No crochet here!

Hi there. It’s been a while since I last blogged but I have actually been doing craft (but no crochet). After the hard work of catching up with the spirits of life CAL I suddenly panicked about the fact that I had signed up for one advent craft swap organised by fionnuala and two Christmas swaps through sewchet’ s stitching santa. So I didn’t want to post photos of the things I’ve been making as I don’t want to spoil their surprises. I know the recipients don’t know I’m sending them things, but I figure it’s just safer not to put stuff on here until after they’ve received and opened their parcels.

But, I will tell you that in making things for them I’ve been drawing things, and also doing some embroidery (never thought I’d be saying that!) and quilting. I really enjoyed the embroidery and would like to do more, but I didn’t enjoy stitching things together, and am beginning to wonder if I should invest in a sewing machine so that I can finish things off neater and quicker and can spend sewing time making things look pretty? I did actually use a friend’s sewing machine to make a sheet decorated by the children in the reception classes into a cushion cover. And I found it surprisingly easy given that I was previously scared of sewing machines!

The pictures are of their drawings and some of them have sounded out and written words, or copied writing from the books they were using to decorate our reading cushion. I assume you can tell when an adult has written something for them instead, as the children are 4 and 5 years old and have only been learning to write for a short while! It was such a fun project, and really lovely to turn their art work into something they can use every day.

Sewing things together by hand (through 2 layers of wadding plus material plus bias binding left me wondering if my crafts were looking a bit amateur, but it’s funny how once things are finished off you see them as a whole and they look a lot better than when you are focusing on individual stitches. Having gone through a feeling of guilt that my gifts would be substandard, now that I’ve put them together with lots of craft things and other goodies I’m suddenly feeling more confident about them and am excited about sending them and at some point finding out their reactions to their gifts. I love giving and receiving gifts, but i always want the gifts I give to be wanted and loved and it’s a bit scary sending to people I don’t really know.

But, I think it’s all cool now! And…. I get the excitement of knowing that 3 crafty gifts will be winging their way towards me during the coming month… Yippee!!

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Spirits of life part 3 completed

Hey everyone! Yep, you heard me right, I’ve finished part 3 of the CAL, and have actually made a start on part 4 before part 5 was released! I’m now under a week behind (which I can handle).

Catching up was facilitated by a stomach bug that meant I couldn’t go to work for two days and just sat on the sofa doing crochet and working my way through episodes of zoo on netflix!

The overlay work in part 3 was tricky but Ok as long as you could find the stitches you were meant to be going into. The slight problem is that my tension seemed to get looser so it doesn’t quite lay flat but hopefully blocking at the end will help that.

Here are a few pictures of my progress :

The finished mosaic part

And I’m feeling very proud of myself as I’m following the grid pattern for the C2c part, when I’ve only followed written instructions before, and never actually added a design to my C2c. So I’m learning new things even when doing a technique I already knew.

But, I’m getting quite tangled up at times with 3 balls of wool all attached at the same time!

And finally, I got my yarn bowl through in the post today and it’s even more gorgeous in real life than I’d thought it would be. I’m Looking forward to using it soon. It’s from dancing hare pottery on etsy if you’re interested!

Progress… But not as much as I’d have liked

Sorry the picture’s not great, but here’s where I’ve got to this evening.

I’m really pleased with how it looks, and how I’ve remedied things when I’ve not quite followed the pattern correctly, but I’m super frustrated that I haven’t finished this mosaic section yet. I planned to spend lots of yesterday doing it but I was too tired to be able to concentrate. So now I still have to finish this section before I can start on the section that was released on Wednesday. I think I’m slowly going to get further and further behind, which is really bothering me.

This evening, in maybe 3 and a half hours I’ve managed to do 16 rows. I’ve got another 14 rows of this mosaic pattern to go, but i think there are more rows after that to finish the section. At least that should be quicker to do but I think it’s still another 20 rows maybe.

Anyway, I can’t change anything about how far I’ve got. Hopefully I’ll feel awake and alert enough tomorrow evening to finish off the mosaic part. I’ll keep you posted

Quick update

Well, I’ve crocheted far later than is wise on a ‘school night’ but I thought I’d give a quick update on how things are going with the mosaic work.

Here’s where I got to last night.

Then today while catching up with my friend over coffee I got all the ends sewn in which felt great and neatened the whole thing up a lot.

Then this evening I’ve had poldark on in the background and carried on with the mosaic work. It’s a lot easier to check where I am on the written pattern now the crochet has developed a bit further so I can see the pattern in it.

I’m really enjoying doing this, and surprising myself that I can follow the chart without needing written instructions. This means that in the future I could develop my own design if I wanted to and just copy from a grid on squared paper.

Tomorrow night is another crochet night, but i could probably get more done if I don’t try to watch tv at the same time! Maybe I’ll try background music instead!

Spirits of life CAL part 1

Phew… I’ve finally finished part one of this gorgeous design. The pattern was released on Wednesday 18th October and i had my wool ready, but i was too scared to start!

Finally on Monday I decided I had to try. Having been put off by the instructions to test my gauge (something I’d never done before) otherwise the piece wouldn’t fit together and to weigh all the wool so you’d know at the end of each part whether you’d be on track to have enough wool to finish, i rather froze. Words going through my head were along the lines of “your guage is going to be wrong, and you won’t have the right hook. Your piece will look awful because it will never fit together. Why are you even trying this, you know following patterns goes wrong for you. You’ve picked a project that is way too hard for you”. But common sense kicked in and i figured I’d paid the money for the wool so I might as well try. On a relaxed day on holiday in Cornwall (look at the pretty view from our cabin… That’s the sea in case you can’t tell… And there are tin mines on the coastline)

I sat in bed with a coffee (decadent!) and set to with a guage sample. Part of me didn’t want to do this because the idea of crocheting something that would take time but not form part of the piece was a bit soul destroying. I completed my first sample and realised it was way too tall. But thankfully tatsiana had linked to a helpful video of how to alter the height of your stitches. I lost count of how many times I crocheted and frogged, but it actually felt surprisingly good as i knew I was learning something. But… It took all morning!

Before I stopped for lunch I weighed all the wool, and got the chain and first row started.

Over the next couple of days I did bits more but was worried how long I was taking. “If I get behind now…when I have time on holiday to crochet, what will it be like once I’m back in work? I’ll never keep up”…. Horrid negative voice in my head.

Anyway, we’re back home now and today I finally finished part 1 and I’m actually pleased with it! I picked the wrong wool for one section, but i was not going to frog back to redo it, and just swapped colours in another section to try to keep the balance of wools right. I’m not sure how that’s going to go as I’ve gone over weight on 3 of the wools but am fine on all the others. I’ll wait till further into the pattern before I start worrying about whether I need to buy more wool or not.

Here’s how far I’ve got before I start on part two which will be my first ever foray into mosaic crochet.

Looking at the pattern I think I get it, but I’m really hoping that’s not a case of pride comes before a fall! I’ve got two evenings by myself tomorrow and Tuesday so here’s hoping for a huge amount of headway before part 3 comes out on Wednesday. Tomorrow when I meet a friend at a local cafe for coffee and crochet I shall focus on getting those pesky ends woven in as I don’t think I’ll be able to talk and concentrate on mosaic crochet at the same time.

And finally, some reflections on what I’ve learnt so far:

My crochet style is naturally quite loose but that’s ok… It’s not wrong, and i now know how to remedy it if needed

Working tighter stitches isn’t feeling as unnatural as I thought it would

I CAN follow patterns (so far anyway)

I’m quite good at spotting where I’ve gone wrong, and deciding whether it needs to be frogged or if I can remedy it a different way

I probably shouldn’t put off doing things just because they scare me… It just puts more pressure on when I finally start. Plus, whether things go ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ I’m bound to learn stuff, and that’s a good thing!

And stuff I’m enjoying so far:

I love the colour combinations, even though they’re not necessarily colours I would have put together myself.

I’m enjoying the different textures of wool

I’m feeling proud of what I’ve accomplished so far

I’m excited about learning new techniques, and tatsiana has provided written instructions, helpful hints, photos and videos so there are loads of ways to help me figure out what I really supposed to be doing when I’m not entirely sure.

Watch this space for part two and a mosaic adventure!

Blacksmith workshop

Well, some of you may remember that a few weeks ago I was going on a blacksmith workshop. It was a fab day and I always intended blogging about it, but had to wait as I’d decided to give the resulting work to my Dad for his birthday. Now he has seen it (and loves it by the way!) I can tell the rest of you about my fun day! The day was led by David Joy at a little forge in the old prison at Northleach (where I did my stone carving weekend). David welcomed me and the three other pupils (all guys!) and showed us the first stage of making a fire poker. The idea was that he would show us a part and then we would all have our turn to do that part on our own poker. Because we could only work one at a time i found the day less intense than the stone carving, as there was time to watch other people working, and learn from them and David’s feedback to them, in between focusing on our own work. The guy who went first was at a bit of a disadvantage as he hadn’t had the opportunity to learn from our mistakes, so we went in a different order for each section of the fire poker. First stage was to make the pointy end. Heating the pole takes ages the first time, but it’s quicker with each reheat. You have to keep an eye on it so it doesn’t actually burn, but you want it at a nice orange heat to be able to forge it better. Once it was hot enough we hit the end with a hammer angled to create a slope. Once we had a clear face we went on to work the other 3. The metal was quite forgiving, and could keep going back in the fire, and we discovered during the day that none of us managed to do anything that was completely irredeemable! The second stage was flattening out the other end, and i really enjoyed this part as it was quite dramatic. As you hit with the hammer you could see the metal flatten and spread, as well as the colour change as the heat left it. We aimed to get a nice long taper by working our way along the poker systematically starting a bit further away from the end each time. Then we moved on to the scroll… Using the hammer to ‘stroke’ it over the edge, and then turning it over and knocking it back towards you. By this time the end we were holding was beginning to get warm, so the glove helped! Flipping the poker onto its side after you’d tapped a couple of times really helped to see what the impact of your forging had been, and whether you were achieving a nice shape or not. Then we had to tackle curving the top over to make its hanging loop. We had to heat that end in the fire, then cool the scroll part in a trough of water so that when we hit the scroll it would bend the loop and not just squash the scroll. It was a bit tricky to get it all to the correct temperature, especially as the scroll part was thinner than the rest and would burn quicker (which we didn’t want!). But none of us had that disaster thankfully. We put a big bend in the metal to show us where the loop would start, and worked from here. Naturally working this part would head towards a tear drop shape, but i knew I wanted a more circular shape, and getting this right took a long time! However, all through the day David was really patient and extremely encouraging with each of us. Nothing was too much trouble, and he gave easy to follow instructions either before we forged or while we were forging. He encouraged me to keep working the loop round the ‘bick’ (the pointy end of the anvil) moving the main part of it up or down to work the circle evenly round. Finally I got something I was happy with, even though I’d been working in some very strange postures! In between every stage we brushed the poker down in order to get rid of the scale, and now we were ready for the final stage… The twist! David cold forged the middle of the poker, hammering 8 faces into it so the twists would show up. Cold forging involved hammering it without putting it in the fire first, and takes a lot more force and skill than what we’d been doing with the hot metal. Then the poker was positioned so that the central part was in the hottest part of the fire, and once it was the right temperature we put it in a clamp and used another poker through the loop of our own in order to twist it round and add a lovely detail.

Given that all 4 of us made the same thing, following the same instructions, it was easy enough to spot their distinguishing features, as they were all totally unique. Here’s my finished poker It was a fab day and I’d love to do another blacksmith workshop sometime. I felt a kind of gentle power in me as I was able to manipulate the hot metal, which meant that all the hammering felt controlled as you could work with precision, rather than force. Thank you David for a fab day. And happy birthday Dad (for a few days time). I can’t wait to hear about the first time you use the poker in the wood burner!

Rosie posie blanket

Well, now that I’ve joined the Rosie posie squares together it is possibly my favourite thing I’ve crocheted. It’s amazing how much the look changed once I bordered each square and started to join them.

It will be gifted tomorrow, in time for the mum to be’s baby shower, which unfortunately I will miss.

Here is the finished, beautiful (but rather small) blanket