Thursday, 27 February 2014

Spreading crochet love...

Real life commitments and deadlines have taken over this week. How dare they! Days filled with work projects, volunteer group meetings, fundraising activities...basically a polar opposite to the nothingness of half term.

So I have very little yarny stuff to share with you – I won’t bother taking a photo of a crochet chain of 322 stitches, in a calming yet rather boring shade of off-white (it will look much more interesting when there’s more crochet completed!).

Crochet, music and soft focus...ahhhhhh
I will share gratuitous photos of things that make me happy, while I tell you that a dishwasher can actually double up as a kitchen cupboard. Yesterday I never got round to emptying the dishwasher, but instead grabbed clean plates for lunch, platters and bowls for dinner, mugs for tea and cups for water...then put all these dishes right back into the then-empty dishwasher at the end of the day.

Bag o' yarn....mmmmm
My fridge is on the blink. I’ve been storing milk outside, and we’ve eaten or frozen all the other food, while I wait for the repairman to get the right part to fix it. (Oh a part of me actually *hopes* it can’t be fixed, so I can beg borrow steal to get a *pink* Smeg! A girl can dream!)

pink, pink, pink
I have the Frozen soundtrack playing constantly in my head. The girls sing it nonstop, creating their own music videos or acting out the movie, but even when they’re at school the music fills my brain. It is a wonderful soundtrack, but even Beethoven gets tiresome after hours and hours of nothing else, let alone Disney.

Chocolate-covered shortbread, because everything is better dipped in chocolate
But hey, enough of my whinging! Let me share with you what has been getting me through the ups and downs of the week!

A fabaroony notebook and indulgent bath petals...and chocolate!
A wonderful parcel arrived yesterday, right when I needed it. Pretty, pampering, caring gifts from the lovely Sue at sweetpea family. Even a fun-filled present for my girls...

Which made them squeal with delight (and Little Flower exclaimed, “Mummy, these are the loveliest chocolates!” in a very princess-like voice).

Sue sent me these goodies as a thank-you for helping her plan her crochet workshop – I’ve been teaching more workshops lately, so I have a good amount of info, handouts and advice that I was more than happy to share. She will be a wonderful teacher, I am certain!

Now I am spreading the crochet love, setting up workshops here, there and everywhere...I have one planned for my village community centre, a series is already booked for a gorgeous little haberdashery in Petworth, The Cotton Wool Store...

...and last week I ventured to the craft mecca that is Eternal Maker in Chichester, and they want me to teach there to coincide with their new yarn department! Woo hoo! (Of course you do realise that I’ll be asking for my fee in fabulous fabrics and buttons!)

So instead of making progress with my crochet projects, this past week I have been writing amigurumi workshop handouts and setting up more workshops. It’s all good!

I enjoy teaching crochet more than I could have imagined. In this great big world of stress, schedules and crowds, where every minute is overloaded with information and electronics and way too much information for any one person to adequately process, I have found it incredibly fulfilling to teach others to stop, focus, create, play and relax, quietly with simple hook and yarn. What I originally started as a little hobby for myself has evolved to mean much more. I leave each workshop elated that the participants are happy, pleased with themselves that they are learning a new skill.

And it’s just like any craft group or meeting with a like-minded friend – it’s nice to have others oooo and ahhhh over some pretty crochet with me!

So what can I oooo and ahhh over from you this week? Link up your crochet below!

Chrissie x

Sunday, 23 February 2014

A bag for Little Flower

Little Flower joined a ballet class a few weeks ago and subsequently spends most of the day on her tippy toes, fluttering around the house (fairy wings optional). The most delightful aspect of the class, to her, is that the ballet outfit is a pretty pale purple. The only thing that would make it better would be rainbow tights.

So the happy bright fabric from last week’s post has been crafted into a bag to keep her kit:

The pattern is from Helen Philipps’ lovely book:

I decided to add a cross stitch initial, to practice my skills. Little Flower loved the look of the variegated floss, and it picked up the colours of the stripy fabric:

I made a modification to the pattern – I know that sounds silly, given the fact that I have only completed one cross stitch design so far, but hey, it’s just a needle and thread! The pattern came from this book, which I think I'll review for you all soon, it's fun! 

The initial design has a blossom with four petals. I wanted a violet flower, so I doodled a bit on the page and winged it!

I’m pleased with how it turned out – and now I want to do another one with a solid-colour initial. I think that would look rather lovely!

The main bag fabric is from Pretty Fabrics & Trims, which specializes in smaller quantities of bits n' bobs, perfect for small sewing projects and lovely little embellishments. It is run by the lovely Sarah, of A Little Happy Place.

Have you ever worked with variegated floss? I wonder what else it could be used for...

We are making the most of the last day of half term; I suspect tomorrow morning is going to be a bit slow and grumpy in our household. I'm already feeling a bit blue about returning to "real life"! Perhaps I'll delay it by popping to the yarn shop in the morning, just to browse, of course...

Best wishes to you all for a happy day! Link up your stitchy projects below!

Chrissie x

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Purple, rain

We’re having a quiet half term, full of tea parties, games, coloured pencils, short walks, and visits to the library and playground. Little Flower has eaten most lunches under the kitchen table, pretending she’s Mrs. Tittlemouse. And now she’s wearing fairy wings, leaping from chairs in absolutely sincere attempts to learn to fly. I *love* childhood.

We all feel like real homebodies, snuggling under blankets and being generally lazy. Perfect conditions for crochet!

Purple is the shade of the moment here, with 10 more royal-hued hexies nearly complete.

I’m making swift progress on my purple scarf (that is, when I actually pick it up and work on it, the rows whip up super-quick)...

However, I’m starting to wonder what I’ll do with the edges to girly it up a bit. Remember, this is actually another Manly Scarf, I just enjoyed the stitch so much, and I loved this richly coloured yarn, that I decided to make one for myself.

But I’m a girly girl, and I need something to prettify the ends. I’m not one for tassles or loose strands of yarn hanging down. I’m considering little pom poms, like those found at the lovely creJJtion, but will it work with chunky yarn? Hmmm...scalloped edge? Flowers? Suggestions please!

You’ve seen the purple, now here’s the rain:

Ugh. That’s not pretty. Here’s rain with an orchid:

Still grey and rainy, but at least a bit more elegant...

Welcome to my new followers this week! I suffered some internet glitches this week, so I'm still catching up on your latest blog posts, bear with me! 

A big thank you to all the wonderful comments on my last post. I read and treasure every one of them!

Please link up your latest crochet projects below...

Chrissie x

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

So...I sew!

Another long-term WIP finished! This is my sewing machine cover.

I sheepishly admit that I began this project more than a year ago, finished the tiny patchwork panel and put it away for a long while...sewing being so new to me, I found it easier to pick up a hook after a long day and crochet.

But after finishing – no, *achieving*! – my first quilt, I knew that I must keep going with the sewing, practice makes perfect and all that...

So Lady Elna, my dear sewing machine, has herself a new frock. Fully padded and lined, I might add...

Golly, my hat’s off to all you experienced seamstresses out there...trying to sew the curved layers of fabric – and not run over the piping – was no mean feat! 

I managed in the end, but don’t look at the reverse of this panel, I’m glad it is lined with pretty pink fabric to hide the mess!

I refused to trim the seams to 1/8”, I was just too paranoid that I would snip a seam and it would all unravel. No one needs to know but us.

So. I sew. I’m no contestant for the Great British Sewing Bee, but I’m going to watch tonight to see if I can pick up some tips.

Today we had bright blue skies and dark black clouds all in one afternoon. Another hailstorm dumped loads of little balls of ice within about two minutes.

I donned my Nordic Shawl, poured a fresh cup of tea, and thanked my lucky stars I didn’t have to do the school run today!

My raised herb border being pelted by ice...poor thyme!
Now I want to sew something simple. An quick and easy make, using colourful, fun fabrics:

Watch this space...

Happy crafting!
Chrissie x

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Stitching Sunday: Cross stitch? Moi?

Never in a thousand years did I think I’d enjoy cross stitching. (I also never thought I’d be a Shawl Person, but you know what happened there...)

Apologies if you are an avid cross stitcher...I’d been jaded by the twee, flat, nondescript cross stitch I’d seen in the past. I wondered why on earth would anyone want to make a pixelated image when surface embroidery offers such a realistic alternative?

But then I went to the Knitting & Stitching Show last autumn, and I saw the beautiful designs on linen from the Cross Stitch Guild, and I understood that this was an artistic craft in its own right, with angles and depth and interest and colour.

Like so many creative interests, it’s all about finding what appeals to you...

So the past few months I’ve been investigating the Wide World of Cross Stitch, looking for projects and patterns that suit me. Good grief I love modern technology! Where once we were stuck with whatever we could find in town, now I can seek out elegant floral designs from France, amazingly delicate and sweet Japanese patterns, and extremely fun and funky cross stitch in the UK and US.

I made good progress on my dragonfly this week. I found the stitching so methodical and comforting in a week dominated by storms, viruses and general family mayhem. And the colours! The *sparkle*!  

Perhaps the best part is that this is a craft I can easily share with my girls. Bunny, age 10, was so keen to start work on her Frozen cross stitch, but the busy days leading to half term meant that she had to wait until this weekend to get it going...

But once she started, I had to prise her fingers away to send her to bed! She spent a long time sorting the various colours. She is still getting used to the tiny stitching and counting of the squares, and I can already see that, even with a little progress, she is finding comfort and patience with her project.

Someone who was decidedly impatient with this whole cross stitch business was Little Flower. She saw Mummy and Bunny stitching and decided she wanted to be part of the action...

So off to the local haberdashery we went, and she chose this simple panda needlework kit (because her big sister’s favourite animal is a panda), and off she went!

This project is fun because it has big yarn and a large needle for her tiny, 4-year-old hands, it uses just a half stitch, and it seems to fill up quickly. Of course we have multiple colours on the go, because after three stitches she wants to change colours...

But the strangest thing I’ve found is that the kit designed for the youngest stitcher has the worst instructions (if you can actually qualify a bit of illustration as “instruction”). Bunny’s kit from wee little stitches has much more detail, and my dragonfly kit from Floss & Mischief has a guide full of helpful tips and hints applicable to any cross stitch project.

Thankfully, I have found some wonderful blogs about cross stitching, which have been so helpful and inspiring these past few weeks. And I have been very motivated by what you’ve shared here on Stitching Sundays...I’ve discovered even more beautiful cross stitch patterns from the likes of Pretty Little Things in a Box, Jenn's Crafty World, The Crafter's Apprentice and Cathie's CraftworksThank you so much, and please keep linking up!

Um, I've committed myself to The Frosted Pumpkin's Once Upon a Time is just so cute!

I have news on my embroidery and sewing projects that I want to share with you, but – can you believe it - 
the SUN is shining!
So we’re putting the needles away and getting out the boots – time to play outside!

Enjoy your day!
Chrissie x

Friday, 14 February 2014

Nordic Shawl Ta-Dah!

Good morning, my lovely creative friends, and apologies for the delay in my Bloomin’ Crochet-A-Long post. But I just couldn’t write another blog post until this WIP was complete:

Ta-dah! Da dee dee dah! La dee dah! Yep, my pretty Nordic shawl has me singing with joy!

I spent yesterday afternoon weavi n g...i n...zzzzzz....

Oh, sorry, I drifted off - by the time I finished, the daylight was gone. 

How I would love to show you soothing images of me relaxing in my garden wearing this beautiful shawl...artistic, well-lit photos of this pastel item draped casually over the back of a garden swing...but this is England, this is February, this is the stormiest, greyest, wettest winter in ages. So...

Here is Little Flower, my sleepy little model, watching the rain in her pyjamas.

She loves this shawl; I might have to make a mini version for her!

I’ll keep it short n’ sweet today...I need to give my littlest sweetheart some cuddles. And I need to catch up with what you all are hooking for the CAL this week, too! Please link up below!

Happy Valentine’s Day!


xoxo Chrissie xoxo 

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Easy indulgence

Valentine’s Day is Friday? This Friday?

Oh dear, but it’s bucketing down with rain! I have a little one home from pre-school! I have 1,001 things that should have been done yesterday! There is no way I’ll be able to go browsing around the shops for a lovely little gift for Darling Husband...

Never fear, I have the absolute easiest chocolate truffle recipe *ever*, with storecupboard ingredients.

Take one large bar of chocolate (100g), either milk or dark; about 80ml of condensed milk; and a teeny splash of either vanilla or almond extract.

Optional ingredient: a few teaspoons of Cointreau, Amaretto or other liqueur.

Melt the chocolate and milk in a saucepan over very low heat, stirring gently once the chocolate starts melting, until you have a thick, creamy, smooth mixture (add a touch more condensed milk if chocolate is too thick, like dough).

Remove from heat and add any additional flavourings, then chill in the refrigerator for two hours.

Meanwhile, gather some coatings, such as these:

When the mixture is firm, scoop and roll into bite-sized balls, then coat decadently in preferred toppings

Chill until firm, then present lovingly to your sweetheart(s)! This recipe makes 10 truffles (okay, 11...but the cook must test one for quality control!). 

The children love the milk chocolate truffles, my oh-so-sophisticated palate prefers the dark chocolate...but what I love best about this recipe is that, surprisingly, the truffles aren’t overly sweet or too terribly rich. Very moreish! My mother made these at Christmas by the bucketful, and we gobbled them up! So of course I found another suitable holiday for indulgence...

Bon appetit, sweeties!

Chrissie x