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Introducing Advent at The North Pole

Introducing Advent at The North Pole

Way back in 2009, several months before I decided to set up The Family Patch (at that time known as Amanda’s Patch, as we were still 2 years away from having a baby!), I wrote a series of poems called Advent at The North Pole, as a way of exploring what it would be like to prepare for Christmas if you were Santa and the Elves!

It was a fun project, which brought me a lot of joy, and I originally recorded the poems as a series of YouTube videos, however as they were done on my webcam, the quality of them was absolutely shocking. So for several years I have wanted to re-record them all. And finally, this year, I have.

The poems will be shared on both YouTube and the blog, so you can choose to follow them wherever suits you best. I do so hope you you’ll enjoy spending a bit of Advent with me, finding the magic that makes Advent so exciting. And to kick things off, here’s the first video for you – an introduction to the series. Enjoy!

The Brethren Chapter One

The Brethren – Chapter One

Year 1598 of the New Calendar

Chapter One

It was shortly after nine when the coach slowed to a halt. Bethia looked at Brother Howell, who was sitting opposite, and asked, “Are we there?”

“Not quite,” he replied with a smile, “we haven’t even made it through the city gates yet.”

“Then why have we stopped?” Bethia asked, leaning across her father to try and see out of the window.

“There’s always a queue to get into the city on Midsummer’s Eve,” the elderly lady sitting next to Brother Howell said. “I take it this is your first time?”

“Mm-hmm” Bethia replied, her head and shoulders now leaning precariously out of the window. “We’re never going to get there on time!” she exclaimed, as she counted the coaches ahead of them.

“Bethia, please,” her father said, pulling her back to her seat. “Patience never was one of her virtues,” he added, causing Brother Howell to guffaw with laughter.

“And I’m sure her Guardian will have some interesting times trying to instil it in her,” he said, with a chuckle.

“Oh, you’re here to join the Brethren, are you?” the lady asked. “How lovely.” She smiled at Bethia. “My son is in the King’s Guard, they welcome new recruits today too.”

“Is that why you’re here?” Brother Howell asked.

“Yes, it’s one of the few times I get to see my son these days,” she said sadly. “His unit patrols the highlands, and you know how much conflict there has been there in recent years. I worry about him so much.”

“I’m sure you do,” Brother Howell said, resting his hand gently on the lady’s arm. “We all miss our family when they are away from us, but especially when they are in Service of some kind.”

“I’m going to miss this one, more than I can say,” Bethia’s father said, squeezing her tightly.

“Oh, but she’ll be living here in the City for at least the next three years,” the lady said, looking confused. “You’ll be able to visit her from time to time, won’t you?”

Bethia felt her dad’s arm around her stiffen momentarily, and she knew that it had hit a raw nerve.

“Actually,” Brother Howell began, sensing the same discomfort, “we are from a small village near the Western Pass. It has taken us three days to get here, and will take us another three days to return. That kind of journey simply isn’t possible other than for major occasions such as Bethia’s Dedication.”

“Oh I see,” the lady said, her eyes flitting between Bethia and her father. “I am sorry, that must be very hard.”

“We had hoped that she may be offered a place at one of the smaller Abbeys closer to Terran,” her father said quietly. “But it was not to be.”

“Entrants are allocated places based upon their natural skills and interests,” Brother Howell explained, “and it was agreed that Straith Abbey would provide Bethia with the best opportunities to reach her potential. Even though that means being far from home.” He smiled at Bethia. “And whilst I am sure Bethia will find it a challenge, she has never been one to be easily defeated.”

This time it was her father’s turn to laugh. “Now that is an understatement,” he said, causing Bethia to feign offense by crossing her arms and glaring at them both. The effect, however, just seemed to deepen their point and made them laugh even more.

“Morning, Deaglan. You just heading to the market, are you?” Bethia leapt up and poked her head out the window to see what was going on. To her surprise, they had already reached the city gates, and a member of the King’s Guard was talking to the coach driver.

“Not today, Captain. I’ve also got three for the Abbey and one for the Guard too.”

“Right, in that case I suggest you head to the Abbey first.” A couple of the other passengers groaned at the news, and Bethia heard one of the mutter under his breath about ‘the bloody Brethren’.

“Hush now,” the elderly lady rebuked him. “You’ll get to the market just as quickly this way as if we took the Main Road – that route will be backed up for hours.”

The other man grumbled again under his breath, this time about interfering old ladies, but said no more.

“Some people just like to complain,” the lady said, smiling at Bethia. “Don’t you worry, my dear. We’ll be at the Abbey in no time now.”

“You might like to switch places with your pa so you can look out the window,” Brother Howell said, motioning for her to look out of the window. “We won’t see much of the city, but you’ll never forget that first glimpse of the Abbey.”

Bethia didn’t need telling twice. She’d always known she wanted to join the Brethren, and now that the day had finally arrived she didn’t want to miss a thing.

She realised Brother Howell was right; the coach had turned onto a smaller road, lined with trees. The buildings had changed from the shops and inns she had spotted upon first entering the city, and were now clearly places of residence. Not that they looked like the homes she was used to. In Terran, most people lived in small buildings with just a couple of rooms; these buildings looked large enough to house half the village each. Most of them were at least two storeys high, and had large windows and balconies that spanned the whole of each floor. And some of them bore shields in colours so bold you could hardly ignore them. Confused, Bethia turned back to look at Brother Howell.

“What do the colours on the houses mean?”

“They are the crests of the oldest and most important families in the city. Some are relatives of the King and his family; those always bear the gold crown and sceptre somewhere within the crest to signal this royal lineage. Others bear the purple of the King’s Guard, whilst those painted red are the homes of the King’s Advisors.”

Bethia looked back out of the window and noted the different colours he had mentioned, trying to imagine who the men and women were that lived in such houses. How very different their lives must be to those of her family and friends back home. Then she noticed a house that bore a crest painted blue.

“What does the colour blue stand for?”

“Some of the sailors and merchants in the city disliked the distinction that the crests made between themselves and the richer families. They chose to create their own crests; blue for sailors, and yellow for merchants.”

“Aye, we’re just as important as the Higher Families,” one of the other passengers said.

“And it makes them seethe,” said another, causing a round of laughter.

“Anything to stop them thinking too highly of themselves, eh Kellen?” the first cheered, clapping his mate around the shoulders.

“Seems like things aren’t all that different here, after all,” Bethia’s father whispered in her ear. “They sound just like Old Marcan back home.”

Bethia smiled as she thought of the old stalwart of Terran. The villagers often travelled to surrounding Market Towns to trade surplus crops for supplies they could not make or grow themselves. Some of the citizens thought themselves above the villagers, believing that town life gave them a certain advantage over those who lived and worked the land. Most of the villagers simply let them believe it, but Old Marcan believed in bringing them down a peg or two once in a while.

“Will we have much contact with the higher families?” Bethia asked, suddenly aware that comparing Marcan to the passengers in the coach was like comparing a stone with a boulder. If the citizens of the small Market Towns had looked down on the villagers, what would these Higher Families, that felt superior to merchants and sailors, think of a girl from Terran?

“Not to begin with,” Brother Howell explained. “They dislike the disruption and uncertainty that can come with the initial period in which newer members of the Brethren get used to their power. Their financial contributions to the running of the Abbey ensure that the most powerful healers, teachers and carers are sent to serve them.”

“But why should money make any difference,” she asked, “I thought the Brethren treated all people equally?”

“They do. But you must remember that the Brethren cannot survive on power and goodwill alone. We need money as much as anyone else so that we can travel to those in need and serve those who cannot afford our care. By agreeing to always send our best to those who expect it, we can ensure that we have enough funding to help those further afield too.”

He looked at her fondly, “I know this all very different for you, Bethia, and there is a lot for you to get used to. But trust me, you’ll come to understand how it all works just as much as those who have lived their entire lives in larger towns and cities, I promise.”

She turned to look back out of the window, unsure of what to say, and realised that the coach had turned onto a smaller road and that the houses were becoming sparser as they headed towards what looked like a wooded area. Intrigued, she watched as the brick buildings were replaced with more familiar surroundings: oak, beech and yew trees. She let out a little sigh, knowing that if there were places like this to escape to she’d be able to face anything.

“Ah, these are the grounds of the Abbey”, Brother Howell said. “The Abbey makes up approximately a fifth of the city, with extensive grounds occupying a large part of the western quarter. The only place larger is the Palace to the North.”

“What about the rest of the city?” Bethia asked

“Well, the Kings Guard live in Barracks next to the Palace, and then there is a large port to the East. The centre of the city is occupied by a large marketplace, where people come to trade from throughout Inness and the neighbouring lands. And, as you’ve just seen, many of the richer families live to the West, where it is less crowded.”

“What about…” Bethia began.

“Ah, no more questions,” Brother Howell interrupted her, “we are approaching the Abbey and you really don’t want to miss it.”

Bethia turned to look out of the window once more and saw a large stone building as the coach turned a bend in the road. She could only see a small corner of the building, as the rest was obscured by the trees surrounding it, but it was still an impressive sight. Huge sand-coloured bricks formed walls that stood higher than the tops of the largest oak trees, broken only by the large windows. These were filled with coloured glass that no doubt created beautiful images when the sun shone through but were impossible to decipher from the outside.

“It’s massive”, she breathed.

“It’s not all quite so large and impressive”, Brother Howell reassured her. “This is the chapel, built to honour the gifts we are given by the Gods. You’ll find your own quarters much smaller and plainer in comparison”.

“I don’t mind,” Bethia said, distracted by the sheer size and magnificence of this part of the Abbey. The village church at home had always seemed large and impressive, with an open hall where the entire village could congregate at once. But compared to this, it seemed tiny and very plain indeed.

The coach continued past the chapel and followed the building around several bends before stopping in front of a large wooden door. Brother Howell stood up and opened the coach door, stepped down onto the path and turned to regard Bethia.

“Welcome to Straith Abbey.”

Keep up to date with future chapters

Handmade Christmas Gifts: #PHWinterWorkshop Charity Auction!

A few weeks ago, Parcel Hero contacted me to ask if I would be interested in taking part in a charity campaign they were running. They were asking craft bloggers to decorate a little wooden box and make a small handmade gift to go in it, which would then be auctioned on eBay to raise funds for Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital (GOSH). How could I say no to that?

Their charity campaign last year raised nearly £1,000 for Oxfam, and this year they are hoping to beat that and raise £1,500 for GOSH. That’s enough money to cover the cost of a portable heart monitor! How wonderful would it be to reach that target?

With that in mind, I set about creating something truly special for the auction. I wanted my box to appeal to eBayers looking for a treat for a loved one, and so I decided to create a wintry themed necklace. I pulled out my jewellery making bits and bobs (which haven’t been used in far too long!) and set to work creating something that reminded me of frosty mornings and nights dusted with just a little bit of snow.

Turquoise and seed bed two strand necklace #PHWinterWorkshop charity auction GOSH

The end result was this – a two strand necklace made with turquoise chips (of two different sizes) and seed beads in both clear and blue tones. I was so happy with how it turned out, especially as I’ve never made a two strand necklace before, and really hope that whoever wins it in the auction will treasure it for years to come.

I knew I wanted to combine a blue tone rather than going full-on white for my wintry theme, and the turquoise reminds me so much of the pale wintry skies we get during this time of year. And I’m so glad I managed to add a semi-precious stone in here too, because I love crystals and wearing them in a necklace is a great way to benefit from them.

Turquoise is a really great choice of crystal too, as it has so many healing properties. A quick look in my favourite crystal book told me that turquoise helps to balance the energy meridians in the body and so can support all of the chakras. However I have always associated it with the throat chakra, and its ability in assisting us to speak with truth and integrity. If you want to know more about the properties of turquoise, as well as its influence across the globe throughout history, then do check out this page.

Of course it wasn’t just the necklace that needed making, I had to find a way to decorate the little wooden box it would be placed in. I decided to go with decoupage in order to merge the different blue and white tones which reminded me so much of this time of year. This time, however, I went with a slightly darker theme than the necklace, to reflect the longer winter nights rather than the frosty mornings! I completed it with a royal blue painted inside and complementary gold trim, to add a bit of that Christmas sparkle – the light in the darkness.

15193454_10157666130590018_9168885455984611577_n

I am so pleased with how it all came together and I really, really hope that it helps Parcel Hero to reach their target of £1,500 this year. If you would like to bid on my box and necklace you can do so here. Bidding starts at just 99p and postage is completely free.

But don’t just stop there – why not check out the amazing range of hand decorated boxes complete with wonderful gifts inside. There really is something for everyone, and if there’s someone on your list you have yet to find the perfect gift for, you may just find the answer on eBay!

Some of my favourites include the:

  • “Live The Life You Love” Box, which has inspirational quotes, 3 healing crystals (I spot rose quartz, clear quartz, and a heart which may be moonstone, perhaps?), and a sweet Christmas decoration. It is a really lovely selection, and having realised it was made by the wonderful Becky of Baby Budgeting I am not surprised – Becky is so lovely! I may even have to drop a few hints about how much I love this box, to see if Santa may make a bid or two for me…
  • Crocheted Wrist Warmers in a Fashion Styled Box, because who doesn’t love a good pair of wrist warmers for the bitterly cold days ahead? They look both warm and snuggly and gorgeously detailed, and as a fellow crocheter I can appreciate the work that would have gone into them. They were made by Vicky of Blush Crafts, which is a blog that is immediately going on my bloglovin list!
  • Christmas Stars in a Christmas Box, which contains enough golden stars to really add a bit of sparkle to your Christmas tree. It was made by Natasha of Serenity You, another blog I am going to enjoy exploring! I love the fact that the box itself is so clearly made for Christmas – can you imagine bringing it out year after year, maybe filling it with small after dinner treats or little inspirational quotes to hand out at the end of the day, making the magic last that little bit longer?

There are so many more boxes than this in the auction, so please do pop along and have a look. You can find all of the listings by checking out the Parcel Hero eBay listings page, or you can see updates about each item on their blog.

Handmade Advent Calendar

Christmas Craft Ideas: Part 1

I know, I know, we’ve only just moved into November and it seems a little bit early to be talking about Christmas! Except, when you want to create handmade gifts and decorations you need to get a head start. The beginning of November may seem early in many ways, but those few weeks between now and December 25th soon pass by (especially when you consider that most gifts need to be ready to be passed on to the recipient before the big day!)

When I’m being super organised (which isn’t very often, admittedly!), I try to start my Christmas crafting during the summer months. It gives me time to work on gifts at a more leisurely pace and avoids the last minute rush that can take away the joy of Advent. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy staying up late in the evening, putting finishing touches on gifts whilst my family sleeps upstairs and I watch a Christmas movie. But I only enjoy that when they are small finishing touches, not mad rushes to complete an entire project!

Which is why I thought it might be a good idea to start sharing some Christmas Craft ideas now, so that if you want to have a go at making a few gifts or decorations this year you can do. I’ve tried to find quick and easy ideas, that are completely doable even with the smallest amount of free time and the tiniest of budgets. And you know what – there are some amazing ideas out there.

So I’ve split it up into smaller updates – today’s will focus on Christmas Craft Ideas I’ve found on Twitter. You might not think of Twitter as the automatic place to look for craft ideas, I know I didn’t. But actually there are some amazing finds on there to rival the likes of Pinterest and Instagram, and so here are some of my favourites.

If you try any of these out, be sure to let me know – I’d love to see what you make!

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.

Dream Big Bold Dreams

Breaking Through Fear to Embrace Your Purpose In Life

Something amazing has happened over the past few days that has been truly transformational and I am so excited to share it with you. I finally broke through the fear that has been holding me back for so very long and embraced my purpose in life. And boy, does it feel good!

It all started with a simple message, a few words that just popped into my head one night when I was wondering what to post on my instagram feed as an update. If you’ve been following me for a while now, you’ll know that I have been suffering from some really challenging physical symptoms that have left me unable to get out of bed some days, let alone go out to work or enjoy the summer holidays with Little Man. As someone who thrives on being busy and putting everyone else first, this has been far from easy. It has left me feeling lost and confused about my purpose in life, with no idea how I’m ever supposed to make any major changes in my life to get there (wherever there is), when I’m feeling so utterly beaten. So imagine my surprise when this was the message I received…

You May Not Be Exactly Where You Want To Be, But You Are Exactly Where You're Meant To Be

Amazing, right? I mean, it just blew me away. Here I was, worrying about getting better so that I could hurry up and get on with figuring out this purpose of life business, when really what I needed to be doing was accepting that where I am right now is exactly where I am meant to be. The message isn’t anything new, I’ve been talking about blessings within our challenges, and finding strength within weakness for years now, but it hadn’t quite made it through the fear and into my heart and soul in a way that enabled me to break free of that fear and truly embrace what is happening in my life right now.

Because it’s huge, life-changing stuff, and my fear of that was keeping me trapped in a limbo state of knowing I needed to make change but not knowing what that change needed to be. Over the past few months I have been blessed to have support from both Pippa at Story of Mum as well as Michelle from The Joy Chaser, and through our one-to-one sessions I have begun to dig deep within my heart to find the things that drive my passion and break through the fear that’s holding me back. But as much progress as I made, something continued to stand in my way – and that, my friends, was fear.

You name it, I felt it: fear of failure; fear of success; fear of being ill; fear of being healed; fear of change; fear of no change; and on and on the fears went, contradictions within themselves, because fear rarely makes sense! After years and years of one challenge after another, I found myself living in a state of permanent anxiety, my defenses up ready for the next thing to fall apart within my life, and I was exhausted. I didn’t know which way to turn, I didn’t know up from down, right from wrong, all I knew was fear and confusion. And that is no way to live.

But that’s where I was. And you know what? As hard as it is to accept, that was exactly where I was meant to be, because if I hadn’t fallen so very low I may never have set my sights so very high. Within that moment, when the message arrived and I truly understood just how much I had been resisting the idea (“why is this happening to me?” “why won’t life give me a break?” “what is the point of it all?”) acceptance suddenly became so easy. I can’t explain it in any other way than I just let go. And as soon as I did, life began to send me even more messages that I had done the right thing.

Over the following days I saw, read, heard, and watched things that reaffirmed exactly what I knew in my heart. I listened to Marianne Williamson’s weekly talk in which she mentioned we’re always waiting to be rich/healthy/wise so we can help others, but really what we need to do is wake up and say, “Dear God, this is who I am, this is what I’ve got, these are my strengths and these my weaknesses, I give them all to you, now use me, show me my part to play in all of this.” And I knew, in that moment, that I had been waiting to somehow be ready for my life’s purpose, rather than accepting and embracing it even though I may not feel ready. Because if it’s my life’s purpose, then it will happen and I will be given the support I need to do it, if only I ask. Suddenly I understood the depth of meaning behind Matthew 7.7-8…

Matthew 7:7-8 Ask and You Will Receive

This same message was repeated to me as I watched Tony Robbins in I’m Not Your Guru on Netflix this weekend. Vicky from Single Mother Ahoy had mentioned it to me, and I finally got around to watching it last night. I wasn’t sure what to make of it at first, but by the end I had cried my heart out at the depth of suffering and then the power of love to truly transform people’s lives. As I listened to Tony talk about what drives him and how much his work means to him, I recognised the same kind of desire within my own heart. We all have our demons, and we all struggle with a lack of love and too much fear in our lives. But love can change everything, if only we let it.

Sometimes we need a little nudge to help us on our way and I want to be that nudge. Because what is life if not a lesson in learning how to see the love all around us and shine that into the world for others to see? My greatest gift in this life, after my ability to love and be loved, is my ability to write and communicate in a way that reaches a person’s heart and soul. When I allow it to, the message I need to share flows through me in such a powerful way. Words pour out of my mouth or onto the page, and teach me all I need to know as it happens. I have known this for years, but I have resisted it so much. I have been on a journey of denying my gifts and even turning from the faith and spirituality that grounds the work that I do. But no more. I can feel the words filling my heart once again and I can do nothing more than let it out.

Which is why I have started writing a new book, one that is based on the principles of some “power cards” I made myself last week. It is a book about a journey, from fear and resistance to love and acceptance. It is about healing and life. And it is a pure joy to be writing. I haven’t felt this excited about writing in years, and I just know that this book as a great gift to me, because it is helping me embrace my life’s purpose, without fear. And I truly hope it will be a great gift to you too.

It is a big dream, and part of a larger picture of what I feel called to do in my life as I move forward from this space. I have a strong and loving voice, and I want to use it both here and at Spirit Kid Network, to help encourage and inspire you to find your own big dreams. Because within our biggest dreams lie our life’s purpose, which is ours to take at any time. So what are you waiting for? Break through your fear, find your life’s purpose, and allow yourself to dream!

Dream Big Bold Dreams

Healing Journey - Steps Into The Soul

Solstice Musings

Today marks The Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year and the point at which the light begins to return to the world once more. This time last year I wrote a post called Solstice Reflections and reading back over it I am reminded of both major similarities and differences between this time last year and where I am today (it’s like a spiral dance).

spiral stone

Like last year, I have been very sick lately, pushing myself further and further until breaking point at the beginning of December. What is it about me and refusing to stop until something (usually my body) forces me to? But unlike last year, I am in a much better place both mentally and spiritually, if not necessarily physically.

I remember writing about how 2014 had been a year so tough that I felt like my soul had shattered into a thousand tiny pieces. Whilst that sounds horrendous, and it was in many ways, it was also a total blessing in disguise. It led me to choosing “Surrender” as my word for 2015 and surrender I have.

These past 12 months I lost my job, moved home, watched a loved one suffer greatly, found two new jobs, supported my husband in a new job as well, helped Little Man adjust to a new home and nursery, and begun to really find my feet with blogging again (two major highlights of which were reading this poem as part of the BritMums Live Bloggers’ Keynote and my recent post on the BritMums Blog about Endometriosis).

I could never have coped with all of these changes without first surrendering to the natural flow of life, which has taught me that no matter how dark things may seem, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. For the first time in my life, I learnt to accept what is and go with the flow rather than fighting a losing battle. And it has been great.

Going with the flow - water

But I still have a long way to go – this journey is far from over! Whilst I have moved with the flow, this year has moved at such great speed (how can it be December already?!) that my heart, body and soul all need time to adjust. Physically I am beat, and despite my best efforts, pushing onwards regardless has left me very weak. Which leads me to only one conclusion – my focus for 2016 needs to be that of Healing.

If you follow me on instagram, you may have seen that recently I started reading a fascinating book called The Healing Power of The Sacred Woman by Christine Page. Within its pages I have discovered the need to really embrace that which fills me with joy, making time to express myself creatively rather than stifling that great spring of inspiration whilst putting everything and everyone else first. As the author states, it’s often those who are “too nice” who get ill… I feel very much like this is a message I needed to hear (from someone other than my mother – sorry, mum, I know you’ve been telling me this for a long time now!)

Whilst it feels totally against my nature to do so, I have decided it is crucial that I do it. Putting myself first doesn’t mean that I no longer care about others, but rather that I am beginning to understand that only through self nurture can I have the strength needed to truly nurture others (without burning myself out entirely).

So, how am I going to do that?

Do more of what makes you happy
The cover of the binder which currently holds my novel…

 

Well, my thinking is this – I need to take a serious amount of time “out” to focus on the healing power within me, which for me comes very much through the time and space to create and write. I am a writer, it’s what I do. My teachers knew it at school. My friends and family have known it for years. My blog readers have often commented on it, and so have colleagues from time to time. And when I think about it, I realise that I know it too and always have – writing brings me complete joy (regardless of the subject) and when I write I tap into a powerful force of nature, that flows through me, easing my soul.

Looking back over the year I can see that I have started to do this, sharing poems such as Yet Still We Stand and How Long Must We Wait this year, but would you believe there was a time, around 10 years ago, when I wrote something new almost every day? And that year I was happier and healthier than I think I have ever been!

So, for the next few months I want to focus specifically on this – finding time to write and be inspired by the world around me. There is a novel I wrote a first draft of in 2010 which I am longing to rework and expand, and there are opportunities to write stories and poems that reflect all that is happening in our lives. There is also Spirit Kid Network to begin building, a process which I hope to turn into a creative rather than business one. Already I know the way to release the blocks I created through trying to make it “fit” rather than allowing it to be what it is meant to be.

And in order to do this, I need to really make the time and space for it. In recent months I have chosen to sit in bed and read, rather than staying up late watching TV, but I still struggle for time. There are things I have to do – work, cook, clean, look after Little Man etc – but equally there are things I can cut back on. And social media is one of these things.

Finding the Gifts Within
Finding the Gifts Within

 

For years now I have been saying I need to step away, but it seems so much like “social suicide” to do so, especially as a blogger. But you know what, blogging began long before the likes of Facebook and Twitter, and I do think a break from those will do me good. I spend so much time scrolling through them, time which could be spent creating something or actually reading someone else’s blog posts and commenting on them! So that’s what I’m going to do – I’m going to focus on the reading and writing and less on the sharing and tweeting, at least for a while. I want to find the “gifts within”, rather than relying on the outside world to feed my soul!

I’ve decided I want to be as symbolic as possible with this – today is 21st December and the Winter Solstice, in 3 months’ time we’ll reach 21st March and the Spring Equinox, or first day of Spring. That feels like a beautiful metaphor for this journey I wish to take – a hibernation of sorts, through the dark winter months, turning inward to find the source of my spark ready to burst forth with life once the Spring appears.

Let the Healing begin 🙂

Healing Journey - Steps Into The Soul

Fabrics from Coats Crafts

Adventures of a Novice Sewer – Floor Pillows by Coats Crafts

If you follow me on social media, you may have noticed that I received a delightful package of fabrics, thread and pins from Coats Crafts way back in August.

Fabrics from Coats Crafts

I had been lucky enough to chat to someone at BritMums Live this year about how I was a keen crocheter but was eager to try my hand at sewing, and this led to a lovely email conversation with the team at Coats Crafts who asked me if I’d like to be a “Craft Ambassador” and offered to send me some samples to work with.

I had expected a few small samples of whatever they had lying around, but they were super generous and allowed me to choose the pattern I wanted to try, the fabrics I wanted to use, and then sent me enough to make said pattern and several more items! I was thrilled.

I printed out a copy of the Ruffle Trim Floor Pillow I had chosen to make, and pondered over the instructions for quite some time before I figured out exactly which dimensions I needed to cut each piece into. For some reason, I just couldn’t get my head around it and it took several attempts before I felt confident enough to get out the scissors and make those cuts…

Pattern Cutting

Once I had done that, I thought it would be a piece of cake! However, I was soon reminded of how challenging it can be to learn a new craft. It takes many hours and lots of practise to get the hang of something new, and it had been many years since I had done this. I’d certainly not picked up a new craft since becoming a parent, and setting up the sewing machine was a lot harder to do in the odd free moment here and there than picking up a crochet hook that could easily be put down again in a hurry.

The pattern itself is actually very straightforward and I do think I picked a good choice for a first attempt… the problem was, I had very limited time. Combined with needing extra time to look up how to thread my machine (amongst other things), it took me several sessions to get from start to finish.

But that’s okay, right? It’s the adventure that counts, not the end result!

Finishing Up

So, several weeks after receiving the parcel full of fabric goodness, I had reached this point. The actual piecing together of the fabric had only taken a morning between dropping Little Man off at nursery and collecting him at the end of his session. I felt accomplished and thought it wouldn’t take long at all to finish up the last section.

Yet it has taken me until this morning to do so. And this isn’t even due to lack of time anymore, but rather nerves getting the better of me. You see, I decided at this point to change the pattern slightly. I know, not the wisest move for a novice sewer, hey, but I’m nothing if not adventurous!

I’d already given up on the ruffle trim, it simply got the better of me. But now I wanted to make it a bit more complicated. As I was getting ready to hand sew the gap I had left for getting the cushion into the case, I decided I didn’t want to simply sew it up – I wanted to be able to pull the cushion out and stick the case in the wash from time to time. After all, it’s a Floor Pillow that will be used a lot in this family, it is bound to need a wash once in a while.

But my sewing skills are very limited. I didn’t know how to do this (if I had, I would have sewn the hem of these remaining two sides before getting to this point, rather than leaving two unhemmed sections right in the middle of one side!! After over a month of deliberating, I finally sat down this morning and sewed the edges with a simple backstitch and then added snap fasteners on either side…

Hand sewn hem and snap fasteners

It’s not the neatest work ever, and I’m not entirely sure how long-lasting it will be, but I am actually really quite chuffed with it. It is pretty, yet practical, and certainly unique to our family. It has the added touch of homespun charm and that’s what I love most about crafts… things don’t have to be perfect (and this is a great life lesson for a perfectionist like me!)

Front of Floor Pillow using Coats Crafts Fabrics

So this is the front… I love the fabrics so much and they gave me a real chance to try my hand at piecing different patterns together.

Back of Floor Pillow using Coats Crafts Fabrics

And this is the back. TJ absolutely loves this fabric, so I am really glad that I chose it for the large back piece. Isn’t it glorious?

The fabrics I used were:

Eden Wildflower by Tula Pink (in both Orchid and Tomato)
Eden Deity by Tula Pink (in Sherbert)
Eden Henna by Tula Pink (in Cerise)
Eden Lotus by Tula Pink (in Tomato)

It has been such a joy to work with such delicious fabrics, I cannot tell you! The vast majority of my sewing experience (which is incredibly minimal) has been with fabric scraps I have collected over the years. Being able to choose my own fabrics and work with them has been so wonderful and I cannot wait to use the rest of the samples in other projects.

But what should I make next? I have several Pinterest boards full of inspiration, too much in fact as I don’t know where to begin! With Christmas sneaking up on us faster than ever, perhaps I’ll have a go at something from my “Easy Gifts to Sew” board? Or maybe I’ll find another pattern on the Make It Coats website. Either way, you can be sure I’ll be enjoying testing my skills further and sharing the journey with you all.

Tell me, are you making any gifts for Christmas this year?

 

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!

Poetry Corner – Yet Still We Stand…

Begin to Dance

It’s been a very, very long time since I sat down and wrote a poem. Years, maybe. Which is odd, really, when I consider how I used to scribble notes on anything and everything I could find whenever inspiration struck (paper napkins, anyone?)

It’s not that I haven’t wanted to write, more that my heart just hasn’t been in the right place to open up and feel what it needed to. I guess that denying emotions in order to try and survive is not only bad for our health, but also bad for our creativity!!

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you’ll know that I don’t usually have any problems expressing myself, but poetry takes that expression to a whole new level. It seeks out the essence of life and gives it a life of its own. Poetry is so powerful and I have truly missed being a part of such a creative expression.

I used to say that if the first few lines didn’t just pop into my head with ease, there was no point in writing it down. That’s not to say that writing poetry doesn’t require thought and persistence to hone what you are trying to say into a poem that touches the heart of another, because it does! But if it doesn’t flow freely then I don’t think it is the right topic for you to be writing about in that moment. If you don’t feel it, how do you expect others to?

The poem I am sharing today came to me as I was making a drink in the kitchen. By the time I had made it to my notebook, the idea had changed form, but it was still there. As I wrote, it continued to change form and I didn’t really know where I was going with it. But it felt good to write, and I am really happy with the end result.

Yet Still We Stand

On the brink of destruction, the edge of despair
Dreams shattered and stolen, like nobody cares
Promises broken, in the blink of an eye
Leaving nothing but darkness: no light, no guide
And yet, still we stand.

The dreams of the past are but shadows once lost
We cling tight, out of fear, we question the cost
Battered and torn, we don’t know where to turn
Our hearts are left wanting, afraid they may burn
And yet, still we stand.

A moment in silence, together, alone
Our hearts thumping deeper, we’re shook to the bone
But out of that moment, a glimmer shakes free
The darkest of moments sometimes make us see
And so, we stand.

Broken and torn, there is nowhere to hide
Yet there’s nothing to hide from, that part of us died
A new way – a true way – of living is born
Out of the habits and masks we once wore
And now, we stand.

Rebuilding our hearts, remodelling our lives
Sometimes it’s like we can’t believe our own eyes
But out of the brink of destruction we came
Ready to embrace our lives once again
And we begin to dance…

 

Today’s post has been posted in the “Share the Joy” Linky hosted by Bod For Tea. I love this linky, if you haven’t found it already, take a look! I’m sharing this post, because rediscovering my love of poetry has really brought me a lot of joy this week!

Share the Joy linky at bodfortea.co.uk

Handmade pumpkins

Handmade Halloween Home

Halloween Kids Art

Halloween is a big thing here at The Patch. We just love this time of year, the autumn colours, the cooler weather (and snuggling up warm in the evenings) , and celebrations galore. Halloween is the first, quickly followed by Guy Fawkes, and then it’s not long before the run up to Christmas. We all need reasons to celebrate during these colder, darker months and there’s nothing we need more in our family right now than some cheer during the harsher season.

I know Halloween can be a bit of a tricky holiday for some, and I thought about explaining how we celebrate it, but in the end I decided I didn’t really want to do that. What I want to do is share with you the way we have made Halloween our own this year.

It’s the first year that Little Man has really been able to grasp the concept of celebrating and the changing of the seasons, so we have had fun doing autumn and Halloween crafts with him. We’ve done lots of art, hung on the wall (under our Wheel of the Year display) as directed by Little Man himself (hence the higgledy piggledy nature of the display!)

SAM_1393

We have also made pumpkins… there’s the decoupage pumpkin we did together (or rather mummy did most of because Little Man didn’t like being sticky!) And the crochet pumpkin I made.

Handmade pumpkins

And then there are the actual pumpkins… as we have been ill lately, I am rather behind in Halloween preparations and so we haven’t actually carved the pumpkins this year. I am still debating whether to carve them when Little Man gets home from nursery or whether to simply cook something with them for tea, to eat whilst answering the door to the multitude of Trick or Treaters we are bound to get.

And talking of Trick or Treaters, this year I have bought some non-food related treats to put in the bowl, as inspired by my US friend Jen and the Teal Pumpkin Project. The idea is that some kids can’t take part because they have allergies and cannot eat the things we hand out, so it’s nice to have a non-food alternative for these kids. As someone who struggles with food intolerances (not even allergies!) I knew it was something I wanted to try and incorporate. I’ll print out a sign for our door so people know we do have food-free treats (you can get these online).

I scoured the shops and found these ghost bottles of blowing bubbles so decided they would be fun. To bulk up the treat bags I have added some monster stickers and Halloween balloons. Here’s hoping no-one has a latex allergy, hey?!

Non Food Halloween Treat Bags Teal Pumpkin Project

I wasn’t sure how many to get, after all the novelty of bubbles after lots of sweets may be tempting even for kids who can eat the chocolates we bought, but I didn’t want to be left with loads of bubbles afterwards if no one took them. So this is definitely a trial run! Any that are left can still be used next year.

We decided on treat bags this year as it means we can make sure all the kids get a nice treat. The food ones all include a small treat-sized chocolate bar or bag of cookies, plus a smaller chewy sweet and either one sticker or one balloon. I had so much fun putting them together – I think I may have overdone it and so sent a dozen to work with TJ today too!

We usually go all out for Halloween decorations too, but most are cheap ones from the supermarket that do not last. This year we wanted to add some extra special bits, so aside from our own handmade items we bought something too…

Handmade Halloween wreath from Ashleigh's

It is hanging inside our door (to keep it safe), hence the very orange photo as our hallway doesn’t have any natural light!

I bought this from someone I know through the HG world who has set up her own handmade business. Ashleigh’s Wonderland is filled to the brim with the most gorgeous handmade Christmas decorations and I cannot recommend her work highly enough. She made a few Halloween items earlier this year and I had to buy one of her rag wreaths. Just look at it!

Halloween Wreath close up

Isn’t it marvellous? She has added some truly charming details to it, like Halloween shaped buttons above. I love the colour combinations too… and we have two felt decorations to match!

SAM_1402

They’ve all been sitting in a bag for weeks now waiting to come out and I am so excited to see them hanging in my hallway. It will last us for many, many years and it only cost £20 which is an absolute bargain when you consider the cost of materials and the time it must have taken to make. Seriously, do check out Ashleigh’s other work and see if anything takes your fancy.

Finally, I couldn’t end this post without letting you see Little Man’s make-up for today’s celebrations. He’s gone to nursery with two little pumpkins on his face (the theme was orange and black) as I didn’t have time to sort out a costume for him. Isn’t he cute?

Kids pumpkin face paint

And that’s it from me. A quick peek into our Handmade Halloween Home, I do hope you liked it. Tell me, do you decorate at Halloween?

Seasonal Craft Activities… It Starts Here!

Halloween Kids' Craft

One of the things I have been most looking forward to since becoming a mum has to be getting to a stage when Little Man and I would be able to do some crafts together. I loved creating things as a child, and continue to enjoy it as an adult, so I couldn’t wait to explore this love with Little Man too.

He has enjoyed watching kids’ art programmes on tv for a while now and recently he has really started getting interested in scissors and sticking, rather than simply drawing with pens. So when he received more money for his birthday than he really needed for a few more toys and books, I decided it was time to head to the craft store and buy him some bits and pieces.

We took a trip to Hobbycraft and I swear I could have bought the whole store! I found it rather difficult limiting our shop to a certain budget and so decided to stick to a theme for our crafting adventures. And that theme was “seasonal activities”.

With Halloween coming up, we went with this pumpkin which we plan to decorate with tissue paper and glitter, as well as some leaf shaped foam pieces to use while exploring the changes in nature as we move into autumn, and some more tissue paper, scissors and glue for good luck!

SAM_1373

I couldn’t resist buying a little something for myself whilst we were there. I got this wooden sign and orange paint (I need to dig out the other colours we have stashed somewhere at home) and will try and find time to sit and paint this before Halloween arrives. It is a big celebration in our household, so any new addition to our decorations is always well received!

Christmas kids' crafts

Returning to the bits we got for Little Man, we decided to look ahead and buy a few bits ready for Christmas too. These baubles for painting are so adorable, I cannot wait to see what Little Man paints on them. And the wooden stamp set is for taking our handmade wrapping paper up a gear.

The plan is to start decorating the big pumpkin tomorrow – it is almost October after all. I may also have to try and crochet a few little pumpkins to go with it. I’m so excited.

Tell me, are you planning any seasonal craft activities?

Crochet Hook Yarn and Stitch Conversion Chart Free Printable

Crochet Hook, Yarn and Stitch Conversion Chart (Free Printable)

Today I thought I’d bring you another free printable – one for crochet this time!

Crochet Hook Yarn and Stitch Conversion Chart Free Printable

As I’m still working away at my Star Stitch fingerless gloves,  I started thinking about how far I have come since I first learnt how to crochet. How much more I now know about yarn weights and the hook sizes you should use with each to get the right gauge (tension).

In fact it’s only over time that I have learnt that I generally crochet a tighter tension than most (something I realised again this week when my second glove turned out smaller than the first because I wasn’t concentrating on working a looser stitch as the pattern called for).

Developing a new skill is a big learning curve, and there are some things out there that are really sent to challenge you. In crochet this is very true when you think about how the US and UK patterns both use different terminologies (or rather they use the same terms to mean different things – confusing or what?)

So I thought it might be a good idea to create a chart that brought all these pieces of information together. I personally keep them handwritten in a notebook… but I keep misplacing said notebook and so an online version is a much appreciated addition for me too! There are other charts out there already which cover these basics, but I found I had to keep switching between pages and websites to find what I needed and decided I’d rather have it all in one place.

If you’d like to download a copy of it you can do by clicking on the link below. I do hope you will find it useful.

The Family Patch’s Crochet Hook, Yarn and Stitch Chart

Crochet Basics a series of Photo Tutorials

Crochet Basics: Half Double Crochet Stitch (US) Photo Tutorial

Crochet Basics a series of Photo TutorialsWelcome to the fourth in my Crochet Basics series of photo tutorials.

I started the series months ago and never meant to leave it this long before continuing, but unfortunately life got a little crazy for a while and I just didn’t have time to edit the photos properly.

But I’ve finally caught up on myself and am ready to bring you this next tutorial for the Half Double Crochet, usually abbreviated to hdc in patterns.

As with the previous tutorial, please note that this series uses the US terminology of stitches and so if you are using UK terminology this is in fact a Half Treble Crochet Stitch (htr).

It is assumed for the purposes of this tutorial that you already know how to work a chain stitch and a single crochet stitch. If not, you can check out my other tutorials by clicking on the Crafts and Tutorials tab at the top of the page.

If the row you want to work is the first one after your starting chain, then you will work your first stitch into the third chain from your hook. Any other row of half double crochet stitches you work should begin with two chain stitches (which count as your first half double stitch for that row).

Crochet Basics Half Double Crochet (US) Stitch Photo Tutorial

Crochet Basics Half Double Crochet Stitch Photo Tutorial

Crochet Basics Half Double Crochet Stitch Photo TutorialCrochet Basics Half Double Crochet Stitch Photo Tutorial

And that’s it!

You can now go back to Step One and repeat the steps until you reach the end of your row. Turn your work, create 2 chain stitches to form the equivalent of a Half Double Crochet, and continue repeating Steps One to Four along the next row.

Have Fun… I’ll be back soon with the tutorial for Double Crochet Stitch,

 

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…

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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?

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Handmade Christmas Wrapping Paper – The Toddler Way

I'm really excited about Christmas this year. And our preparations have already begun…

Artist Wrapping Paper

Yesterday Little Man and I set about creating our very own Christmas Wrapping Paper. I bought some brown paper, unrolled it bit by bit, and he drew enthusiastically across the paper with a variety of coloured pens. 

I was a bit concerned that he wouldn't really take to this activity – a lot of the time when I give him pens and paper he just wants me to write numbers and his name for him over and over again rather than scribbling and drawing himself. Hence the early start. I thought if we began now, we'd have plenty of days to get it out and work on the next piece of the roll of paper. But surprisingly Little Man enjoyed it so much that he got through the entire roll in one afternoon and evening. 

And they weren't just little squiggles here and there either… he went at it like it was the best activity ever (even getting cross with me when it took too long to roll up the piece he'd just finished to get a new blank piece to work on!) Some bits were less "busy" than others, but some bits look like a whirlwind has passed through…

Wrapping Paper

I am so happy that he enjoyed it, as I had visions of having to scrap this idea and actually go out and buy wrapping paper instead. It gives me hope that he'll enjoy the activities I have planned for hism throughout December.

 

You see, I've created a sweet little Advent Calendar for Little Man, one with an activity each day, and I cannot wait until the weekend to share it with him. There are 24 envelopes hung on some ribbon with tiny pegs and each one has a number on it. As Little Man loves numbers, I hope this will entertain him. And each day we will open an envelope and find out what activity we can do, hanging the card inside up on the ribbon to show which have been opened and how many days we still have left to go. (I'll try and remember to share some photos once it is up).

Activities include things like 'make Christmas cards', 'write a letter to Santa' (I'll help with that one!), 'Go on a winter walk', and 'make mince pies'. I've had to be careful to ensure that I planned each day according to what is achievable: family activities happen at the weekend, messy activities happen on days I am home with Little Man, and we have short and sweet activities for the days he goes to nursery and they need to be done either over breakfast or just before bed. I think I have planned it all okay, but only time will tell.

Artist at Work

However, seeing Little Man's excitement yesterday made me realise that it really doesn't matter if the plan works or not, so long as he is enjoying himself!

Do you have any activities planned for your little ones over the Christmas period?

 

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.

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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!

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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!

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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?