Shopping spree

Today after work I treated  myself to a leisurely browse around a craft shop. 45 minutes later I came home with a bag  full of goodies! 

It’s all for a mix of crafts. So i bought a book that was in the magazine section which gives ideas of different crafts and instructions on how to do  them, which I thought  would be good for expanding my creative repertoire! 

I’m not sure about the tea blending, but we’ll see! 

I also bought some funky materials (something I never thought I’d do) and a patchwork ruler, with the aim of making a patchwork pillowcase… Maybe for me, or maybe as a present, I’m not sure yet. I’d  started off picking up a fat quarter of fabrics with birds on but when I saw these I couldn’t resist their brightness, so i put the bird ones back. I couldn’t find the perfect bluey green cotton for sewing them so I got this really cool variegated cotton which I hope will look cool even if my stitches show. 

I bought some fine line drawing pens to go with a small sketchbook I have, as I want to try drawing some birds  over the Easter holidays. 

Also a book of different patterned papers for another idea I’ve had for making pretty pictures,and some new sharp scissors. 

And finally some black cards with some oil pastels for an idea I’ve had for making cards (the fixative is to stop the pastels coming off when they’re touched, and the pens are for writing in the cards… I hope they work-I’ve yet to find a reliable metallic gel pen that writes smoothly). 

I thought that was my final comment but look! 

I just went to put my materials away and discovered that one of them has  little elephants on… It’s even more gorgeous than I already thought. 

So, my current focus is my crochet scarf, but after that it could be any of a number of projects! Have I got you excited about what might be coming up on my blog in the near future?! 😊

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Frustration! 

This is a photo of my next crochet project… Or at least what i want the next project to look like! But unfortunately it turns out the pattern is written incorrectly! The first time i followed the pattern i discovered that each row increased dramatically in length resulting in a very frilly effect… Not what i was after! So i unravelled it back to the end of the first proper row and changed the pattern to what i thought it should  be! 

Second time around i realised that in doubling the length of the chain to make the scarf wider i hadn’t taken into account the mathematical aspect of the pattern. Needing a chain that was a multiple of 7 with 5 added wasn’t going to work by doubling 33 to 66. Unravelling number 2, this time back to the chain! 

This time i started with my chain of 61 and thought things would work better but several rows in i ended up with this 

It looks pretty but it’s not what I’m aiming for. I might have carried on with it if the edges were going straight, but they were definitely not! 

So now, once again, my crochet looks like this 

I’m not sure if i need to go back to the chain yet. I’m also not sure whether to just use some scrappy wool and start with a chain of 33 to work out what to do, or try working it out on paper with a crochet pattern. I certainly don’t want to unravel this wool again… Each time it’s getting fluffier. 

Anyway, the interesting thing about this is that I’m crocheting it as a prayer scarf. I came across the idea in debbie macomber’s book ‘back on blossom street’, part of a series of fictional books set around a wool shop in America. The idea is that you crochet a shawl and pray for the person you’re making it for as you do it. I decided to crochet the scarf for someone whose life is not currently following the plan she had for it , and she’s trying to work out what to do next. I realised in the work I’ve done on this how  frustrating and disheartening it is when things don’t work out how you think or hope they will, especially when you’ve done things the way they were ‘supposed’  to be done. The sense of frustration is huge, and I’m only dealing with it over a short period of time. But it takes time to change plans and see if they’ll turn out better. The experience has fed into my prayers for her, as she works out whether to keep going with things as they are, or ‘unravel’  and start again. I’m praying for her perseverance, as well as an ability to deal with the frustration she must feel. 

And then, in writing my blog post i tried to put a photo on, and it did the highly annoying thing of wiping my whole post so i had to start all over again. But i persevered and here’s the post! I’ll keep you updated on how the scarf progresses. I really want to figure out the correct pattern so i can contact the people who published it and let them know how to fix it…and so that the scarf looks like i want it to! 

Getting back to it 

Yesterday, after a week of having no time at all to do any craft i ended up making two things! 

In school in the morning i made 2 roly poly birds from the roald dahl books the enormous crocodile and the twits. 

I was really pleased with what could be achieved with a ball pool ball, some pipe cleaners, feathers, a pom pom, googly eyes, a piece of foam and a hot glue gun! I have to say it totally came to life when i added the beak and eyes, and the children have loved  playing with them and retelling the story with them. I love the different character you can get by twisting the neck to different angles! 

I also took inspiration from another blog (I’ll share her original post in a moment),  and used sharpie markers to decorate a mug for my friend hannah who had her last day as a teaching assistant in another reception class in school today. 

In the end i was pleased with the effect of the simple pictures of her with children all holding hands, and the blocks of colour, even though it generally looked better from further away! I think i might try more designs on plates next time. 

To fix the design you bake the finished product in the oven at 140c for two hours. 

Cookery school

Last night mark and i benefited from our Christmas present from my parents:a cook and dine event at hart’s barn cookery school. I thought we were going to learn how to make pasta and then eat a 3 course meal that included our pasta but it turned out to be WAY better than that! 

We were offered complimentary drinks on arrival so i opted for hillside brewery’s pale ale, pinnacle. Yvette farrel was very welcoming and once the third couple had arrived she took us through to meet the lovely erin baker, our teacher for the evening. Erin was enthusiastic about the Italian food she was going to get us to cook and got us started with tiramisu so it would have time to chill before we ate it. 

So we worked in our couples to separate eggs (who knew that to fish out bits of egg shell you can use the shell you are holding to cut through the egg and pick up the little piece…. It’s almost like a magnet!), whisk  up egg whites, mix the yolks with sugar and mascarpone cheese (mark and i had fun pretending we were on master chef and made quinnels with it… or at least an attempt at them… before adding them to the mix). Then we folded it all in together and put it in a piping bag. We soaked our biscuits in coffee with amaretto (brandy was on offer as its the traditional soaking alcohol, but i couldn’t resist the amaretto!) and layered it all up with the biscuits. It was fun as there was usually a job for each of us to do at similar times so we worked as a team to make our desserts. 

Next we moved on to watching erin knock back the dough for the foccaccia, and then we made our pasta. Pasta flour and an egg was all that was needed, then lots of work to bring it to a soft play dough consistency. 

WWhile the dough was resting we shaped our foccaccia, adding some yummy leeks that erin had already cooked, to the top. 

And then we had fun with the pasta machine, rolling and folding several times in the widest setting, before gradually rolling it thinner and longer on narrower settings. Mark and i opted for a team effort on this too, with one of us holding the pasta and guiding it in, and the other making sure it came out of the machine nicely without folding up. 

Then we used the cutter on the machine to make strips, coated it in flour and twisted it into little nests. 

And then we were allowed to eat!! 

Yvette had made a lovely salad of red and yellow beetroot, with gorgonzola cheese, toasted walnuts, blood orange and rocket. I didn’t think I’d like the orange in it but it cut through the richness of the cheese beautifully. It was kind of funny sitting close to the other couples during a valentines meal, but there was a nice mixture of mainly couples’ talking time and occasional comments  shared around the table. 

Then we were back in the kitchen to make our carbonara. I never knew you could just crush a clove of garlic and cook it in the butter for a bit to flavour it before taking it out. That worked really well, as did adding a teaspoon of salt for every litre of pasta boiling water! 

We mixed up our eggs and cheese, fried off the pancetta (yummmm), cooked the pasta then mixed it all in with the eggs (and a teeny bit of pasta water)  before garnishing it with more cheese (nope, there’s no cream in a traditional carbonara!). And our main course was ready, with the foccaccia which was now baked. 

Oh my word! It was yummy! The pasta was unbelievably different, even from the ‘fresh’ pasta you can buy in the supermarkets, the foccaccia was light and airy, and just yummy with the leeks and rock salt on top. But it was rich, and sooooo filling! We all manned up though, and had room for pudding, though i couldn’t finish it. I just got to a point where i realised i could not eat another mouthful. Sad as i was to leave tiramisu (one of my favourite puddings) it was the right decision!

We were stuffed but happy at the end of the evening. I’ve come away having had fun working with mark to create a meal together, and having learned techniques and recipes that i can use at home. It was a great way to spend  valentines evening. 

Thank you yvette and erin for a really enjoyable and educational evening. 

Felting a blue tit

Before Christmas i went to a couple of felting workshops at Gloucester art and craft centre with the lovely Sue. First she helped me to make a brightly coloured bowl as a present for my sister (over two sessions and about 5 hours) 

I loved the process of taking different colours of unspun wool, pulling them apart and layering them up. I also loved how often the colours appeared more vibrant once felted. 

After the bowl i decided to try making a wall hanging with 3D effects. If seen sue’s creations of bird wall hangings, especially her barn owl one (scroll down about 3 photos on the link to see it).  I knew i couldn’t make anything as amazing as that but I fancied trying a blue tit as  it would be really colourful. I chose to work with an image from my childhood where they used to perch on milk bottles, peck through the silver top and steal the cream from the top. I made the base layer, then made a brown and red piece of felt that i cut into bricks to felt on top. After that i built up layers of felt in decreasing sizes to make the milk bottle and blue tit. Then i brought home a piece of green felt that i cut into ivy leaf shapes and felted on. 

Today i went back to see Sue as i had not got enough green felt to finish off the leaves, and she was going to show me how to needle felt on the hanging to further bring out the 3D parts and add definition. After  an hour i had a piece of green felt to bring home 

And my blue tit was already looking more defined, and had a gorgeous white stripe on his wing. Sue has kindly lent me more needles, a large piece of foam, and some  pieces of different coloured wools to add details to the leaves. So i have lots of work to do on it over the next few days or so, but it was exciting to use the needle to add definition and see just how much that changes the overall effect. 

Next i need to sort his beak, eye and eye-stripe out, sort things out around his tail, and add legs and feet. And i need to work on defining the milk bottle more. 

Also i want to add more definition to the leaves. I already put some insulating material down in between the leaves and the base, so parts would remain free to curl out from the picture, but look at the difference between these leaves once i’d used the needle to create the line down the middle of the leaf

I’m excited about the prospect of bringing this picture to life during the next week or so. I’ll try to take more close up before  and after photos and hope that they show the effects well. 

No way! I programmed a computer game! 

I’m not quite sure how to write the words in my head…. Something like hahahaaaaaaa! Or ooooooooh! I’ve just used scratch to programme a computer game where a fish tries to catch starfish while avoiding killer octopusses (octopii?). 

Mark does programming for his job, and has  wanted to introduce me to it for a while. He was researching coding books as a birthday present for our niece and we decided it would be cool if i had one too! She’s gonna be 7,I’m 40,but never mind ! So this afternoon I followed the instructions in carol vorderman’s computer coding games for kids, which wasn’t particularly creative in a sense,  but helped me to learn about giving instructions for each character or object on the screen. But i got a bit more creative when i decided to change the colour of the octopeee(!) before she suggested that as an afterthought. Then the computer wouldn’t play the sounds that i told it to, so i got more creative and made the fish say yippee! when he got a starfish, and ow! when he hit an octopus and died. 

I look forward to being more creative with it in the future! 

As I’m tempted to feel very clever and intellectual as a result of doing this i just have to compare my book with the coding book mark was reading alongside me! 

But actually, i like the fact that my book has pictures! 

And finally… The ‘turn it off and on again’ mantra worked, and now the computer plays my sounds-hope you can hear them in this video. 

Hope you like the post, even though it’s a bit different from drawing, crochet and paper cutting! 

Remedying mistakes

Today i remade the square i unravelled yesterday, which was a bit unnerving given that I’d already cut the ends, but the wool lasted just the right amount! 

Then i unravelled the oversized square back to the centre circle, and reused that wool to make a square that is now the right size. It’s funny that given that I’d added an extra 17 stitches to the second coloured round i still had only just enough wool to complete the round. The next round was the same. But then the final, outside round had tons of wool left over. I expected that, given that the square had  started bigger, it’s just weird that the other rounds were presumably smaller but didn’t use less wool. 

Anyway, i feel happier knowing I’ve completed the set of 8 and they’re all even now. I may need a different project for a bit of variety! 

More granny squares

Today I’ve made more granny squares. They work up pretty quickly, which is good as I’ve made silly mistakes in several of them and ended up unravelling one or more rounds of crochet. I was going to write this blog once i’d completed the 8th square, but right at the end i realised I’d only done 15 petal seconds in the second and third colours, so as i came up to the last corner on the final round i realised i didn’t have enough gaps to crochet into. Now that square is back to this…! 

I’m too tired to redo it now, and figure is probably make a silly mistake on it again anyway, so I’ll save it for tomorrow. I also spent time wondering why one of the squares was so much bigger than the others (2nd from left on the bottom row) as my tension is usually fairly even. I think i accidentally added too many chains between sections as i thought i remembered what i was doing. I think that then altered the overall size. I’m hoping it won’t notice too much once i join them together, but I’m probably wrong, and will end up needing to remake that one too! 

On a positive note, i really enjoy doing the final round when the design turns from a circle into a square. I love how each section increases or decreases in size in what feels like a very satisfying pattern. It’s really cool when the corners start appearing and it feels a bit magical. I’ve also enjoyed learning some new stitches, with treble clusters (though i found another pattern that uses this term but means something different! Thank goodness for patterns that include step by step photos and instructions to make things clear!), and a double treble stitch where you wrap the wool round twice before starting the stitch. 

And finally i love how each square is a finished product on  its own, but will be part of something bigger in the end. Oh, and also, i love how they make me feel like I’m not so lazy when I’m sitting watching box sets on tv! 

Crochet rabbit and rosie posie granny squares

Here’s my completed rabbit! I think she’s cute and hope my friend’s little girl likes her. I didn’t follow the pattern exactly as i just pulled the bottom part tight rather than folding the  corner up to the neck. 

I realised that a benefit of using variegated wool is that you can’t see the stitching so much, so i didn’t have to worry how neat  i was being with my sewing! 

I made the pompom by winding wool around two of my fingers and then wrapping wool round the middle to hold it tight. I then sewed it on before cutting the loopy bits so i didn’t unintentionally catch up any of the ends. 

Then i went on the hunt for a new project. One that wouldn’t involve continually looking at a pattern or counting stitches, that i could do while chatting to people or watching tv. I found these rosie posie granny squares by cherry heart. I thought they looked really pretty, and i loved the name. My god daughter is called rosie, as is one of our guinea pigs (she came to us with that name) and i often call her rosie posie. 

Previously the only granny square i’d ever made was a ridiculously loose one that was my first ever attempt at crochet. Somehow it was so loose you could  see individual strands of wool rather than stitches! I guess it goes to show that you definitely can improve with practice! 

This is the first one i made, which i was a bit tentative with. The navy wool doesn’t behave very nicely either and doesn’t always crochet up very neatly. 

The second one i did a little bit tighter, and it all looks a bit neater. They’re strangely addictive and fun to make, so I’m going to keep going with these for a while and see how far i get. Then I’ll figure out what to turn them into!