everything from hints and tips based on my own experiences to resources I love and think you should check out too. And because it is live you can always hop on and ask me any questions you have and I’ll do my best to answer them for you!

I’ll post the replay on both my Facebook page and the blog, so even if you can’t join in live you’ll still be able to catch up and leave your comments for me to find afterwards. Here’s today’s installment…

As I mentioned in the video, I have created a free PDF download for you, to help you navigate the sometimes confusing difference between US and UK patterns. You can find it on our freebie page. You’ll notice that the PDF mentions a series of photo tutorials (Crochet Basics) which is no longer available on the blog – this is because I am currently reshooting the images for better quality and will be relaunching that series over the coming months.

The others resources mentioned in the video are listed below – I hope you find them useful:

Ravelry – if you want to connect on there, my username is dochka (shortened from Amandochka, which was a name my landlady in Russia occasionally called me!)

Crocheters of Awesome – Jen’s awesome site, where you can find patterns for turning practice squares into fingerless gloves and potholders!

crochet-patterns-and-yarn

Introducing Crochet Chat – For All Your Crochet Needs!

Well hello there! I hope you’re having a wonderful day?

I wanted to pop on today to tell you about a new feature I’m starting over on Facebook, taking advantage of the Live Broadcast feature. It’s called Crochet Chat, and it’s a chance for me to share with you all the things I’ve learned (and am still learning) about crochet. I am completely self taught and rely massively on My Crochet Guru to help me out when things go awry or I simply want someone else’s input into something. And I want to offer you that same option of having someone to turn to with your burning questions… and so Crochet Chat was born.

Have a watch of the first replay (you don’t have to catch the live broadcast, although it’s easier for me to respond to your questions and feedback if you do). Let me know what you think, send me your questions or requests, and follow me on Facebook so you never miss a broadcast.

Crochet Autumn Blanket Granny Square Cotton Yarn

Tried and Tested: Cotton Yarns for Crochet and Knitting

Tried and Tested Cotton Yarns for Crochet and Knitting

It’s no secret that I love crochet, and right now I am starting to think about (dare I say it) Christmas! As any crafter knows, if you want to give handmade gifts for Christmas, you need to start as soon as possible or you’ll never finish everything in time.

With that in mind, I have started looking at who would appreciate a handmade gift, what kind of items they would really like, and whether I have enough yarn in my stash or need to buy more. And again, any crocheter will be able to tell you that handmade gifts don’t always equal “budget” gifts – yarn can be expensive stuff!

Of course, you can buy budget yarns, especially if you don’t mind what it is made of. But I’m pretty picky when it comes to the yarn I use. You see, I suffer from eczema on my hands. It doesn’t take much to set it off, and I’ve found that wool based yarns seem to be one of my triggers. So that automatically reduces my options.

However it is not just an allergy issue for me, I am also very particular when it comes to how the yarn feels as it runs through my fingers when I work – I very much dislike the feel of many yarns! I’ve found a few acrylic ones I can work with, and I absolutely love the feel of bamboo yarns, but cotton remains my absolute staple fibre for crochet.

So I thought it would be good to share some of the ones I have tried with you. These are all yarns I have enjoyed working with and found at great prices both online and in my local craft store.

Rico Baby Cotton Soft (DK)

This is a deliciously soft 100% cotton yarn, which is an absolute pleasure to work with. I’m not sure how they have made it so soft, but they have. If it weren’t for the lack of bright, bold colours, I would be using this yarn for everything! It comes in 22 different colourways and 5 different prints.

I have used this yarn to make bootees and hats for friends who have had babies, and it is always lovely to work with!

crochet bootees rico baby yarn review

 

My verdict

Pros: super soft; great for gifts for a new baby

Cons: aimed at baby items, so colour choice more muted than other cotton yarns

Rico Creative Cotton (Aran)

This was one of the very first cotton yarns I discovered and I was so overwhelmed by the choice of colour that I bought a whole pack of it. It comes in 37 different colourways and 12 different prints.

I used Rico Creative Cotton when creating my super snuggly baby blanket for the Nine Months of Crochet challenge, working with two strands at a time so it was super chunky.

rico creative cotton yarn review

I also used it to create several pairs of fingerless gloves…

crochet fingerless gloves

My verdict

Pros: great colour selection; budget friendly

Cons: quite a “splitty” yarn

Rico Essentials Cotton (DK)

This is my “go to” yarn for projects which need bright colours, as it comes in a massive range of colours (at my last count there were 48 available at Wool Warehouse, and I’m not 100% sure if that is all the options or not).

Crochet Autumn Blanket Granny Square Cotton Yarn

I have used Rico Essentials Cotton DK for our “Autumn Blanket” which I hope will actually be completed for this Autumn! TJ chose the colours and it has been a joy to work with.

My verdict

Pros: fantastic range of colours; budget friendly; easy to work with

Cons: not quite as soft and snuggly as some other yarns

Sublime Cotton Kapok (DK)

I was incredibly lucky to have 30 balls of this deliciously soft yarn donated to me by Black Sheep Wools for my Nine Months Of… Crochet challenge which raised over £300 for charity in 2014. It was an absolute delight to work with, and I’d recommend it for any projects you want to make for a newborn baby!

I used Sublime Cotton Kapok for two blankets during my Nine Months Of… challenge.

Crochet Star Ripple Baby Blanket Cotton Yarn

Mandala Crochet Blanket Sublime Cotton Kapok Yarn Review

 

Verdict

Pros: super soft, great to work with, budget friendly

Cons: lack of bright colours for “non-baby” items, not available in many places

Wendy Supreme Luxury Cotton (DK)

This is a new discovery of mine, but one which I am really happy to have found. It is a classic cotton yarn, in that it isn’t super soft, but it is really easy to work with. It comes in a good range of colours, including some with sparkles in!

I’m currently using it to create a blanket for a friend who is expecting a baby at the end of this year.

Crochet Baby Ripple Blanket Cotton Yarn

My verdict

Pros: good range of bright colours, budget friendly

Cons: not as soft as some of the other cotton yarns

So what next?

If you’ve used a cotton yarn you love which is not on this list, please do let me know so that I can try it out… and do tell me what your favourite yarns are!

crochet fingerless gloves

What We’re Working On: Crochet Fingerless Gloves

Welcome to a brand new feature here at the Patch – “What We’re Working On”. It’s my version of a “Work-In-Progress” (WIP) round-up, to share some of the fantastic patterns I’ve come across and enjoyed making. I’m going to try and stick to a theme for each round-up, because at the moment my focus is on using up my yarn stash to create handmade gifts for the wealth of birthdays we have in the autumn and (dare I say it?) Christmas. There’s nothing nicer than making a gift for someone, because no matter how small they know it will have taken time and effort. Last year Little Man made his own Christmas wrapping paper, and I am so excited to see what he can get up to this year now that he is a little bit older! I’m also looking forward to making things for Halloween and keeping warm throughout the autumn months too. But for now, let’s get cracking with my first post – fingerless gloves. crochet fingerless gloves This first pair was a absolute dream to make. Despite messing up my stitch count the first time (skipping 3 stitches instead of 2 and making the first glove way too tight) I still managed to start again and complete the pair in just one evening. But don’t let the simplicity fool you… the gloves are very pretty, without being overly fancy. The v-stitch design gives it a lovely finish and the ribbing around the wrists is a great touch. V Stitch Fingerless Gloves Crochet The pattern I used for these gloves can be found both on ravelry.com and the designer’s own blog. She writes on her blog post about how she came about creating this design, which I loved reading, as it is always nice to find the story behind a piece! I made these using Sublime Baby Cotton Kapok (DK) , which is a yarn I discovered when Black Sheep Wools kindly donated 30 balls of it for my Nine Months Of Crochet Challenge last year. I fell in love with the yarn straight away and went out to buy some extra balls just for my own use, and this is what I used some of it for. My next pair is still very much a work in progress… want to see? Crochet Star Stitch The reason this is still a work in progress (WIP) is not because it takes very long – the pattern is really quite simple – but because the star stitch is a new one for me and it took me a while to figure it out. I’ve steered clear of fancy stitches like this for far too long… this pattern has actually been in my ravelry queue for years! But I don’t know why, because it really isn’t that hard once you get the hang of it. However I did have to search for a video tutorial on youtube to figure it out initially, as I just couldn’t make sense of written instructions at all!

Isn’t it pretty though? If you want to learn how to create it I highly recommend checking out this video by New Stitch A Day on You Tube. If you want to try the pattern for the fingerless gloves which uses this stitch, it is right here.

I am making these using rico creative cotton in fuschia. I love rico yarns and have done ever since I found them when pregnant. I am very limited to the fibres I can use due to eczema on my hands and so good quality cotton yarn which is also available on a low budget is a winner in my book! That’s all I’ve been working on this week, but I’m going to cheat right here and share with you a pair I made at the end of my pregnancy. I know we’re not working on them right now, but they do fit the theme, so I’ve decided it’s okay! Shell Wrist Warmers Crochet Unlike the other two, these do not have a thumb hole because they are officially “wrist warmers” rather than fingerless gloves. However I have found that you can easily (and comfortably) poke your thumb through a gap at the base of each shell if you want to use them as fingerless gloves instead. As I say, I made these when pregnant, so several years ago now, meaning I actually cannot remember the specific yarn I used. I know it was a super soft acrylic yarn but that’s about all I remember. If you want to have a go at the pattern, it is one by Drops Designs and can also be found on ravelry here.

Crochet Basics: Single Crochet Stitch (US) Photo Tutorial

Family Patch Crochet Basics

Welcome to the third tutorial in my Crochet Basics series of photo tutorials.

Today’s tutorial brings me to a point where I have to make a decision – do I use UK or US terminology?

As I’m a UK blogger you’d think I’d use UK terminology, but to be honest I learnt using US terminology as that is what I came across the most in online tutorials. And so I’m going to go with that.

It is confusing that we have different terms for the same stitches, and you always need to make sure you know which terminology a pattern uses before starting as otherwise you could end up doing it all wrong.

I don’t want to confuse you too much – I’ll give you more information on the different terms in a later post – but for now just know that I am using US terminology throughout my series and if you are using UK terminology then this tutorial is for the Double Crochet Stitch.

So… now we’ve cleared that up (I hope) we can get on with the tutorial – enjoy!

Family Patch Tutorial Single Crochet Step One

Family Patch Tutorial Single Crochet Step Two

Family Patch Tutorial Single Crochet Step Three

Family Patch Tutorial Single Crochet Step Four

Family Patch Tutorial Single Crochet Step Five

Family Patch Tutorial Single Crochet Step Six

Family Patch Tutorial Single Crochet Step Seven

Congratulations! You now have all the skills to begin practising making some basic squares. Practising squares helps you learn how you work (some people work more tightly than others – I often have to work slightly differently to a pattern because my tension is ‘off’, but that’s okay because I know this about myself now!)

Try starting with a slip knot, then creating 20 chain stitches, and then work for as many rows as it takes in single crochet to create a square. See how you get on… it may be slow progress to begin with but the more you practice the quicker you will get.

I’ll be back soon to show you how to do a half double crochet stitch.

This blog entry is my submission to the Deramores Blog Awards 2014. Deramores is the UK’s number one online retailer of knitting and crochet supplies. 

Crochet Basics: Chain Stitch – a Photo Tutorial

Family Patch Crochet Basics

Following on from my first Crochet Basics Tutorial (The Slip Knot), here is my step-by-step guide to the Chain Stitch.

Have fun!

Family Patch Tutorial Chain Stitch Step One

Family Patch Tutorial Chain Stitch Step Two

Family Patch Tutorial Chain Stitch Step Three

Family Patch Tutorial Chain Stitch Step Four

And that's it, folks – the most basic of basic crochet stitches and you are now well on your way to becoming a crochet addict!

Check back again soon, my next tutorial is the Single Crochet (US terminology) or Double Crochet (UK terminology) Stitch. I know this sounds daunting and confusing, but it really isn't – I shall explain more when we get to it.

Crochet Basics: The Slip Knot – a photo tutorial

Family Patch Crochet Basics

I've been thinking about creating a series of photo tutorials of the basic crochet stitches for quite some time now. In 2013 I made some videos for iVillage.co.uk but have wanted to do something different for my blog and this seemed like the best way to share the basics with you all.

I taught myself to crochet using online tutorials and so I wanted to pass this on by creating my own series of the things I have found most valuable when starting out in crochet (or, in fact, when trying to develop the skills you already have). 

And so after a fun session yesterday with my camera and tripod, I have created the first of my tutorials, which I hope will become part of a  much bigger series – Crochet Basics!

Today's tutorial is the slip knot. It won't get you crocheting straight away – you'll need the next two tutorials (chain stitch and single/double crochet stitch) to start making an actual item. But this is the first thing you need to know before you can start, so it's where I shall begin.

Family Patch Slip Knot Tutorial Step One

Family Patch Tutorial Slip Knot Step Two

Family Patch Tutorial Slip Knot Step Three

Family Patch Tutorial Slip Knot Step Four

And that's all there is to it! Congratulations, you've taken the first step towards learning how to crochet. 

Join me again soon for my chain stitch tutorial.

Nine Months Of… Crochet: Problems with the Granny Blanket

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The new granny blanket is of a circular variety!

You may have noticed I mentioned a new crochet blanket I was working on as part of my Nine Months Of Challenge. It is worked in beautiful pink and lilacs yarns from the Sublime Baby Cotton Kapok DK which was generously donated by Black Sheep Wools.

I started it at Christmas and it was all going swimmingly… until suddenly my increases didn't add up. And I've spent most of the past week trying to figure out what I have done wrong. I cannot for the life of me see where the problem lies and having used this pattern before successfully I am at a total loss as to why I am in this pickle in the first place!

The pattern is from Crochet with Raymond and should be super simple. As it has no corners for increases, you make increases on certain rows. At this point in the blanket I should be increasing on every 4th row. I should also be increasing on every 3rd stitch in that 4th row. And it worked perfectly for the first increase in that repeating pattern, but now I am stuck…

DSC_0676

I don't know if you can see in this picture, but to finish this row I would end up with one too many stitches (3 together instead of 2 between each increase). If I add an extra stitch I end up with 85 stitches in that row, which is not divisible by 3 or 4 and so will (as far as I can tell) totally throw out my next increase row when I'd need to increase on every 3rd stitch again. Am I making sense?

My head hurts from trying to work out what I've done wrong…  

Let me try and explain my thinking. My previous increase round had 64 stitches (following my increasing every 3rd stitch) and the previous row to that (before the increase) had 48 stitches. So by that working it should go as follows:

Previous increase round – start with 48 stitches. 48 divided by 3 is 16. So I will add 16 new stitches to the row. 48 + 16 = 64.

So far so good, right?

But then 64 divided by 3 is 21.3, which doesn't work, hence my inability to finish the round. 

It seems to me that whatever number of stitches I end up with on an increase round must end with a stitch count that is divisible by both 3 and 4 to make it all tally up correctly. So where have I gone wrong? And how do I fix this? 

*Sigh* I feel like my head my explode if I think about this any further, so I'm throwing it out there… can anyone explain to me what I need to do to rectify this? I don't think it's as simple as just adding in a random stitch (or taking one out!) 

I can't wait to figure it out so that I can keep working on this blanket as it is looking really lovely, don't you think?

DSC_0661

The Love of a Simple Granny Blanket

I love crochet. I taught myself in 2006 and though I have tried many other crafts in the past I do believe crochet has to be my very favourite.
Yet I never thought I would love granny squares and granny blankets so much.

Growing up I would see these lying around, made up of all the scraps of yarn leftover from other projects. I don't know if my memory is jaded or whether there were just less colours and yarn choices around in the 80s but all I remember is rather dull looking blankets.

So when I first tried crochet for myself I was amazed at all the variations of stitches and patterns available. And I vowed to steer clear of the granny blanket.
Yet over the past year or two I have really learned to love the simplicity of the granny square. Once started, you can just crochet away, without a care in the world. This is much more pleasurable than some of my previous projects.

My first blanket was this basketweave one, and though simple enough, it took forever due to switching from back to front post stitches and making sure I switched the order after every nth row to get an even look.

Basketweave

This blanket was actually completed during my pregnancy and has been used a fair bit since Little Man was born. I just totally forgot to take a photo of it before logging on to complete this post, so dug up an old photo. 

My second blanket was this ripple one. I started both these blankets long before my pregnancy but only sat down and finished them due to the imminent arrival or our little one. I just found it tedious counting the stitches/rows. Oh and the fact the pattern I used made for a rather ridged blanket also affected my love for making this particular blanket.

SAM_0181

I made another ripple blanket for our nephew using Lucy's Neat Ripple pattern, but made a mistake with my counting in the first few rows that led to the blanket becoming misshapen (which I didn't realise until halfway through). So I had a lot of improvised adjustments to make on the border to make it look and hang right again. That was annoying and put me right off the ripple design (two attempts and both went wrong… I'll get it right one day!)

Blue ripple

One day I'll also remember to take photos of all my crochet projects once completed before sending them on to the recipient!!

But during my pregnancy I made this small snuggle blanket to Alice's Granny Mandala pattern and fell in love with the granny style big time. The circle takes a little concentration in order to remember to make increases in the right rows, but still simple enough.

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Because of how snuggly and perfect this blanket was for taking out and about with us, I made another snuggle blanket with some more fluffy yarn I had hanging around and I think that was when my love was sealed! It was just so quick and easy to work, a true pleasure. And with a son who loved to throw a blanket over his head and run around the room while "hiding" it was perfect to have a blanket with "holes" in so he could actually see where he was going!

SAM_0182

So when I found this gorgeous varigated yarn, I decided to make a hexagon blanket. The hexagon is an adaption of the traditional granny square and very easy to make. I am following another of Lucy's designs, which is perfectly simple and easy to follow. It's just that I find that with this particular yarn I am constantly counting stitches again as they aren't so distinct, and it is rather tedious attaching them together, though of course much less tedious doing it as I go along than having dozens to stitch together at the end!

SAM_0185

Please excuse the edge of my PJs and my foot in this photo… the blanket was a really hard size to get a good shot of. I think I'll have to start standing on a chair to take photos of my blankets in future!

I wouldn't say I have lost my love for this style as I think it will be gorgeous once finished. However, with Little Man wanting so much attention and trying to crochet for pleasure of an evening as I watch a film with TJ, it is just a little bit too demanding of my attention. It needs to be worked on in those rare moments I have when I am all alone with no distractions.

So once again I move back to my beloved granny.

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I started making this for someone special just a couple of weeks ago and it is coming along marvellously. I can pick it up and have a go, knowing that even if I am distracted or interrupted it will be easy to put down and pick up again later without forgetting where I am in the pattern or round. And as such it is a very relaxing way to spend an evening.

I look around ravelry and see so many blankets I'd love to make (seriously, you should see my favourites list). I want to fill our home with blankets of every colour for every occasion. I do believe that when Little Man is older and less dependent on me I may well choose a more consuming pattern again. But for now I am happy to simply granny away until I run out of yarn (which isn't going to happen as I plan on keeping well stocked up!!)So, here's to the granny. What a wonderful thing she is!

Getting Back Into The Crochet Rhythm

Last year I went a bit mad with the crochet, both in terms of what I created and what inspired me. But since Little Man has been born my crafting time has been severely limited.

And that is as it should be, of course. But I have missed it. 

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So it has been nice to find a bit more time to crochet of late. I've discovered that if I give Little Man a spare ball of yarn to play with he is generally happy to let me crochet in peace for a while. Which has meant I have been able to work on the huge crochet blanket I started making for my sister-in-law's baby, finally getting it finished (to be revealed soon!)

 

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I did the very same thing just the other day with this hat. I like little projects like this which I made for one of TJ's colleagues who is expecting a baby very soon. They work up so quickly and make me remember that even though the big projects like the blanket can be so daunting at times, they are worth it for the end result. 

I can feel the passion for crochet creeping up inside me one more, making my fingers twitch to grab hold of the hook and yarn and just go for it. And having let go of that need for "perfection" it is all the more enjoyable now.

Tell me, what are you working on right now?

 

Endometriosis Awareness: free crochet pattern and giveaway!

Good Morning!

Today I have a real treat for you. My “crochet guru” Jen has kindly created a very special crochet pattern that I’m sure you’ll love as much as I do.

I’ll let Jen explain the pattern herself, but please don’t just “skip” this post if you’re not a crocheter. The pattern is actually remarkably simple once you understand the basics and I shall be having a go at it myself once I get some yellow yarn. And even if you are absolutely certain you’ll never pick up a crochet hook, you could still get a hold of the end product, courtesy of Jen’s generosity and a little giveaway we have planned. So read on and all will be revealed…

I’ve known Amanda since she was a teenager. It seems pretty incredible now that the only time we actually met in person was a luncheon in Glastonbury in 2006.

Glastonbury

The world of online community brings people together in a way they never could before. Where else could the inquiring mind of a middle aged American woman with a family meet the inquiring mind of an English university student under circumstances in which they become friends? Seriously, I ask you?! It’s an amazing thing, and even more amazing now that she is married (hi Tim!) and expecting a son soon. (I, on the other hand, am still a middle aged American woman!)

But I digress! It’s not only inquiring minds that Amanda and I share, we share a love for crafting. Between us, we’ve shared ideas, recipes, patterns and tips. I’ve used her as an excuse to try my hand at projects like the beaded Dream Tree…

Aventurine tree small

…the crocheted cabled Tree of Life afghan…

…and to create the best mix cd of love songs EVER.

I’ve felt helpless though in sharing her journey through endometriosis. While I could offer moral support, it upset me to see the physical, emotional and mental pain it’s brought to her over the years. We’ve all felt it, wanting to fix something for someone who is suffering… it’s very difficult to feel helpless isn’t it?

Normally when I am feeling helpless, I practice ‘random acts of kindness’ and they help me feel more connected not only to the ‘family of man’, but to my own priorities. I help the old woman at the grocery to reach her favorite jam on the top shelf (I’m tall, it happens). I pick up someone’s tab at a restaurant (very rewarding, you should try it!). I spend a day picking up trash at the lake (you’d be surprised how other people join in). These little extensions of myself fill me up in a way nothing else can.

Then, Amanda had an idea! Her idea is to combine my love of crafting, and crocheting in particular, with the cause of endo awareness. Brilliant! So, here we are… I created this hot water bottle cozy with a yellow awareness ribbon, in hopes it will not only bring awareness but comfort to a woman in pain.

Ribbon Cozy2 small

The exact same pattern can also be used to make a tote bag, and I’ve included a pattern for a small pocket purse for carrying personal items as well (because you know we all do!).

Ribbon pocket small

When Amanda asked me about it, I spent a couple of days simmering with ideas. I decided on this “illusion crochet” ribbon not only because it’s cool, but because it is symbolic of hidden issues, and the work so many are doing to bring them to light. If you look at it one way, it’s simply striped…

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but change your perspective a little and the ribbon appears.

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You can find the free pattern here. I wrote it with beginner crocheters in mind so don’t let the look intimidate you if it is a new technique. If you get stuck you can reach me through my blog with questions.

We’ve also come up with a way for you to win this one from me! (Amanda will fill in the details)

The process of creating these items reminds me that we don’t have to move mountains to make a difference, we just have to make an effort to share our gifts as they are… when we all come together and contribute in our own way, those mountains will begin to move themselves!

So, do you fancy being in with the chance of winning an awareness tote bag/hot water bottle cozy and purse?  Can you picture yourself receiving all of this in the post?

Ribbon set1 small 

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For more information, help or support, please consider visiting the following websites:

Endometriosis UK

SHE Trust UK

The Joys of Crochet

I'm sure some of you remember me introducing you to my "Crochet Guru" earlier on in the year. Well, Jen is back with a post on just why she loves crochet so much. Take it away, Jen!

Jen jpg

Amanda and I have chatted about many crafting projects over the years but none so much as crochet. She calls me her crochet guru, but really it’s because I’m old and have been crocheting for about as long as she’s been alive! There are few crochet questions I can’t answer after all this time, but it’s just the voice of experience.

That said – crochet is not just for Grandma’s! It’s all the rage in high fashion right now, and it not just about making doilies and dishcloths.

I enjoy crochet because it keeps my hands busy… while my mind is focusing on other things. When I need to think things through, I pick up the crochet. When I can’t sleep, I pick up the crochet. When my husband is watching the same show for the 79th time, I pick up the crochet. Do you have something you like to do when you need to settle your mind?

One of the things I really love about crocheting is how emotionally rewarding it can be. I love projects that make someone smile. It might be a silly hat, using special colors or characters, or simply surprising someone with a gift. (Just don’t ask me about my collection of Harry Potter related items!)

I tend to have especially silly fun making hats. I’ve made “Cutie Pies”

Pie-ret Cutie Pie small 

Star Wars villains

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and matching squirrel hats for the two silliest nuts I know.

But I’ve also made someone’s day by making prayer shawls for sick or troubled friends

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and cold weather items for the local homeless shelter.

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I’ve also had incredible moments reaching out to new mothers when my grandsons were born. The first time, the nurses introduced me to a new mother whose own mom had passed away. I was able to stop in and chat for a while, representing Grammas in general, presenting the blanket and my good wishes. The second time, the nurses asked me if they could give the blanket to a baby in the intensive care unit who was not expected to survive. They told me it would mean a lot to the girl’s parents to wrap her in something pretty and so full of love. I never got to meet that family, but I know that was a gift worth giving. 

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It puts things in perspective to reach out to others. There’s nothing better than knowing you brought a little sunshine into someone’s cloudy day. What do you like to do to cheer someone?

I’ve also discovered that I can make my own day with crochet. This shrug is so soft and sparkly it perks me up every time I wear it.

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And my new supersized leafy shawl may be my most favorite project ever.

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Sometimes, we need to nurture ourselves so we can better nurture those around us.

So, pick up that project, take up the new hobby… you never know where it will take you.

Recently though, I received the greatest praise of my crocheting career. My five year old grandson asked me for a blue dragon toy.

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The next time he visited his dragon was patiently waiting. He ran over, scooped up the dragon and gave me a great thank you hug. That day he started to notice the other crocheted items around the house including the flowered doily on the table. He asked me if I made it all by myself out of thread, and when I answered that I had, he touched one of the flowers and said “Good job, Gramma!”

It just doesn’t get any better than that.

 

Jen has very kindly produced a new crochet pattern that will thrill both seasoned crocheters and those who are new to the craft or wanting to give it a try but unsure where to begin. I shall be revealing the pattern on Monday and cannot wait as it is a very special pattern for me.

We'll also be running a giveaway connected to the pattern, so do remember to check in next week to see what it's all about!

Crochet Crowns

My crochet fest continued this weekend as I found myself rushing to complete a last-minute project idea in time for our niece's birthday party. I had spent Thursday evening making her a little pink and white bag as a little gift, following this pattern on Ravelry.

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I have to say that either my tension is completely out or I just misjudged my choice of yarn and crochet hook, as my end product turned out a lot shallower than the photo shown with the pattern. Not that it mattered much, as the bag looked good enough as it was, but I really do need to work on my pattern-reading skills!

This became even clearer to me as I spent Saturday evening and Sunday morning desperately trying to finish 5 crowns for 5 different aged children between 11 and 1 years of age. As soon as I found out the party's theme was "princesses and princes" I just knew I had to have a go, but I did give myself quite a task. I didn't have the time to properly work out the sizes and actually started, undid and restarted the birthday's girl's crown several times and still think it ended up a little bit too small. But at least I finished them… what do you think?

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The top one was for the birthday girl (4), the pink one for the eldest (11), the purple for the birthday girl's friend (4), the blue one for the birthday girl's brother (19 months) and the green one for the birthday girl's friend's sister (1). As you can see the bottom two are actually bigger than the top one even though there were 3 years' age difference between the recipients. That is because I started with the top one and it took until the fourth crown for me to figure out the correct alterations to the patterns to get the size right. Unfortunately I couldn't make the first crown bigger, but when the second and third ones turned out too large it was a simple task to make a discreet fold and stitch them in a way that made them smaller!

They were far from perfect, but I had fun making them and learnt a lot about sizing and altering patterns by doing it. I just needed a bit more time than I had allowed myself.

The patterns I used were also from Ravely, with the first crown being made to this pattern (using the same number of stitches but a larger hook) and the others were made following this pattern (using the same sized hook but eventually cutting the initial number of stitches in the chain down to 77 instead of 110, which is why I think my tension must be rather off as the original pattern was supposed to fit a 12-18 month old but my version was too big even for me! Or perhaps it was because I used DK yarn, which is larger than sport weight… I have a lot to learn.)

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I also made these sweet little flowers to attach to hair slides for the ladies going to the party. They are super quick and easy and come from one of my favourite crochet bloggers and designers, Alice of Crochet With Raymond. The pattern can be found here and uses one of my favourite crochet tricks, the Magic Ring. Before I read about this technique for starting a circle, I always ended up with a gaping hole at the centre of my work, but no more! I love the things I am learning about crochet these days and am finding it very therapeutic to just sit and create things right now.

Sitting on the sofa crocheting away whilst Tim watches a film or plays on his xBox is so much fun as I can be in his company without becoming bored or distracting him from what he is doing. And doing this at the weekend, putting together things for a birthday party, made me think of how many times I might do that over the coming years as I get an idea and try to make it into reality for our son's enjoyment. I see many crowns, capes, and fancy dress items in my future at this rate: what fun!

I haven't done any crochet since Sunday, thanks to the intense heat we've been experiencing. At 27 weeks pregnant, I am finding it more difficult to breathe, move and simply keep going and the added heat just completely wiped me out. I couldn't even sit and watch tv I was so hot, and spent a lot of time with my feet in a bathfull of cold water, which is not a great place to crochet! But I have plans for this coming weekend and I shall share more with you next week.

Grannying Away

I have been on a massive crochet fest this past week or two. What started off with an idea for a nursery project turned into an obsession. I had forgotten just how relaxing crochet could be and to be fair I don't think I have ever enjoyed it this much. I think the fact that I am currently unable to do much thanks to the growing bump and ligament/joint pain, has made sitting on the sofa for hours on end crocheting away very soothing. 

I am not the greatest crocheter by any means: I taught myself everything I know from internet guides and have a long way to go before my understanding of yarn weight, pattern and tension is good enough to produce things to size! Normally I am a perfectionist and I think this is why sometimes I have steered away from crochet as the craft of choice because I couldn't get the result I wanted. But not anymore… now I am just enjoying hooking away for the sheer pleasure of it. Which is how today's result came about!

Meet the Granny Mandala Lap Blanket which was made using Alice's pattern and some strange fluffy yarn I had in my stash.

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I had no real plan for this other than to use up the yarn I had bought years ago on a whim and never knew what to do with. The initial ring was difficult to work up as the yarn was so fluffy that I couldn't see the individual stitches. But once I got to the clusters on the rest of the blanket I was speeding away.

It may not be the most practical of shapes or sizes for a blanket, but Tim sure did find plenty of uses for it. This was his "I can't see you, so you can't see me!" impression. I'm not sure it worked quite as well as he planned, as I spotted him quite quickly…

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Not that he minded so much, as we then got to thinking about how our little one will soon be able to lie on the floor with this super soft blanket and learn to play "peek-a-boo" with it. 

But a blanket isn't a blanket without several uses in our household, so Tim was quite keen on trying out a variety of poses, in which he likened himself to a "Roman Centurian"…

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I'm not so sure he quite pulled it off… pink and purple fluffy capes are not quite as striking as the ones the Romans used to wear. But, unfazed by my suggestion of such, the impressions continued, with one I can only liken to a General heading into battle, what do you think?

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Jokes aside, this is a really snuggly little blanket that will come in handy over the next few years I'm sure. It is big enough to wrap around a toddler who wants to have as much fun playing as his daddy does, and yet small enough to be easily packed away at the end of the day. Of course, by then, I hope to have a few more additions to my completed projects and our son may well end up with a proper cape or two.

But, seriously, this was so much fun to make up that I can see the granny mandala will become quite a feature in our home and lives so we'll have to get our thinking caps on as to other ways we can use them.

Have a lovely weekend. 

My Crochet Guru

Today I thought I would introduce you to a very special person. She has been an amazing teacher during that incredible, and sometimes terrifying, transition from teenager to adult, helping me to make sense of the deepest questions that came up during that period.

But more than that, she introduced me to the wonders of crochet, inspiring me with the gifts she created until I just had to learn the craft myself. And today she is my crochet guru, the person I turn to time and again when I need a pattern, or someone to explain an aspect I just don't understand.

Meet Jen!

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Jen has her own blog, called Just for Fun, and she often posts photos of the items she has made. But I wanted to utilise her skills and experience to create a post about the joys of crochet. I know a few of my regular readers enjoy this craft, so I hope you will enjoy the conversation I had with Jen, and perhaps leave a comment with your own answers to some of the questions asked.

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How long have you been crocheting?

I started crocheting in the early 1990’s, so almost 20 years. At the time, I was looking for a way to keep my hands busy during all the kids’ sporting activities. I learned that crochet was a great way for me to channel all my anxious energy and keep from yelling at the coach.

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Who taught you to crochet?

I am self taught. I bought a pattern book with a section on basic stitches and the rest is history!

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When did you discover you were a true fan of this craft?

Almost immediately. I loved that I could pick it up or set it down at my own convenience, take it along with me, sit on the chair or the sofa. I also found that I could crochet while my husband was watching a game or show I wasn’t really interested in… which meant I could patiently sit with him without getting antsy or bored. It was ultimately flexible! I tried other crafts, but they required a focused period of time or special space.

Once I had enough practice to stitch evenly, I loved seeing the various patterns and the fabric I created. I’m also not ashamed to say I loved the compliments I received on my work. It inspired me to keep at it and try new stitches and patterns in creative ways.

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Have you taught anybody else to crochet?

I’ve taught several friends and family members over the years, but most of them just ask me to make them something if they have an idea. It takes a certain amount of patience and practice to get even stitches and it always seemed easier just to ask me. 

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What are your favourite types of patterns?

I love the smaller projects the best because they offer almost instant gratification. Smaller items like bags or hats can be useful as well as colorful and I don’t get bored repeating the same stitch for weeks on end.

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Do you have an absolute favourite, if so, why?

I have a few “go-to” patterns for certain occasions, usually gifts. For example, I have a lap blanket pattern that looks like a stack of crayons – great for kids. Otherwise, I tend to make it up as I go along.

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Who do you most like crocheting for?

Kids! They like colorful things like the crayon blanket I mentioned (no neutral sweaters for them!) and they also can’t figure out how you made it so it’s like magic. I recently made a rainbow cream pie (complete with a dollop of whipped cream) beret for a friend’s daughter, and she wears it to school every day.

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A gift from family


Has anybody ever crocheted a gift for you?

Now that I think about it, none specifically crocheted for me. When my first child was born, we received some crocheted items that I was too afraid to use at the time because I didn’t want to ruin them. My son-in-law’s 92 year old grandmother gave me a crochet and embroidery piece she made in her youth because it matched my kitchen. It’s gorgeous!

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What advice would you give to a would-be crocheter?

Start small and take the time to get your stitching rhythm down. Consistent yarn tension is what makes or breaks your fabric and that only comes with practice. A good way to start is making washcloths, scarves, or items that don’t have to be perfect… save the sweater for later.

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What are you working on at the moment?

I am working on my scrap pile! In the fall I had several specific projects I was working on, and they left me with half a skein of yarn here, an extra there. It can become a storage issue, so I like to use them up when I can. I’ve been using my ‘leftovers’ to crochet hats, scarves and small blankets for charity.

I’m already thinking about spring colored cotton items though once I have worked my way through the scraps.

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What is the biggest project you have ever tackled? Why did you choose this, how long did it take, and how did you feel upon completion?

Ah, I remember it well. I crocheted a blanket the size of a full bed, using a double strand and double stitch technique that interweaves to a soft but chunky fabric. During a visit, a friend of ours commented on a sofa blanket I made for my husband. When our friend moved to a new house, I made a full sized blanket for him as a gift. I don’t even want to think about the number of hours it took. I was so sick of it about 2/3 through I wanted to scream. It was bulky and difficult to work with. However, he was so surprised by the gift and so appreciative that it was all worthwhile in the end! He still uses that blanket each night almost 15 years later.

Then there is the blanket I made as a special request. It was not the largest size, but the most work because it included several stitching techniques, crocheted flowers and embroidery. It took about 100 hours over several months for me to complete. Whew! Won’t be doing that one again. 

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What, for you, is the very best thing about crochet?

No pressure! No deadlines, no curing, drying or mess on the table, few supplies that never expire and are easy to store. In addition, those fingers can fly without really having to pay too much attention to them, so I find it relaxing. 

Of course, it’s also a lot of fun to see the expression on someone’s face when you give them a handmade rainbow cream pie beret! 

I can attest to the power of receiving a gift from Jen, as the hearts behind us in the wedding photo came from her, as did the ones on the front of the table. You can see them in greater detail by watching the video thank you I made here.

So, all that is left to say is: Thank You, Jen, for being my inspiration and crochet "guru". 

If you have any questions for Jen, please do leave them in the comments below.

Baby Ripples – photos at last!

Before I begin this post I must apologise for the awful quality of the photos. I have yet to locate our actual camera and have resorted to using my phone, which unfortunately does not take the same standard of photo. But I was missing new photos so much and running out of older albums to steal images from for the blog so needs must and all that!

So without further ado, PHOTOS

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These are the colours I chose for my very first ripple blanket. I promise you that in reality they are much bolder and brighter but with enough gentleness to create a glorious ripple blanket fit for any special like guy or girl in one’s life. The yarns are all 100% acrylic, keeping my costs relatively low, but they are so snuggly I can’t believe it. I am very funny about the feeling of yarn running through my fingers and if it isn’t just so I cannot use it as my fingers start to tingle and I cringe deep inside.

The idea behind this blanket was to create something that would suit any young addition to the family by being bright and versatile. In the winter it can be a cot or pram blanket and in the summer a bit of loveliness to take outside and lay on. I specifically chose a single-crochet ripple pattern rather than a granny square design so that a mother would be happy to lay her child on the grass, knowing that great big tufts of it wouldn’t poke through.

 

So this is where I’m at right now – the first part of the pattern complete. From here I will repeat the sequence already laid out (green, red, white, red, green, blue) and keep doing so until I reach the required length. It has taken me a week to get this far and although I have loved every minute of it I am beginning to wonder whether it really is the best design to follow when one plans to sell it for profit. I have to be realistic about these things if I am to make my little business a success and there is no way I could charge enough to cover my time and effort on this design. So I may just have to see how this goes and then plan on making some “quicker” blankets and smaller hats and bootees for the shop.

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And I’ll also need to work on my ends. Being self-taught in crochet and never having tried changing colours before, I’m not quite sure I’ve quite mastered the skill yet. Another reason why this blanket may have to be a “trial sale” – one that brings back the cost of the materials but is used more for practise than any real profit.

And that suits me fine. With such a fun thing to do as sit in the evenings rippling away whilst I watch some old-fashioned scrumminess as “The Good Life” who could want anything more? Incidentally, I have been rewatching the whole series of The Good Life and finally reached the last one, you know the one where everything goes wrong and their house is wrecked? Oh, my, I almost cried! And some of that sadness was from knowing that I would now be missing my regular Tom and Barbara fix – oh, how I loved those two! If only we had the guts to live like them, maybe we’d all be a little bit happier…