Thursday, 31 October 2013

Bloomin’ CAL and Happy Halloween!

I’m afraid my hexies have gathered a few cobwebs this week...

A combination of half term and Halloween meant that I only got three more hexies completed. Oh, but I did manage to finish this lovely project:

My snood is finished! I tend to finish a scarf or cowl-type project by trying it on partway through and not by following the pattern. Usually the pattern is designed for someone a bit taller than five feet, so unless I measure it to me as I make, I’ll end up with a scarf that could double as a blanket...

So I pinned the snood last night and tried it on and it just seemed to be the right size for me. Ta dah! And now that I know it’s a very easy project and turns out well, I can make some for gifts. (Luckily, I still have enough of that gorgeous Drops yarn to make a pair of mittens or a hat!)

In the meantime, we’ve just come back from the first Halloween party of the day, for the little ones...

Talk about a feast! They dined on witch’s broomsticks, pumpkin-shaped sandwiches and cheesy puff pastry bats, amongst other goodies. A friend and I joined up to throw a party for our young ones – thankfully she offered her home as I have a trick-or-treat party and sleepover happening here later...
We both had lots of decorations to share. I was in charge of some veggie snacks, which took the shape of a pumpkin head

...and lots of sugar cookies to decorate and gobble up! There were cats, rats, bats and creepy spiders!

I also made larger pumpkin cookies and a few ghosts for the children to decorate with orange icing and all sorts of sweets!

Now I’m off to prep the food for the next party, a decidedly scarier affair for the older kids! Happy Halloween everyone! Please share your latest hooky WIPs below, I’ll enjoy reading them when I’m up late tonight listening to sleepover giggles down the hall...

Tomorrow I’m dusting off that pink hook and getting back to hexies!

Chrissie x

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Half-term holiday house

My home has been transformed...

The goblins have decorated for Halloween. The parties have been organised (lunchtime for the pre-schoolers, sleepover for the big girls!) and the scary foodstuffs have been planned. More on that later this week...

Pumpkin garland adorns the windows, and pumpkin window stickers stare out at passers-by.

The hall mirror is a holiday shrine in our house, decorated with bits and bobs for every festive occasion to welcome guests.

Oh, but there is more transformation taking place here, because in addition to Halloween, this week the children are off school for the half-term break. 

You know its half-term when...

Pajamas are the uniform of choice until nearly lunchtime.

Craft projects are seized (I just finished Jo’s hat pattern in some leftover Sirdar Crofter yarn, and Bunny claimed it for herself!).

Toes are treated to “pedicures” in questionable shades. can’t walk a straight line through any room in the house for the entire week.

Bedrooms are transformed into dense forests – see the giant duvet mountain? It’s also a cave...

Staircases become raging waterfalls, and pillows are rafts that plummet down the treacherous cascade.

Craft supplies are just left out on the kitchen table, pushed aside to make room for plates and cups.

And there is glitter everywhere. Everywhere.

We tend to stay close to home during half term, venturing out for a few day trips or play dates but mostly just mooching about the house and having time together. The kids are quite worn out from the daily routines of school and activities, so this is their chance to recharge – we have lazy time, sofa nests, lots of imaginative play – and their chance to refuel – Little Flower is having a growth spurt yet again, so she is eating and eating and eating...

How is your week coming along? 
Chrissie x

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Stitching Sunday: Framing in a hoop

Happy Sunday everyone! A brief Stitching Sunday post today, as we are in full Halloween decorating mode here and I have to get back to my little goblins!

After mulling over ways to display my organza flowers I made at The Knitting & Stitching Show, I decided to frame them simply in a hoop and hang it in the hall.

Full English Grey Effect...

But I wanted something with a bit more style than the plain wooden hoop, so I covered it with a grey metallic spray paint. I only sprayed the visible outer hoop.

I centred the embroidery in the hoop and secured it tightly. Then I cut a felt circle to cover the back of the piece.

Next step was to secure the fabric at the back of the frame. Here’s where I ran into a bit of trouble – the fabric wasn’t large enough to wrap around the inside hoop. Usually I use a larger piece of fabric, then cut a circle wide enough to either sew in a gathered bundle at the back of the hoop (like a covered button) or glue evenly to the inner hoop wall.

But because this piece was a make-and-take project at the show, the fabric I was given was only a bit larger than the embroidery. I made the best of it by trimming the squared edges and gluing what I could to the frame.

To cover the screw and hang the hoop, I chose a simple linen ribbon, which I fashioned into a bow and glued to the front (I am loving my little glue gun, it makes me feel proper crafty!). I then secured a length of ribbon to the back.

I like how the hoop and ribbon provide an understated frame to the embroidery. It looks quite sweet on the bit of wall by the understairs closet – but it also looks a wee bit lonely...notice I left some wall space for a few more hoops...

Hope you are all having a cozy weekend! Happy crafting!
Chrissie x

Friday, 25 October 2013

Sugar and spice and everything nice


Spider sugar cookies, made by Little Flower and me for the school cake sale yesterday, marking the end of the first half term (inspired by Coco Rose Diaries, thank you!).


Autumn-spiced apple-cinnamon cupcakes with honey-cinnamon frosting (recipe from The Love Bakery Cookbook). Of course with a sprinkle of gold fairy dust!

Everything nice

Little Flower’s birthday is approaching. She loves rainbows more than anything, so we are having a rainbow theme. This is the Pinterest-inspired party invite, with my own spin on the cloud concept (please forgive the smudging of certain personal details, we only have space for her four little best friends!).

I’m joining the lovely Hannapat of Cosmos & Cotton when I can for her Friday Bakes (see the fun button on my sidebar!). The cake sale was a sell-out success, and these little spider cookies are great fun for kids to make – it’s just melted chocolate and Minstrel candies, with little sugar balls for eyes. The cupcakes were enjoyed by my village craft group at our monthly get together last night.

I am so excited about Little Flower’s birthday, is there anything happier than a rainbow? And I have some very colourful ideas swirling around in my head...

Have a magical weekend,

Chrissie x

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Bloomin’ CAL: How do you hook?

Hello hello hello to the newest members of the Bloomin’ Crochet-A-Long! Ladybird Diaries and I are so happy to have you with us, whether you are following along quietly or are posting and linking up with our endeavours.

This week I’m curious to know how you go about projects involving numerous hexies, flowers, granny squares, etc. Do you crochet one at a time, changing colours as necessary, or do you crochet a bunch of centres, then proceed to do a wave of second colours on each one, like a hooky assembly line?

I’ve been following a few bloggers who do different methods, and I’m curious why you choose to work the way you do!

So far, I’ve been content to work one hexie blossom at a time. I like watching the little sweeties build up the petals and the lovely cream edge. I like snipping the yarn of each finished one and laying it down flat and admiring it. A teeny project complete.

However, I have a sneaking suspicion that this is because it is still very early days with this blanket. I am in the honeymoon period, where I am still enchanted by the candy colours. I find every round a joy. Ask me how I’m feeling at hexie 47 of 114...

Which prompts me to ask if you ever change your method partway through a project? Or perhaps shove the lot in a basket and leave it for a bit? I find I’m constantly seduced by new patterns. Hence this CAL, to keep my focus! Are you a fickle hooker?

And speaking of fickle, the little snowflake in the latest Simply Crochet magazine caught my eye...

I spotted this very pretty sparkly thread at a haberdashery earlier this week, and I knew straight away that I wanted it for snowflakes. The shimmer in it is from a clear, plastic-like thin thread woven into the shiny cotton strand, so it sparkles without having an actual metallic thread that is obvious to the eye. I used a size 2 hook, it is quite delicate going, but I’m pleased with the result. I’ve blocked it, but I might play around with starching or something to make it a bit stiffer. Garland is the obvious use, but I am considering making more and sticking them to plain brown gift tags as Christmas labels. This one is smaller and more fragile than the snowflake in the magazine, which was worked in proper yarn.

And I just couldn’t end a crochet post without showing you the progress with the snood:

Welcome to my new followers, and a huge thank you to everyone joining in the CAL, I am so happy to have so many enthusiastic, lovely people happily hooking up with us! Link up below...

Chrissie x

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

The best part of being stuck indoors

Dreary grey weekend? Bring it on! Horrid weather outdoors means chutney and jelly indoors!

Who cares if we couldn’t go on a lovely outdoor walk? I got my exercise Saturday by peeling and chopping copious amounts of quinces and pumpkins (with the help of a dear friend, which made the job so much easier with a chat and a cuppa!).

Oh dear, we couldn’t find fresh horseradish root for the chutney I substituted grated ginger.

Did you know that you can freeze ginger? Rather than it wasting away in the fridge, pop the root in the freezer. When you need a bit for a recipe, grate it using a microplane grater, skin and all. It grates into a lovely fine powdery consistency that melts into the dish, leaving all the peppery goodness of fresh ginger without the juicy, stringy mess!

Is that a distant roll of thunder I hear? Doesn’t come close to the comforting sound of a gentle thundery simmer from the preserving pan on the stovetop...

And, like magic, all those ingredients morph into a rich, thick, tangy, spicy melange of autumn’s bounty. Yes, I can wax lyrical about chutney...

Quince and pumpkin chutney. All these little bad boys need are labels and tops made with a variety of crocheted lovelies and fabrics. And then I can tick a number of Christmas gifts off my list!

But wait. Sunday has come and it’s even stormier than Saturday. More quinces to the rescue!

How can these knobbly, hard, tart little fruits go from dripping cloudy yellow juice into a bowl to this:

This is my first attempt at quince jelly, and though it’s not as crystal-clear and bubble-free as I’d like, at least it’s not cloudy, so I’m happy! A few jars have gone to a friend; one jar is open and already half gone in our fridge...

Very tasty breakfast eaten in the exceedingly dim light of morning.

And I’m not going to apologise for the dull photo quality – this is English weather, and there’s only so much fiddling with photo qualities we UK bloggers can manage!

So I call on us to embrace the low light, then I guarantee we’ll see it as an atmospheric choice on picmonkey and other photo enhancing tools: The English Grey Effect.

Time for more toast. Happy crafting!
Chrissie x

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Stitching Sunday: Hassle-free French knots!

Welcome to Stitching Sunday! It is a thundery, rainy day today, perfect for stitching in your pyjamas with a hot cup of tea by your side...

Within the first half hour of The Knitting & Stitching Show I learned an embroidery tip that has since saved me time and saved my nerves. Would you like to see?

Get your needle and floss ready, you might want to follow along step by step.
First, wrap the floss twice around the needle

Then pull the wrap higher up the needle, giving you lots of room to insert the needle into the fabric

Needle back through, very close to where it came up

Now anchor that thread! Pull the floss down taut to the fabric before you push the needle through any further, and keep it anchored to the side of the hoop as you pull the needle through the back

This little step - simply anchoring the thread with your thumb at the edge of the hoop - makes a huge difference to the process! 

It may help if you set the hoop down on the edge of a table while you’re getting used to this technique, so you have one hand free to pull the needle, the other hand keeping the thread taut.

As you pull, you can gently let loose the thread, at which point the knot should already be secure on the fabric

Keep pulling through and suddenly you’ll have a cute little dimple of a French knot on your fabric.

hello cutie!
Try a few of these, it gets easier with practice – which I had plenty of when I made the organza flowers...

Dare I say I actually like making French knots now? Words I never thought I’d say...

What’s on your hoop this weekend? Link up and show us!

Chrissie x

P.S. A big hello to my new followers, I’m so happy to have you here! 

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Bloomin' CAL: Progress report and a book review

It will come as no surprise to many of you that I haven’t made progress on my hexie blanket this week, as my crochet energies were devoted to the Knitting & Stitching Show and getting to know my new yarn purchases...

The colours seem to change with every photo, sometimes bright, sometimes smoky...

*sigh* Ain’t she just a beauty? This type of project is just so portable; I’ve been tucking the yarn and hook in my bag this week as I zipped to a meeting, to a get together with friends...I even completed four rows as I waited the half hour of Bunny’s harp lesson (yes, harp. Her second lesson. Because obviously a piano isn’t big enough...). I do love the social aspect of it, the other musical mums waiting at the school were keen to talk about the snood and seemed quite interested in my crochet (perhaps next week I’ll let them know I’m teaching some more classes in a few weeks, drum up some more business!).

Do you take your crochet out and about? Have you struck up a conversation about a project?

I had some queries about the book from which this snood pattern originates, so I thought I could show you a bit more.

Erika Knight is one of my crochet heroes. I have a few of her books – this one is aimed primarily at beginners, but it is so gorgeous that the more experienced might well want to add it to their collection. It is an excellent reference book to have on the shelf.

Here is what’s on offer inside. Erika Knight offers some of the best tutorials for crochet that I’ve seen. Her stitch descriptions and illustrations are crystal clear, and she goes a step further to show detailed hook sizes and swatches of stitches so the reader has a visual guide.

The book features page after page of these types of swatches, as well as a multitude of yarns and textures that lend themselves beautifully to crochet. I love Knight’s books for the contemporary use of materials. She specializes in earthy, smoky palettes, with the texture of the fibres enhancing the appearance of the crochet.

The projects in this book could easily be adapted to pastels or brights, like I’m doing with the snood, but it is lovely to see them in these more neutral tones, and they would suit those of you with more male-dominated homes (stripy cushions for your boys’ rooms!).

What’s on your hook this week? Check out the links below and join in the fun! I hope to have a gang of hexies invading the CAL post next week...

Chrissie x

PS Thank you so much to everyone who commented on my last post, I loved reading what the season has offered you!