Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Soft squishy friends

I don't know what's happened to me recently, but I look at the toys around for kids and think, "What a load of garbage!" It could be that they really ARE garbage, what with their one intended use that allows minimal imagination, the likelihood that they're made in China with lead based paints, or the fact that I am slowly turning into a cross between the mother from Malcolm in the Middle and an angry Nana. Take your pick, they're all in some part true.

Anyways, I decided that I'd make a few soft toys for Christmas for the kiddies. Here's my first few toys:

The pirate kitty - looks kinda like a little devil!

"Peanut Girl"

Pillow-y dollface thingy


I like them, they're different. And squishy!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Just like Nana used to make!

I've finished a few more presents for Christmas, these ones are of the old school "Nana crochet" variety. No, they're not tea cozies but almost as good as.

First up is an Aussie football scarf. Look at that green and gold goodness! The funky tassles! This is crochet as it's been for generations...well, at least the generations that support football. Yay team! I'm not a fan of tassles, but this was a gift and it was requested that they be added.

Ok, this is classic Nana crochet, but for good reason. How useful is a hanging hand towel? All right, no need to answer, it was meant to be rhetorical. Anyway, I love these things and I reckon they make a perfect little gift for someone, especially as a housewarming present. I see a lot of them at craft markets, but they're made with tea towels cut or folded in half. I like to use the thick, high quality cotton face washers, they're very absorbent and soft (tea towels can be quite scratchy) and come in some awesome colours. I bought some face washers with the printed jaquard pattern on them (you know, cut away in the shape of a flower with a flower printed over the top, giving it a 3D effect?) so that I can make some ultra-retro funky ones.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Something edible!

Ok, today I'm going to post something OTHER than fabric or fibre crafts. Mmm, rocky road! I just gave my very basic recipe to my friend and thought, well since I've just written it up I should blog it. So, here is the *recipe* I use but keep in mind, I change it every time I make it. This is perfect to make then pop in a nice tin or container as a Christmas present. Or, you know, you could just eat it yourself. Whatever, I'm not the boss of you.

- approx. 400g of chocolate
- approx 200-250g of marshmallows
- half bag of red licorice
- selection of nuts & peanuts (cashews are our favourite)
- some sultanas or craisins (dried cranberries) or other dried fruits
- desiccated coconut

Line a small baking tin or tray (like a loaf pan?) with greaseproof paper. Melt just less than half of the chocolate (I use the double-boiler method on the stove, a big bowl sitting over a pan of steaming hot water, but if you're confident in not burning the choc you can do it in the microwave) then dribble some on the baking paper in the tray. Start to lay down a foundation of marshmallows, licorice, nuts and dried fruit in the melted choc and when that's done, pour over some more melted chocolate. Sprinkle some coconut and some more of the smaller ingredients like the nuts and fruit, and dribble the rest of the chocolate over the top. Then make another layer of the bigger stuff like the marshmallows and licorice, and melt the rest of the choc. Just continue to make layers of the choc and the other ingredients until you've used up all the choc. Stick it in the fridge for a few hours, then you can use a big-arse knife to cut it into the size pieces you like.

Obviously, you can use half the amount of ingredients to make a smaller batch, but in my experience with Greg and myself (and a little help from Dylan too!) it's so good that even using the big block of choc, the batch doesn't last very long. Gone in just over a week?? I usually cut the licorice pieces in half before I put them in because Greg likes to have a little bit of everything in each piece, and I have to say it looks really pretty when you cut it in half. I've also used choc orange chocolate before, which was really good! You could really put anything in there that can be choc dipped, maybe even some crushed biscuit chunks? I used up a few leftover pieces of smashed choc honeycomb in the last batch I made. The key is, quality ingredients will give you a quality result. I made the mistake of using cheap marshmallows on the first batch I made and it was rubbish! I haven't done that again.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

I can tell that we are gonna be friends!

Well, here it is in all it's finished glory - the red white and black blanket! I thought the dramas I had with this one would end my love affair with crochet, but now that it's done and sent off to it's intended recipient (and if this is YOU then please act shocked when you open it!) I have to say, I'm really happy with it.

So now that we're all friends again, let me explain from the beginning why this blanket nearly drove me up the wall.

The original concept was simple: a blanket made up of 9 squares (50cm each) so it would be 150cm square. It was to be in different tones of red, black, white, grey and burgundy. Each square would be made using a different crochet technique, so that it had a patchwork feel to it.

The first square to be completed was the skull square. I'd seen a pattern on Flickr (thanks to underthevalley http://www.flickr.com/photos/nat_neko/3456699344/ ) and wanted to give it a go, and so I did. I loved the result but decided I didn't care for making picture designs in crochet as there are far, far too many ends to weave in. And we all know how I feel about end-weaving! So I went back to my list and changed the few squares that would require much end-weaving. The only one I left was the square with the wording, I figured I was writing block letters and the end-weaving was minimal, so I wrote myself a pattern for the words and got stuck in. I learned that it doesn't matter if you're working in straight lines or doing small patches of colour, there's still a hell of a lot of little fluffy end bits that need seeing too. Hmm, let's re-assess the patterns, I say.

Next was a black and white checkerboard patterned square (which sadly, didn't make the final cut). I decided I'd make it like 5 little scarves, alternating between black and white after so many rows, then stitching them together side-by-side at the end. I thought it would would quicker than making granny squares and stitching them together, and there would be less ends. True, there were less ends. But it wasn't quicker and the end result was a square that wasn't actually square but rectangular. Bum.

So, feeling peeved I started on the mitred square and was pleased with how it looked. It's a great pattern and nicely geometric, but when I laid it out with the squares and rectangle I'd already done, I decided that geometric shapes need balance and symmetry, so I had to complete 3 more to make the corner squares. However, I ran out of the yarn I was using and had to use different yarn on the 4th square. No big drama, *recipient* won't notice, right? Just keep going...

Next was a gorgeous square made from 9 granny squares out of the Jan Eaton "200 crochet blocks" book, in the red, white, grey, black and burgundy colour combo I had originally intended. It's pretty, I think. However, you may notice it's not part of the final blanket.

So now I'm up to 8 of 9 of the squares. Good, I'm on the home stretch now and I just need one more square to finish it off and hooray! we're done. I decide to make a nice striped square with the same colours of the Jan Eaton squares so that they all tie in to one another. It worked up quickly and again, I think it looks lovely.

I clear the loungeroom floor of everything and lay out the squares, but I don't think it looks right. After about 15 minutes of "what if I swap that one with this, and rotate that one like this...." I look to my husband and say, "It sucks and I hate it". To which he tactfully answers, "It doesn't suck baby, just...have you tried...?" and suggested the layouts I'd previously tried. Nothing. I sighed, picked up the checkerboard square and say "It's all your fault, you just don't fit in!!" and toss it in the spare room. Again, it's the symmetry that bothers me. It just isn't balanced and I need to find something similar to the skull because then it'll be even and it'll be perfect.

I need something gothy, something punk and symbolic...hours of fruitless internet searching yields nothing but a migraine that leaves me blind in the right eye. There's nothing for it but to write my own pattern. Gasp! Hence the ankh pattern was born, and I stitched it up and was well impressed with the result. (See previous post for patterns).

Then, looking at the squares laid out again, I turn to my husband and say "The squares with the grey have to go - but what will take their place?" Unfortunately, he's an xbox man and doesn't know much about crochet (other than, it's what I do!), so I jump back on the internet and search for free patterns. After a day of seaching, I decide I'm willing to pay for something. Another day, no results. Bugger it. So, I create the crow pattern. I stitch him up and I'm happy with that one too. Although, I did realise about 3/4 of the way through I'd used 12 ply yarn while I'd been using 8 ply previously. Probably had something to do with the yarn band being in German or Dutch or something. Hmm. Oh well I'm almost done now!
The last square. This is it, the final showdown. I was going to try a dragon pattern I had, but pulled it undone 3 times and decided it just wasn't going to work. The problem is, I like to work in double crochet (trebles for UK terminology) so this messes with the patterns. I do 2 doubles per one stitch on the chart when working across, but only one for the height since it's a double and is already twice the height. This means that the design ends up being a little fatter than the chart represents, or a little shorter than it's supposed to be. This was the reason I dismissed the awesome pentagram design from Sooticas Dream on Flickr ( http://www.flickr.com/photos/sooticasdream/3476198617/) because it'd mess with it too much. Then I had a brilliant idea. I'd work the pattern from the side, so that it stretched it up instead of out. Success!
Then yesterday, I laid it out and thought "Yes, this is it!" and whip stitched those suckers together, then finished off with a border of white single crochet. It's done, as of 12.35am last night. I posted it off this morning, and now I am happy again. Next project please!!

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Blanket That May Just Push Me Over The Edge

Yes...this may the one that causes a mental breakdown. It's certainly been responsible for many a foul swear word in the last few weeks. The "red black and white blanket" will be mentioned in this post today, and maybe one photo of it once it's completed...then we will never speak of said item EVER again.

I'm making the blanket for someone I love dearly, which may be why I am stressing so much over it. Searching the internet for free patterns that fall under the catergory of "goth" or "punk" yields very little, even the ones you need to pay for are very light-on. So I've had to write my own patterns, which sounds easy enough in theory but ughhhhh, it's not.

Anyway, since I've written these ones and there aren't many freebies on the net, I thought I'd share them here. Use them for your own personal work, but don't try and resell it or claim it as your own work. I believe in "credit where credit is due" so please do the right thing. Oh, and if you use it, I'd LOVE to see a picture of it!

Like the Joy Division songCrow on a branch

Ankh (Egyptian cross)

I have crocheted extra squares for this blanket, and either abandoned them in the spare room or just pulled them undone (doesn't that just make you want to cry?). Really, this blanket is getting my goat and I'll be really happy when it's done and I can wrap it up and send it away. Does anyone else have a project like that, that they'll be happy to see the end of? Let me know!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


On one of my many trips around the internet looking for patterns to finish off the *seemingly endless* red black and white blanket I'm working on (I'll explain later), I came across a pattern for these cute granny square slippers. My friend's birthday is coming up and I thought they'd make an excellent little gift. I used leftover yarn from the rainbow ripple blanket I did, and they came out looking really pretty...my son liked them too so I made him a pair in his size! The good thing about the pattern is that it's so adaptable, and you can use up scraps in something functional. I like that they were quick to make.
Pattern is from the Purl Bee: www.purlbee.com/granny-square-slippers/

Green and blue square is the toe end, pink and green the heel: multi-coloured squares are the soles.

Just to give you an idea of what they look like on!

Small ones for my boy

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Handcrafted Gift Season has begun...

Yes, it's coming close to Christmas and the time of year I have to really crank out the pressies. There's a whole lot of birthdays coming up in the months before Christmas, then the big event itself, so that doesn't leave much time. Chop chop, snap to it and all that!

This wrap skirt is a birthday gift that needs to get sent today if it's to make it to the recipient in time. I finished it about an hour ago. You wouldn't think a wrap skirt would be too hard, would you? Well in actual fact it isn't really, it's just that I always find taking direction from other people all too hard and end up making things difficult for myself because I just want to do it my way. (Yeah, fight the system! The Man isn't going to hold me down!)

Anyways, it's done and I think it turned out pretty cute. I just love the Japanese style fabric, I'm not sure if you can tell but there's actually metallic gold print for the outlines. I used the pattern (kind of!) from http://www.bigredcouch.com/journal/archives/2007/03/wrap-skirt.html but because I'm not quite sure of the exact size of the person receiving this (she just had a baby but is usually about the same size as me) I made a little bigger than needed to fit me then added 2 darts to the back panel. That way there's enough fabric to let it out if needed, but it's ready to wear if she's about the same size.

There were many a sew/unpick drama in the making of this skirt but I think I finally got it right. I think. Doesn't help that the presser foot doesn't stay up on my sewing machine anymore, which is a worry since I had it replaced once before and the machine is only 12 months old - not sure if I'm too hard on it or it's just a design fault. Ho hum, better take it out to get fixed again!

I'm working on some other crochet stuff too, pics soon...

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Working on the Neverending WIP

Last night, I finished the row of neutral colours for this blanket. I'd already finished the row of varigated colours and the warm stripe was one of the first things I'd done! I attached them late last night, and there's only one long row left to do - cool blues, greens and purples for the right side of the blanket (opposite side to the pink/yellow/red long stripe). I'd really just like to have this finished and done with, which means a virtual sweatshop to get that last row done...but I've got a heap of other things I'm working on and I'm at a crossroads with what to do.

Anyway, the latest additions to this blanket are the neutral colours across the top, varigated row along the bottom and the pink/yellow/red etc long stripe down the left side.

Recycle Upcycle

I've not written for a while because I've been working on a few projects that are to be gifts for people who may actually read this, so I'm not going to fill you in on that just yet! Let's just say, the after-Christmas posting is going to be HUGE. We'll leave it at that.

In the meantime, check out the awesome retro shopping bags I made from an old tablecloth. Pretty slick huh? I got 4 from this tablecloth, and I've cut up a vintage Sheridan sheet and got 6 bags from that. They're mostly done, I just lost momentum with them and put them aside for now. I'll get back to them later...for now I just love these ones. Funny, I didn't think much of the tablecloth in it's original form, but love these now they're bags.

Pattern from http://www.morsbags.com

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Pocket-sized dragons

A little while ago I had a go at making an amigurumi dragon pattern, which turned out pretty good. In fact, it was pretty popular among my friends and I even made a couple for a quick bit of cash! It also had a good response on Flickr, and so after urgings from Biz I have now written the pattern out and plan to sell it on Etsy. (She's going to test it for me and see if the instructions make sense...) This particular little orange and green guy will be for my nephew's birthday in a few weeks time, I needed to make one to test and perfect the pattern so he's been quite useful. Cute too, don't you think?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Things with faces

A few months ago, my beautiful arty friend Haline gave me a book on making Amigurumi - little crochet toys. It's gorgeous and has given me something else I can crochet besides blankets and scarves! I made a whole lot out of the book, came up with a pattern of my own and raided other people's blogs and craft pages for free patterns too. Yay internet!

I've now sent my 2nd Flickr Amigurumi swap overseas...although I think this may be the last one for a bit. VERY expensive to send the stuff, that's the downfall of living in Australia I suppose. It's a long way to anywhere from here! For this swap I made a cupcake and a mushroom with faces, I reckon they're cute and hopefully the girl I sent them to likes them also.

Cakie and Mushie

This little doughnut guy was made for Biz, for my first Ami swap. He was based on the character from the Wrigley's Extra gum ad - http://www.munkmotion.com/ver4/projectsPage.php?id=00003&img=00052

And, in a not-so-co-incidental co-incidence, the guy who designed this character happens to be friends with the girl who gave me the original Amigurumi book. Oooh freaky! The circle of life, people, the circle of life....

Pink doughnut guy
My other amigurumi pictures can be seen on my Flickr account, there's not enough room here for me to upload them all.


Sunday, August 2, 2009

Experiments in Miniatures

I'm doing my second Amigurumi swap on Flickr at the moment. My swap partner has Blythe dolls and I thought it might be cute to crochet a Blythe-sized chocolate cake. The thing is, I've never actually a) crocheted a cake and b) done anything in miniature. So wisely (and without an actual pattern) I had a go at making one anyway. Here's how it went:

Side angle view
Top view

Close up

It turned out all right, but I wasn't happy enough with it to send it off as a gift to someone. So I presented it to my own Blythe petite doll, Ruth. She dug it.

Look at those eyes!!

The hook in the photos isn't the one I used to make the cake, it's just there for perspective. I actually used a size 3mm hook for this one, and some Anchor stranded cotton (the stuff used for cross stitch and embroidery). The beads on top are little coral hearts I bought from a clearance sale at Spotlight about 18 months ago.
When I finish the Amigurumi for the swap I'll post the pics here, along with the other one I did for the first swap with Biz.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Opposite ends of the scale

Last night I finished the baby ripple blanket, yay! The edging is solid double crochet along the top and bottom, and a mesh along the sides. I used yarns of different thicknesses so the side edges were a little uneven, crocheting the mesh allowed it to "breathe" and even out a bit. It's still a little wavy but not enough to make me unhappy. So here we have a definite "finished object".
Green-blue baby ripple

On the other end of the scale, here is the WIP that has been in progress since December last year! It was meant to be a stash-buster and use up all the yarn I had, but the colours would have been a little bland and I ended up buying some more to mix it up! It's taken so long as I've been doing many, many other projects in the meantime, and I really want to finish it off so I can complete some other things without having this one hanging over me. I still have 4 strips to do, one for each side, so that it's final size is 2 metres square - big enough to cover our queen bed. Actually, I've done 2 of the 4 remaining sides but I haven't attached them yet. I need to finish the other 2 bits first so it can be pieced together properly.

The never-ending WIP

I originally wanted to make a Babette blanket, but the idea of having different sized squares that needed to be pieced together kind of freaked me out. Why? I don't know. I'm just someone who needs things to be in order and equally balanced. When I crochet there needs to be a set colour pattern with repetition and equality. I tried to be random with some of the squares but even then, I set some kind of formula for how many rows of each colour. Bah! The green-blue baby ripple blanket was supposed to have random colour changes too, but it didn't. Still looks good though.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Blanket mania pt. 2

These are the 4 blankets I made for Christmas last year, 3 for my brother's kids and one for my own! I started about August which seems a little early, but I was planning my November wedding and wanted to get them all done in time. I did, well all except for my son's blanket. I ran out of orange yarn on Christmas Eve, drove like mad to the shops but they were already closed. Bummer! So he got it the day after Boxing day once the shops had opened for the mental Boxing Day sales and I had time to finish the remaining rows. He loves it and calls it his "Rainbow Blanket". It was a great way to use up lots of leftovers I had and wouldn't have used otherwise.

Rainbow Blanket

This one is for my neice, she was 1 last Christmas and I wanted to give her a blanket that was bright but not over-the-top girly or babyish so she could still use it as she got older. I used the leftovers from this one to make the Rainbow Blanket for my son. There was only the one change of colour per square so I didn't bother weaving in the ends as I went, as a result when I'd finished all the squares I abandoned it and started (and completed!) the blankets for her 2 older brothers! I eventually went back and wove them all in, crying and swearing to myself that I'd never, EVER again leave the end-weaving 'til last. Ever.

Bright Blanket

I like to think of this one as the "Forest" Blanket because of the earthy green and brown. My nephew loves bright lime green, but after searching and failing to find the green in question I decided that this colour scheme would still be nice. I'm not really a fan of brown as a colour, but recently I've found that it's actually a pretty good colour for blanket making. The green is almost an army green colour, and the lighter yarn is a varigated cream and beige. This one was fairly easy to make, as it's one large Granny Square. I changed the number of rounds so the further the colour bands came out from the middle, the more rows there were. And I just worked over the ends after a colour change so when it was all done I only had a few little bits to neaten up with a pair of scissors. Ha! Pure genius. Again, a colour scheme that still made the blanket useful as he got older.

Forest Blanket

This next one, for the oldest of my brother's 3, I was going with a "Delft Blue" theme, like the gorgeous pottery from the Netherlands. It was going to be all smaller Granny Squares alternating between the typical Granny Square with a few colour changes and one solid block of colour with a light blue border. But I got bored about halfway through and nearly abandoned it all together (seems to happen at the halfway mark with me - the first half is mega easy then the second half takes forever....) So I stopped and pieced together a 9 square centre. Then I did laps around it until it was big enough to fit the remaining squares as a border. Ta da! A beautiful finished lapghan in 3 shades of blue with cream. Classy!
Delft Blue Blanket

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Blanket mania

I'm currently working on a ripple blanket in gender-neutral colours, as the parents aren't finding out the sex of the baby until it's born. What's up with that lately? Oh sure, I understand you want it to be a surprise, but it's not very convenient for the crafters who'd like to make you something ahead of time. *sigh* Well this is where I'm up to so far, I'm using the Neat Ripple Pattern by Attic24 http://attic24.typepad.com/weblog/neat-ripple-pattern.html which is a really nice one and it's easy too. She's even put step-by-step piccies up so you can see where you've nuts it up. Awesome. I really love this pattern because it's pretty AND it's all in double crochet, my favourite stitch.

I also did another baby ripple blanket in gender-neutral colours using a different pattern, Bev's Baby Ripple Afghan: http://www.bevscountrycottage.com/cp2.html This one is all in single crochet and takes a little longer, but geez it's nice.

Speaking of neutral colour schemes, I've recently completed a blanket for a wedding gift and had major dramas picking something neutral that would suit both bride and groom. The bride does like pink and I started with this idea:

But it was too girly, I figured that out by the time I'd done the 9 centre squares and pieced them together. This pattern was my own using techniques I'd learned by looking at various websites. It was all ok though, I wanted to make a blanket for a friend who was having a baby girl (the convenience of knowing beforehand!) so this was perfect for her.
After trawling the web for pattern and colour scheme ideas that would be both pleasing to the eye and gender-neutral for the future married couple, I decided on this. Chocolate brown, beige and cream mitred squares. I looked at a few patterns for the squares but I got confused (not hard when following someone else's instructions!) and just made it up. A 5-round square in cream, then changed colours and did only 2 sides of the square for the rest of it. There were 16 squares in total, and once it was all sewn up it's about 1.5m square.

It's rather heavy and should be pretty warm. The stitches are solid with very little in the way of gaps throughout the blanket, only really on the corners of the squares where you do the turns.
I've done a whole heap more in the way of gift blankets and will post the pics and info later, these are just the most recent ones.