Sunday 30 March 2014

A very happy blogiversary

Well would you look at that, it’s 30 March, my one-year bloggy birthday!

What a year it has been...

A year of crochet




Ahh, remember the Monday Cake?

And all sorts of shenanigans in between!

I have been so inspired, so challenged, so overjoyed. I have made new friends, I have learned new skills, I have shared happy moments. Now I am more motivated than ever to keep creating! 

To celebrate my blogiversary, I will be hosting a giveaway very soon. Watch this space!

Someone's been busy stitching...whatever is she up to now?

Thank you to my lovely friends and supporters, who comment and encourage and inspire. A Facebook page is in the works, for all those little moments of making that never quite make it into a post. Here’s to another year!

Chrissie x

Thursday 27 March 2014

It’s a mand-a-long!

Because “mandala-a-long” is a bit of a tongue twister...

After such a positive response from my Mandalas and madness post, including emails and comments expressing interest in trying out a pattern, I got to thinking...and often when I get to thinking, it leads to a grab button...

Prior to the grab button, I was chatting away with Lazy Daisy Jones, who is equally besotted with these pretty little contemporary doilies. We decided a crochet-a-long was in order, to share the mandala madness love. Miss Daisy is a whiz with the graphics, so before I could say “mandala-a-long”, she had created that doozy of an image!

Go on, grab the button, you know you want to! It's up there in the sidebar, yep, you see it...

The mand-a-long is open to any mandala designs, your own or one from a publication...and the colour combinations are endless, what will influence your choices? Share your ideas and inspiration...

You might be tempted by a pattern supplied to us by none other than Wink!

When we approached Wink with our idea, she happily converted one of her Simply Crochet patterns into an 11-page, easy-to-follow pattern, with clear photos and instructions. If you don't have Issue 5 of Simply Crochet, you can find that pattern in her Ravelry, Etsy or Craftsy shops.

Wink also has free mandala patterns available - find the 12-round mandala pattern here and the spoke mandala here. I think I'll be making all of them!

This will be a fun, frivolous, fast CAL. The mandala is a quick project, using small bits of pretty yarn – we plan to have a Mandala Ta-Dah Day in two weeks. Then we can have one big glorious show-and-tell!

In the meantime, Daisy, Wink and I will post some progress reports, colour choices, any tips or advice...and we hope you will do the same! 

 “But what do I do with this glorified doily once I’ve finished?” I hear you ask...

Indeed. What do you do? That’s what we’d like to know! Let’s share ideas, photos of our lovely little objets d’crochet on display...let’s find the most interesting uses out there...get your hooks out and your thinking caps on! Let’s Mand-a-long!

Chrissie x

Wednesday 26 March 2014

Planning, conspiring, scheming...

Planning to eat this beautiful pain au raisin, my favourite pastry of the moment...

...while I’m conspiring with two lovely bloggers to have some hooky fun in Blogland...

...and then it’s back to scheming an April Fool’s prank for my children!

Watch this space and all will be revealed...

Chrissie x

Sunday 23 March 2014

Before and after

There are some changes afoot here...

I had a plain wicker basket, I had the latest issue of Reloved magazine

My bloggy friend Lazy Daisy Jones was featured in the issue, one of her wonderful basket makeovers. I decided a pink basket was an absolute necessity.

Before, during (with the primer) and after. What a transformation! Nothing tickles me more than baby pink. It is the colour of happy! The green ribbon was from my grandma’s stash, which is now part of my stash (thank you, Grandma!). The fabric was left over from my beloved Blossoming Bag, I bought extra at the time simply because I loved the dainty rosebuds and decided I’d find a use for it later...

The only thing prettier than a pink basket is a pink basket full of lovely yarn! And what’s that peeking out, you ask? Why it is my latest WIP, Cherry Heart’s Ricicles Shawl. I settled on a palette:

I do believe a Pink Revolution is taking place in my home...

I’m sure you’ve noticed the other changes afoot, the blog makeover! Like pretty much everything in my life, this is a Work In Progress. I am fast approaching my one-year blogiversary, and a fresh look is in order! I was getting tired of the busy shabby chic header; I have been admiring all the other blog makeovers going on at the moment, everything is so clean, uncluttered and I’m making some changes.

And here I will mention the wonderful Daisy Jones again, because she is the mastermind behind this transformation! I honestly can’t tell the difference between my elbow and my knee sometimes, let alone fiddle with blogger templates, but Miss Daisy J was there in a shot offering to help. Like having a great friend with you trying on party frocks, she knew exactly what I was looking for and was able to tell me what worked and what didn’t. Thank you m’dear!

A big step for me was putting my little mugshot in the corner - I have been considering this for a while; I've "met" so many lovely people during my year of blogging, yet no one knows what I look like. At first it seemed odd for anyone to see me, now it seems more odd that you can't see me. So here I am...

Hope you are all enjoying a quiet Sunday evening, ready for the coming week. More crafty news very soon!

Chrissie x

Thursday 20 March 2014

Of mandalas and madness...

I finished my second mandala – a beautiful and remarkably easy pattern designed by Wink. I love the seaside palette. I could make a dozen of these!

In fact, it was the pattern of choice at my crochet group meeting on Monday evening. A few of the lovely ladies who come along to the monthly meet-ups were interested in trying out a circular pattern, and the mandalas fit the bill. I came along armed with my giant supply of Drops Paris and the hooks started flying...

Here are some mandalas in progress. I love the different colour palettes, the icy blues and greys, the bright greens and turquoises. The group learned more about crocheting in a round, changing colours (tip: make sure you join a new colour in a different place with each round to avoid one big ridge of woven-in ends), and the most important skill of all: keeping track of your crochet stitches while you participate in conversation!

Hmmm...perhaps that could be the focus of my next crochet masterclass?

I’m fast becoming addicted to mandala making, and I know some others who feel the same way...I feel a project coming this space!

I am officially addicted to crocheting shawls. Getting close to the point of madness, really, especially considering that I never wore shawls and was never interested in doing so.

It kicked off with the Nordic Shawl, then I bought this gorgeous Louisa Harding Etoile yarn, and a sparkly shawl seems an absolute necessity in my life.

I am hooking away at a spring-into-summer shawl, based on a triangular scarf design by Erika Knight but altered by me to make a piece that can be gathered into a scarf or worn open as a lacy shawl. The taupe shade combined with the sparkle make it perfect for in-between seasons, as it can sober up brighter summer wear that looks a bit out of place in April or September. That’s my thinking behind it, at least.

But that’s not all, oh no siree!

Sandra at Cherry Heart has created another doozy, the Ricicles Shawl. Of course I just couldn’t help myself, I must have one! A most divine item for summer, and it gives me the opportunity to indulge my pastel love. I’m playing around with the prettiest pinks and blues in soft cottons, trying to decide which five shades will work best...

Shawls and mandalas, mandalas and shawls, it’s all mad, but it’s all good!

What are you mad about this week? Grab the Bloomin' Crochet button on the sidebar and link up below!

Chrissie x

Tuesday 18 March 2014

And now for something completely different...


made by yours truly!

You may remember in my birthday post, my craft group friends gifted to me a one-hour pottery lesson. This is the result!

These are my vessels – yes, vessels, that is the term you have to use – it sounds very arty and creative to my ears. Don’t dare call them cups or little pots, these are works of art crafted by my very own hands, glazed with love!

What a fun lesson! Milland Pottery is located in the South Downs National Park, an absolutely stunning rural location. I knew I was in for a treat, even if I just sat at the wheel and stared out at the Downs for an hour!

But soon I was turning red earthenware clay on the wheel, guided by the expert ceramicist’s hands:

Here she is at the wheel, helping to centre my lumpy pot vessel. I honestly thought I’d just have a go at the wheel, make a big mess, then go home. But oh no! I got to play with the clay, using lots of water and adjusting the spinning rate of the wheel. I learned how to centre the clay so that I could push my thumb in and make an actual shape. Within that very hour I had crafted not one but two pieces!

The feel of the clay as it thinned and grew in my hands was wonderful. This was a very tactile experience; I could feel where I used too much pressure, where I needed to be firmer with the clay – you can “read” a piece of pottery by looking at the sides. Of course experts have those beautiful, smooth sides, and I have a new-found, extreme appreciation for this art.

I love the little rounded one, I hadn’t intended for it to take that shape, but the clay had its own ideas...

I went back the following week to glaze my little earthenware babies. I looked around the pottery, admiring the various colours and techniques, and decided to do one in a two-colour brushed glaze, and the other with a soft aqua interior and cobalt exterior.

The brushed glaze is created with a very delicate touch of a glaze-laden brush onto the spinning pot:

Somehow these chalky whites and pale green glazes transform into gorgeous blues and vivid greens when fired...
I carefully applied the soft aqua glaze inside the other pot, then was ready to dip-glaze the exterior. This is done by holding the pot upside-down and dunking it very swiftly into a big bucket of blue glaze.

All well and good, until my index finger instinctively reached into the pot to steady it, because it felt unnatural to invert a delicate clay vessel and plunge it into a bucket of thick goo.

So I had one big blue dot inside my little work of art. Ugh. I thought I’d have to make childish polka dots all around the inside of the piece and make excuses about my inexperience.

But my instructor had better ideas, which is why I find lessons in arts and crafts so invaluable – personal experiences and tips that really make a difference in how a skill is learned! She suggested I dip my hand in the glaze and flick it inside the pot, making a splattered appearance. This would look much more intentional, and less like a mistake...

This was a wonderful experience, and one I definitely will repeat. There is so much more I want to do, to try and to make! In fact, we celebrated another craft group’s birthday by giving her the same voucher, and I have a feeling we’ll have one of our monthly sessions at the pottery soon...

Happy crafting!
Chrissie x

Sunday 16 March 2014

Stitching Sunday: One-and-a-half book reviews

I have two new stitching books to share with you today. (And yes, I have completely discarded the New Year’s resolution to stop buying craft books. I lasted three months. Well, two. Okay, a few weeks. Say nothing.)

The first book is Stitched Blooms, by my blogging friend Carina Envoldsen-Harrison. Carina’s bright and beautiful blog, Carina's Craftblog, is a treasure trove of embroidery inspiration and tips, and her first book reflects her characteristic colourful style.

In fact, one of the things I love most about this book, besides the hundreds of lovely floral-themed motifs, is the segment on colour. A six-page ‘Color Stuff’ section explains basic theory, colour schemes, and even suggests some ‘colour exploration exercises’ for those of us stuck in colour ruts.

But for all this, I now share with you the first project I’ve completed from this book, using off-white candlewicking thread on off-white vintage French linen:

After completing my candlewicking snowflake kit, I had a good amount of the string-like cotton thread left over. I paired it with the vintage linen, which I cut into a small hand-towel size, and traced a little floral motif from the book onto the bottom corner.

I really love how easy and effective this simple pattern looks. I let the materials sing without colour – the linen is very tactile, a thick weave, and the cotton thread is very rustic. I’m pleased with the combination, especially with this folksy floral motif...perhaps a table runner next, with a lot more blossoms?

Stitched Blooms has a long list of fun and useful projects, all clearly explained and well photographed. Embroidered skirts, shirts and mittens, bags, decorated towels and blankets...the striking botanical art framed embroideries are next on my list. The Stitch Glossary is the best I’ve seen in an embroidery book – with, believe it or not, clear photographs demonstrating various stitches! How many times have I been left scratching my head trying to decipher unclear illustrations drawn without an actual needle or hand in mind...

Now, the title of this post is ‘One-and-a-half book reviews’. You’ve read one, so here’s the half review. May I introduce to you the exquisite Pansées et Violettes: au point de croix.

Half a review, because the book is in French - I don’t speak French, so I cannot possibly review the written content. But I do love pretty pictures, and this book has those in abundance!

You know a book is special when it has a ribbon binding it together...and inside are artistic, delicate cross-stitch designs all based on violets and pansies. Each photo is carefully staged with eccentric items, complementing the sketchy style of the cross stitching.

This is not your ordinary cross-stitch book. The images are haunting, half-completed designs meant to tease the imagination, conjure up memories of woodland spring...

There is something so magical about these patterns, so ethereal, I just sat in silence turning page after page of beautiful patterns. And because this is cross stitch, no language barriers will keep me from creating my own stitched keepsakes. These little blooms are close to my heart.

I have the first few violets starting to uncurl their petals in the garden, time to tend to those! Enjoy the rest of the weekend, and please link up any needle n’ thread projects below...

Chrissie x

Thursday 13 March 2014

Crochet al fresco!

Oh, the indulgence of it all! Sunshine, bird song, tea and *s p a r k l y * yarn!

Doesn’t take much to make me exceedingly happy!

This past weekend a new haberdashery opened in a nearby village. I took the girls to the grand opening Saturday morning, and of course I just had to show my support by making a lovely yarny purchase!

I simply could not resist the sparkles. I mean, look at them! Sequins and metallic threads are so on trend, but I hadn’t succumbed...til I saw this beautifully textured yarn, in my favourite taupe shade, with the subtlest silver sequins. I remembered a lacy scarf pattern in Erika Knight’s Crochet Workshop book, which only uses two balls of yarn, so I added that to some fun fabric and a needlefelting kit for Bunny and a purple bead kit for Little Flower. A lovely little haberdashery that I will be happy to visit again...and again...and again...!

Also basking in the springtime sun is a freshly made mandala:

This little lovely was designed by Wink for Simply Crochet, Issue Seven. I made this for a close friend’s birthday, in colours that suit her kitchen. I also wanted to test out one of the mandala patterns for next Monday’s Crochet Clinic, because a handful of the hooksters will be learning how to make mandalas.

I will be making one for myself – it really is a wonderful project, and I can understand why mandalas are so fun to create. Each round is repetitive enough to allow you to hook without constantly looking at the directions, yet not so large that it becomes boring to work over and over again. The colour changes allow any palette that strikes your fancy, and cotton yarn is usually inexpensive.

I’m using Drops Paris, which is used frequently in these patterns. The colours are wonderful, but golly is this yarn splitty! The strands separate like crazy, which I can deal with, but I wonder if a pricier cotton yarn would yield easier results. I’ll have to investigate that one. But I do love the colours of Drops Paris, and it works up into a soft, sturdy fabric...  

I’d love to say that I must dash because I have chores to do or children to fetch. But honestly, I’m leaving the dishes in the sink, the dust is quite comfortable waiting for me on the shelf...I’m going back to sunshine, my tea and sparkles!

Happy crafting!

Chrissie x

Tuesday 11 March 2014

That green bit out back...

What a weekend! We wholeheartedly deserved that glorious weather, and more of it, too (hear that, Mother Nature? I hope you have lots more in store...).

Computers, television and phones were turned off. The back door was opened wide and we spent the entire weekend out in the garden. Bliss!

The first picnic of the season
I am slowly reintroducing myself to my garden. It’s been a while, you see, since we’ve seen had proper, quality time together. I’m talking years.

I grew up in a decidedly non-gardening family. I didn’t have a garden in my twenties, renting my little place while I worked in the city. But marriage and a baby brought out the nurturing, nature-craving instinct in me, and as soon as we moved to our home, I was out in the garden, reading about plants and flowers, watching Gardener’s World religiously (oh, Monty!).

Little Flower planted bright anemones outside her playhouse this weekend
When Bunny was little, we built miniature raised vegetable beds, inspired by Carol Klein’s wonderful Grow Your Own Veg series. We planted seeds, we weeded, we picked, we ate...I transformed the raised border surrounding our patio into a magnificent herb garden, chock full of a variety of useful and tasty herbs for cooking and teas. (Yes, I do find edible gardening much more aspirational...)

But in 2009, after years of trying and then giving up, lo and behold I fell pregnant with Little Flower. I have big babies, so by summertime my five-foot frame was carrying a massive baby bump, and no way was I going to make it down to the ground to pull weeds. The raised beds became Weed Island, with all varieties of garden invaders making the pilgrimage to the haven.

2010: Little Flower is an infant and we take her to see her family in America for a big summer holiday. Facing all the overgrowth of weeds and mess from the previous summer, I turn a blind eye to my poor garden.

2011: No recollection of this summer. Must have baby brain.

2012: Rain, rain, rain...oh, and more rain.

2013: I assume, unfortunately, that we were in for more depressing weather, so I leave the garden to its own devices, furthering the violent coup by the invading weed army.

2014: Little Flower is four and keen to grow things; I’m so fed up with the rubbish wet winter that now I’m ready for battle! We venture to the garden centre to choose seeds and shrubs to replace one lost in the storms.

Unable to choose between a pink azalea and a white one, we buy both and plant them side by side.

We pick millions of tiny twigs from the hellebores, the ferns, the hydrangeas, the herbs...the strong winds blew our silver birch trees to smithereens. 

The trees are still standing, thankfully. Little Flower raked up the smaller garden shrapnel, while I handled the larger bits.

Of course I have little to show for this weekend’s toil other than large swathes of bare earth where grass used to grow, and piles and piles of kindling!

But I have promise: plants, seeds and the desire to get back to gardening after a long absence. This will be a good summer to reacquaint myself with that green bit out back, no matter what Mother Nature has in store (*more sunshine*, *more sunshine*, *more sunshine*...).

Chrissie x