Macaroons & Mini-drawstring bags

Well hellooooo!  Wow, these summer months are flying by and I don’t know about you but I seem to have been very BUSY the last few weeks!  Mostly with nice things, like going camping and visiting friends and family, but still, it all goes by so fast.

Crochet is one of my best forms of relaxing and unwinding, so whenever I’m dashing about I like to take my favourite hook and a small bag of scrap yarns with me and make some pleasing little things.  This summer I’ve been loving these gorgeous Macaroon pincusions by Lilla Björn crochet.  Named ‘cos they look like little cakeys, good enough to eat (but no calories)!  They’re made using overlay crochet, which I think gives them an intricate, almost tapestry-like appearance.  However this pattern & tutorial are brilliantly easy to follow – it’s actually much simpler than it looks!  In fact as soon as I’d gotten the hang of it, I adapted it to make a mini-drawstring bag using the same technique.  Yummy or what?!pinkcaramelsSo yummy that I made a bunch on a recent weekend with friends and then gave them all away, so I only have a couple left to show you…!minibagsI’m back home for a few weeks now, apart from a day-trip jolly to the Birmingham Festival of Quilts this weekend (and yes I am FIZZING with anticipation!) with a couple of my lovely craftsy pals.  I’ve got lots of making to do, and some exciting news to share with you about an upcoming  event: more on this VERY SOON….allmacsMeanwhile, wishing you all a delightfully sweet week 🙂

2014: Makes and Moments

Ah, it’s that time here in the Blogosphere, when the hols are over, the New Year has arrived, and we look back fondly (or not so!) over our favourite stuff from the past twelve months.  I’m not much of one for making resolutions (apart from resolving to hibernate during January!), but I do enjoy reading the ‘annual reviews’ on people’s blogs so I thought I’d do one of my own, with just my favourite Makes and Moments from each month…

All in all I’d say it was a pretty colourful year!  And despite the ups and downs of my health, I still managed to do a lot of making and get out and about a fair bit, and share a lot of laughs with good friends and family.  And I’ve loved posting here, sharing all the highs and lows of my year’s creative adventures with all of you!

Thank you so much for reading – here’s to a Big Fat Funky 2015! 🙂

 

The story of Crochet Turtle

One summer afternoon last year, me, my brother, and his partner were all lounging in my lounge when my bro remarked on how much he liked my round cushion.  It was a gift from my old housemate, made by her friend Svetlana and has Indian-style embroidery on one side, soft green velvet on the other.front&back

We all agreed that we liked round cushions, and I said I’d like to try doing a crochet one. He said he liked the green velvet though, because it made him think of a turtle.  So I said, what about crochet on one side, velvet on the other?  And as one voice we cried, it could be CROCHET TURTLE!  Those of you old enough to remember Touché Turtle and his battle-cry can no doubt imagine the silliness that ensued…

And so the idea was born, and I declared that I would make them a pair of Crochet Turtles as a slightly-belated housewarming gift, and then spoke those words FATAL TO ANY PROJECT, “How hard can it be?”.

I searched the Blogsphere, Ravelery and beyond for my perfect turtle pattern…. who remembers this cute critter (pattern here by Little Muggles) from last Xmas?shelley profile

And I experimented with some lovely different turtle shell designs, by Kathrin Bardeleben and this one by Sonea Delvonprototype shell

But none of them were quite what I was after.  I had this idea in my head you see, of EXACTLY how these turtles would look.  I wanted a crochet ‘shell’ of granny hexagons on top in shades of green/teal/orange, crochet head and flippers, and a soft velvet ‘belly’ underneath.

So, chanting ‘How hard can it be?’, I went and made up my own hexagon pattern, which I’m pretty pleased with.  Once I’d figured it out I went ahead and ordered my yarn.  I wanted something really soft and smooshy but also machine washable, so I went for Cascade 220 Superwash.  It’s 100% wool but – I guess because of the superwash process – I can handle it without too much allergic reaction.  Plus it comes in a wide range of bright, vivid colours!turtleyarn

I finally started crocheting my granny hexies in April this year, still without any real overall pattern in mind!  I didn’t get far before I realised I would also need a half-hexagon to make my design work.  That took me quite a few goes to figure out, and it wasn’t until I’d actually made all the pieces and started stitching them together that I realised they still weren’t righthexagonslaidout

Can you spot my mistake? – There’s no single crochet border on the long edge of the half-hexies!  So I had to unpick and re-do them all…

Next came the head and flipper challenge!  I wanted the heads to be crocheted and stuffed, so I adapted the Little Muggles pattern for these. But again, I couldn’t find any flippers that really fitted my turtle vision of crochet on top, velvet underneath, so I had to make up my own.  I’d bought some lovely soft velvet from Minerva Crafts in the sale, but didn’t realise until it arrived that it was stretch knit!  So I had to use fusible interfacing on all my flipper pieces to keep them stable enough to stitch the crochet to them.  BUT, it worked!  And I’m quite chuffed with how they turned out!flipperb&f2

OK! – I now had my shells, heads, and flippers, all I needed was a cushion pattern.  I didn’t fancy trying to sew a zip into stretch velvet circles, and poppers or buttons always come undone I find, so I decided on the ‘envelope’ option.  Could I find a pattern??  It was beginning to look like these turtles would still be on my ‘In Progress’ shelf by the time their intended recipients had saved up and emigrated…

So yes, I had to make up my own cushion pattern as well.  “How hard can it be?” – well, VERY, with stretch velvet, I discovered!  Note to self: stabilise your top circle with some fusible interfacing first before trying to stitch your crochet and bottom cushion-flaps to it!

BUT, I prevailed!  Heads and flippers were sewn on by hand last of all, and FINALLY, one year, two months, and three weeks after the idea was born, WHOOHOO!!  I give you – CROCHET TURTLES!bothpadded1How cute are they?!?!swimmingturtlebothpadded2

Here’s a (slightly blurry!) ‘belly’ shot so you can see how the cushion cover bit works:turtlebelly1And a nice turtle-in-action shot!swimmingturtletop

So there you go: it was a big designer-maker adventure for me and the finished cushions did turn out pretty much the way I had imagined them in my head.  Plus they are VERY silly and make me smile a LOT!

The turtles have now swum to their new home in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, where they’ve been so warmly received that it’s given me a great big happy in my heart!bothunpadded1CROCHET AWAY! 🙂

Project: Stalled!

stalled1Hmm… it seems that my creative life has hit a bit of a ‘summer slump’ at the  moment!

This is my latest sewing project, a second Sweetheart Sundress in lime green with hand-printed borders.  I started working on it almost immediately after the last one, intending to have it finished in time for my camping trip to Glastonbury.  I was going great guns – as you can see from the pics, I even got as far as block printing the straps and bodice – right up until the day before I left, when I hit a few fitting issues and realised there was no way it would be ready to take with me.  When I came back from my hols I was bit poorly for a week and didn’t have much sewing mojo, and now I’m worried the Limeade Dress might well miss this summer entirely!  stalled2Last week I had my brother to stay, and despite my best efforts to crack on with the project that was meant to be a housewarming-anniversary present for him & his partner, I still couldn’t get it finished in time for his visit.  This one has been many months in the making, as I have designed the whole thing myself.  I did manage to finish crocheting all the bits but now have to work out how to put them all together to make… oh you’re going to love this! … CROCHET TURTLE CUSHIONS!  Yep.  Well, they will be.  One day.stalledturtlesBack in June I also began a second Attic24 bag, which I’d intended to put in my friend’s PopUp shop along with the Magic Roundabout bag in July.  Here it is today.  Yes, it does look like an over-sized Rastacap.  No, it doesn’t have any handles yet.  Or a lining (that’s the orange fabric you can see in the background with absolutely no bag-lining-type shapes cut out of it).  And look at all those tails waiting to be sewn in….stalledbeachbagAm I alone?  Is summer just not the season for doing craftsy things indoors?!  I mean, it’s not as though we haven’t had our share of rainy days this last few weeks!  Although there is one thing I started that I reckon another rainy day ought to see me finishing, at least I hope this one’s not too beyond me…stalledfrogsWishing you all a colourful weekend! x

 

WhooHoo! Wiggle cushion

At last, here it is: my alpaca version of the ‘Wiggle’ cushion!finishedwiggle1 I LOVE the feel and texture of this, combined with the fab-tastic chevron pattern and crazy colour combo it’s all come together in a very happy-me-making way!  Not that using a different yarn from the one recommended was without its snags, I must confess.

As mentioned in my previous progress report, the fabric worked up into a very long scrunchy ‘concertina’, and  I was right to worry about whether this would block out easily.  The answer? – no, No, NO!  I tried steam blocking it, spraying it, even pinning it to the ironing board and pressing it with a cloth.  As I unpinned each cooled, supposedly pressed section and moved it along, it just scrunched itself back up again.  ARGH!!wigglepressing In the end I resorted to pressing it directly with the iron, which still didn’t result in an entirely flat piece of work, and also filled my sewing room with the delightful aroma of burnt wool….

So, wiggle by name, wiggly by nature!  I found crocheting the foundation row and final rows together a bit of a fiddle, too, but perhaps this was down to my gorgeous hairy alpaca yarn not giving quite the same stitch definition as the cotton 4-ply recommended in the pattern.  But happily, once the cushion pad was in, this stretched everything taut enough to make sewing the side seams relatively easy.  The book says to use a mattress stitch, not something I’ve used before and I wouldn’t say mine’s particularly tidy – my hand sewing isn’t up to much at the best of times!wiggleseams Nevertheless, compared to the this image that I fell in love with in the Kaleidoscope book,wiggleprojectplanning I must say I’m CHUFFED to bits with my version of this lovely design!finishedwiggle2 I’d love to know if anyone else has had a go at this, or had similar blocking issues when working with alpaca?

For the rest of this week I’m planning on finishing up a bag project which I’ll share with you soon, and also have an exciting new crochet pattern I’m working on – look out for a full tutorial coming next month!

Til then, happy hooking, stitching, and general crafty goodness!

Jane Crowfoot ‘Wiggle’ cushion

The eagle-eyed amongst you may have spotted Jane Crowfoot & Debbie Abrahams’s sumptuous crochet and knitting book Kaleidoscope in a couple of my recent post-picskaleidoscope2I don’t normally buy brand new books, I prefer to get mine ‘pre-loved’ from second hand shops or online dealers, but THIS book just grabbed me, from the first time I saw it on Black Sheep Wool’s website!insidekaleidoscopeA WHOLE BOOK of cushion, bag, and blanket patterns!  I had a bad case of ‘the wanties’, I can tell you…  I resisted for quite some time but I kept thinking about that colourful chevron-striped cushion on the front cover, and eventually I caved in and bought it!

But I’m SO glad I did, it’s full of lovely patterns for things I will actually make.  And when I discovered that I may potentially NOT be allergic to alpaca, I knew exactly what my first project was going to beselection of brightly coloured alpaca yarnsMy thinking was, sitting against an alpaca cushion would be a potentially less distressing way to find out whether I’m allergic to it than, say, wearing an alpaca jumper.  And if I do turn out to be allergic, it will be easier to find a new home for a cushion.  The ‘Wiggle’ cushion pattern actually calls for cotton 4ply, but I figured since the alpaca is also 4ply it would work up in a fairly similar way, but just be a bit denser.  And hairier!  This, you’ll remember, is how it looked last weekend:wigglecushion1But as you know, I’ve been hibernating this week, so this is how it looks today:wigglenearlydoneAlmost done (but look at all those ends that need sewing in)! Just 20 rows to go.  I’ve never worked crochet in rows before, so I’m rather pleased at the way this has progressed, especially as it’s worked on a teeny tiny 3mm hook and I thought it would take forever.  I’m curious about the way the chevrons have given it a kind of ‘concertina’ effect – steaming it flat should be interesting…

So I’m hoping there will be a ‘WhooHoo!’ post on this project in the next few weeks, followed by a few more as I gently work my way through those Works-In-Progress!

Have a lovely happy hooky stitchy week, whatever you’re working on 🙂

 

New Year, New You? – Not Yet!

Happy 2014!

My original intention with this first post of the new year was to go with the whole, ‘Yeah!  New Year!  New stuff!  A whole bunch of new projects, new, new NEW!’ somanyprojecBut actually, the truth is at this time of year I often find myself with a whole bunch of what I like to call works-in-progress (rather than ‘unfinished projects!), and not enough time/energy/daylight available to get on and finish them, let alone begin something new.wigglecushion1I think many of us experience a bit of an ‘energy-drain’ at this time of year, and for those of us who suffer from ME (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), it can be tough just getting through the basics!  Meanwhile, we’re being bombarded with bright, exhortative messages to get ‘out with the old, in with the new’, make a ‘new start’, and so on.  The temptation is to begin yet ANOTHER new project, which then makes me feel guilty about leaving all the unfinished ones on the shelf.  Or staring me in the face every time I wash up, even…kitchentilesSO!!  – This year, I am going to spend January gently conserving my energy and getting on with my works-in-progress.  I am taking a lead from Michael Nobbs over at Sustainably Creative, who advocates A Month of Hibernation in January, and my other favourite blogger Havi Brooks, whose Campaign to Bring Back Hibernation I’m (in)actively supporting! cosybedroomInstead of Instead of rushing round trying to ‘clear the decks’ and dive into the NEW, I will be mostly spending my free time by the fire, watching DVDs, reading, and enjoying using any creative energy I do have to move a tiny bit forward on my existing projects.  After all, there’s no need to rush.  I want to still be in love with whatever I’m working on, not for it to feel like a burden or something I have to hurry up and finish!wiggleprojectplanningAnd I don’t know about you, but I often find some of my best creative ideas for new projects come whilst I’m working on something else…sleeve2I’m hoping that this year, once the days start getting longer and the sap begins to rise, I’ll have a whole bunch of exciting new projects lined up, and I’ll have (hopefully!) finished my current ones.

So this January, I say the New can wait: ON with the OLD! cardielayout

 

 

WhooHoo! Mexican Sunset Cushion

finishedcushionbluebkground Well, yes, I know it’s traditional in CrochetBlog Land to have a ‘Ta-Dah!’ moment when a project is complete, but I get SO excited when I finally finish something, that for me it’s a WHOOHOO!  finishedcushion1So, here it is, the finished Mexican Sunset cushion!  I have to say, I’m really pleased with the way this has turned out, particularly the way the lovely bright colours show up against the lining.

As mentioned in the tutorial, I made a bit of extra effort with this cushion and not only added a lining but also a zipper.  Once upon a time, I used to always just stuff my cushion pads into my covers and sew them closed; but then  one day I bought some very nice chenille cushions that had removable, zipped covers, and discovered that cushion covers could easily be washed!  Who knew?? – This totally revolutionised my approach to cushion-making.zip detailTo hide the zip, I left the two sides of my crochet cover unjoined and did a row of single crochet along each where the zipper is.  I then sewed these sc rows to the cushion lining very close to the zipper teeth, so that when it’s zipped up it’s hidden underneath the crochet.finishedcushion2take2

So there it is, sunshine on a dull cloudy day, of which we have had many lately up here in Magical Mid Wales.  Now, what my bedroom really needs is a lampshade to match….