Thursday, 18 December 2014

Even More Hectic December

One week today it'll be Christmas folks, but far more importantly to me, only six days 'til THE BIG DAY- my sister's wedding!
As I mentioned in my last post it's all go and I was right that I'd be hard pressed to blog, sorry!
I'm really enjoying all the making, however I still can't share most of it. I'm almost done, just need to do the alterations to her dress, which she bought, so no pressure there! That's the task for the weekend. Then the fresh flowers for the table decorations and her bouquet but that'll be the day before/morning of job.

In between the preparation for the main event I've managed to finish a few homemade gifts although I have bought Christmas cards this year, say whhhaattt? 
I know but what can a girl do when's there's only so many hours a day and the day job takes up a lot of them?!
I did find some I liked with owls (can't go wrong) which were just right to embellish, out came the glitter glue and the ever trusted buttons and they're now just a little more special....
I also managed to fit in a trip to Cardiff's Christmas Market and picked up some lovely pressies from local makers, always good!

My "go to" present when time is ticking is the always reliable cowl....
For the first one, I used super cosy Rowan Polar yarn (60% wool, 30% alpaca, 10% acrylic) which is sadly now discontinued :-( 
I used a scrummy, purple colour and crocheted three bands approximately 7cm wide and 60cm long. I then plaited them together and joined the ends with a few more rows of triple crochet and included a couple of button holes on one end. I used lush, chunky buttons on the other end and the result is a rather snug cowl.
For the other cowl, I used James C Brett's sumptuous Monsoon yarn (70% acrylic, 30% wool) but knitted this one. I simply knitted 5cm of double moss stitch then continued in stocking stitch. The wool produced lovely bands and lent itself to being symmetrical. Again I included two button holes which were made over two rows. I then attached two vintage buttons to complete it.
Although the cowl is 65cm long and 22cm wide, one ball was plenty with quite a bit left as you can see from the picture.
Hopefully the recipients like them!

Thanks so much once again for taking the time to read my post, it means a lot.
I hope you and your family have a wonderfully festive Christmas. Be prepared for wedding overload in the New Year ;-)
Until next time, craft in earnest! Craftin' Ernest xx

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Hectic November!

November is pretty much over and this is my first post for the month! I'm very sorry and I promise it's not that I'm being lax, I've had a lot to make and do this month and most of it I can't share yet! A few sneaky peeks won't hurt though ;-)

My wonderful sister/bestest buddy, Faye, is getting married this year, on Christmas Eve!! She's asked me to play a major part in the organising/details and I cannot express how thrilled and delighted I am about that, as such I've had lots to keep me busy. 
I made the invitations and response cards to send out this month and was really pleased that both the bride and groom were very happy with the finished result. They (she) wanted a snowflake theme so I combined shimmery card with vellum and embossing them together with a snowflake pattern before using a snowflake stamp and silver embossing powder to add some intricate detail. It's hard to capture the detail in a photograph but here's a close-up of the top and bottom...

We have had our hair trials which was a lot of fun. Faye realised she needed her hair accessory for it on the Wednesday beforehand. No problem, out came all my white and silver beads and I got to work on it. 
There's nothing quite as motivating as a tight deadline but I got it all finished and thankfully it was just right for what she wanted and she loved it. Here's a sneak peak in her hair...
Also, it was her Hen Party last weekend and that too involved lots of organising and making, all of which was a surprise for her. We had a truly amazing time making cocktails followed by a boat cruise. As there were 26 of us, I got the Shrink Plastic out and made badges for everyone- any excuse for some Shrinkies action ;-)
On top of all this I have had a few Christmas orders, including my favourite- owl doorstops. Here's two I made today ready to be stuffed and weighted.... 
This hasn't left me with much time to blog I'm afraid, sorry!
And with the countdown to the Big Day in full swing I don't think I'll be much better in December, but I'm incredibly excited and will try and share what I can.
Thanks so much for taking the time to read my post, I really appreciate it and would love to hear any comments you have!
Until next time, craft in earnest. Craftin' Ernest xx

Monday, 27 October 2014

Making a Wreath- Part 2 Going Autumnal

This post follows on from Part 1 which included the instructions to make the basic wreath, I used a length of thick ribbon to create a nice and strong way of hanging the wreath by threading it through the wire loop and tying a big bow.

I decided to go with traditional autumnal embellishments- a pumpkin and falling leaves.

To make the pumpkin, I cut a rough oval shape out of thick felt (I used the felted jumper I also used to cut some of the wreath circles), then sew around the edge using embroidery cotton, as it's nice and strong, and a wide running stitch.
I made sure the knot at the beginning was big and strong, when I got back to the first stitch I pull the thread to gather the top together and stuffed the inside- I used the off-cuts from all the felt cutting (afterwards I thought it would have been better to use something lighter in weight but it didn't worry me enough to change it). I sewed the hole together securely, this will be covered so didn't need to be very neat.
By using an oval and thick felt, a gnarly pumpkin shape is automatically created. I used further lengths of cotton to give definition by using a long needle and sewing from the top to the bottom and round the outside. 
I used a dark, green DK yarn to make the stalk.  I made it up as I went and didn't worry too much as it's meant to be shivelled and twisted. I started by knitting an icord and increased the number of stitches every couple of rows, I then cast off and switched to crochet.
Sew the woolly top onto the top of the pumpkin body with matching thread.
Using the knitted maple leaf pattern from 75 Birds & Butterflies to Knit and Crochet (see a previous blog here), I made two leaves, one in a burnt orange wool and one is a muted, yellowy beige. I also crocheted a khaki-green leaf with pinky, brown edging trying to mimic natural, autumnal, leaf discolouration, making it up as I went....
I attached each leaf to the wreath with a few stitches of matching thread.
Lastly I sewed the bottom of the pumpkin to the inside of the wreath. There you have it, ready to hang!
Sorry they're not great pictures as it was dark outside but my Mum was delighted with it, I'm pleased to say.
I'd love to hear any comments you have. Thanks so much for taking the time to read my post!
Until next time, craft in earnest! Craftin' Ernest x

Friday, 17 October 2014

Making A Wreath- Part 1

My Mum loves a wreath for the front door and she has this one, I made for her up, hanging during the Summer months.
She loves Hallowe'en so I thought I would make her an autumnal wreath which can also double up for Hallowe'en with a couple of easy to add/remove additions.

I used the same technique on both for the basic wreath.
For this you will need:
Thick florist wire (I used approx 50cm/20'')
Felt of various colours- I used shrunken jumpers for both
Wire cutters (not in the photograph)
Cut out a large number of circles of about 6cm diameter from each colour felt, you'll need quite a lot- I used about 200 circles of quite thick felt. They really don't need to be perfect and a little irregularity actually adds to the appeal.
WARNING- cutting out thick felt can be difficult and a strain for your hand, I know this from experience and a week later my right thumb is still experiencing a tingling, numb sensation. I know it's really tempting to get it all done but please don't risk injury, take regular breaks if necessary.

Now shape a loop at one end of the wire, florist wire is quite malleable so is easy to shape, it also doesn't need to be super neat as it won't be seen.
Next thread the felt circles randomly onto the wire by poking the wire through the centre- you may have to cut a little nick in the felt if it's too thick to slide on.
Pack them all tightly, pushing them down as you go. Once all the circles have been thread on, wrap the straight end of the wire around the looped end and cut off the excess.
This provides a nice sturdy wreath to embellish....
There you have it, a basic wreath!
You can add all sorts of embellishments to suit you taste and the season. 
For the Summer one, I made a couple of crochet daisies with needle felted centres and felt leaves. I hung a mini birdhouse in the centre with a bee charm attached with glue (after removing the loop for hanging it).
As this is for the Autumn, I decided to go traditional and will give details together with the pictures of it all finished in the next post.
Hopefully my Mum will be as pleased with this one as she was with the Summer one?
Until next time, craft in earnest! Craftin' Ernest x

Monday, 13 October 2014

Wrapping Paper

I love wrapping presents, so much so I'd do it as a job if I could.
Having said that I can feel rather guilty about the frivolous nature of wrapping gifts with paper and the cost to the planet. I always try to unwrap things carefully so I can reuse the paper for something, be it to wrap something else or to make a card or line something, whatever it is it's good to reuse and is cost-effective too- a nice bonus! There are some really gorgeous papers out there that are such good quality they can be used over and over, especially if tied with ribbon instead of using sticky tape.

I'm always on the look out for for things to use as wrapping paper or to make gifts bags etc.
With this philosophy in mind I rescued some paper from work recently after the photocopier had a "software malfunction" and printed out a document as a series of lines similar to a barcode. Most had an overall green appearance due to the stripes being blue, yellow and black and some were just black and white.

I immediately thought the green tone paper would make great Christmas wrapping and the black and white could be easily jazzed up.

I made a gift bag using one sheet of the green, just the right size to pop a few small Christmas presents before finishing it off with a festive bow. I used a box of tea as the base structure (see below) and began wrapping as per normal at one end but without sticking anything down. I then drew a flap template at the other end which I cut out with scissors. I stuck the edge and the folded end together with double sided sticky tape and attached a strip along the edge of the flap, ready for sealing.

Using this wonderful origami tutorial from the delightful Gathering Beauty, I used two, green sheets to make a box. I finished it off with red and white striped washi tape along with a gift bow made with the same tape and plain paper off-cuts. It's just right for a Christmas present of jewellery. 

I used a pink and a yellow highlighter to spruce up a sheet of black and white, I thought this was "bang on trend" ;-) as neon is everywhere at the moment and would be good for my friend's birthday as she likes bright colours. It looks great with black ribbon
Making your own stamps as in this post is a great way to personalise plain paper into something a little more special and could even make newspaper a possible source?!
The other black and white sheet was calling out for haphazardly stamped, hot pink bumblebees and to be made into a gift bag.
I covered it with transparent, sticky vinyl then I used the same technique as the Christmas bag, although, this time, I stuck the edge and flaps down as I went.
I then folded the top 2cm down all the way around and cut 2 holes in both of the wide sides approximately 1cm down. I threaded a piece of ribbon (liberated from inside a cardigan) through each side to create handles and used a bead on each end before knotting for extra security. I also popped a rectangle of card in the bottom for a bit of extra strength.
When that's all done you're left with with a lovely little gift which is durable enough to be used over and over!

I hope you like the results? Thanks so much for visiting my blog.
Until next time- craft in earnest, Craftin' Ernest x

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Learning to Crochet & Finishing a Long Forgotten Jumper

I realised over the weekend I learnt to crochet just over eight years ago now!
I used the book, "Good Housekeeping Crochet" which I had bought in a charity shop. It is still available second-hand from Amazon here and I've just noticed it's almost the same age as me (first published in 1981). I think it's great (as do both people who gave it 5* reviews on Amazon) and still regularly refer to it if I'm looking for a stitch. It doesn't contain patterns for items, it's more a directory of stitches and gives examples of things each stitch may be good for and suggested yarn, etc.

The first book I bought which contained patterns for finished items, just after I had mastered the basics, was "Chicks with Sticks Guide to Crochet" by Nancy Queen & Mary Ellen O'Connell. I bought it whilst in Ireland for my Grandma's 80th birthday party, she would have turned 88 last weekend so I know it's been eight years.
This book also has a good "how-to" section and discusses different yarn types etc. However, it is an American book and as such uses American terminology which I had to get my head around as I had only just got the hang of British terms.
I'm not a fan of every item in the book but there were a few items I really liked and it seemed like a good choice for a beginner especially from the options available in the general book shop I was in.
My favourite pattern is easily the shell stitch hat, Surfer Chick Quick Cap, on page 109. 
I have made this hat I don't know how many times, most female members of my family have received one at some point! I've made them in lots of sizes by changing the wool and hook size, right from newborn upwards. I also quite often add a accent such as a crocheted flower or a button. I also tend to make it a bit longer and not quite so tight as the one pictured in the book.
There's no scale in this picture but it's for a newborn and the yarn was a super soft mix.
The first item of clothing crochet item I attempted was the "No Sweat Hoodie" on page 91. This was just after the first hat I made. As I had found that nice and easy, I was buzzing with confidence. 
Unfortunately I never actually finished the hoodie though, I made all the sections but when it came to sewing it together I couldn't get it to work. So I folded it up, but it in a storage box and promptly forgot all about it. 
I decided now was the time to rescue the sections from the depths of my storage mountain and see if it's clear to me now that I have a good bit of experience behind me and I have to say I must have been a complete moron back then!!
I honestly don't know what was wrong with me but I can't have been thinking straight. The hoodie features raglan sleeves- I know full well what raglan sleeves are and did so long before I could crochet, so I don't know what my excuse is for completely missing an entire section of the pattern; this resulted in both my sleeves ending with straight tops without raglan shaping at all?!? 
Like I said, moron. I'm going to put it down to the fact I was very inexperienced at reading patterns. Suffice to say it would be impossible to finish it as it was. Thankfully I've come a long way since then so decided to finish the jumper.
I looked up to see if there were any discussions online and found some comments on Ravelry. That made me feel a whole lot better as other people were struggling with the back and I managed that at least. Although, looking at the pencil notes I made all over the place I don't think I found it super straight forward.
I finished the arms to a nice raglan point (yay!) 
After- raglan style!
I sewed the front, back and arms together and tried it on. It was okay but not great, a big short and tighter than I would have liked. To be honest the yarn I chose may have been a factor but it is the correct weight suggested and after doing a tension square I used a 12mm hook instead of 11.5mm to obtain the gauge needed. I loosely attached the hood and decided against it altogether, it didn't look right at all only coming up to the top of my head. 
So to increase the length, I decided to add a waist band using three rows of half treble stitches (US= half double stitches) and a row of double stitches (US = single stitch). 
Once I had done this I decided to make it a polo neck jumper with 4 rows of half trebles and a row of doubles to match the bottom and I completely disposed of the hood altogether. 
(If the sleeves hadn't been plenty long enough as they were, I would have added wristbands to match also.)
That's the great thing about a bit of experience, it gives you the confidence to change the pattern up a bit and even make your own patterns. In many ways I actually prefer to make it up as I go along now rather than reading a pattern but you do have to allow for trial and error!

I used Patons' "Eco Wool Chunky" to make the jumper and while it is really nice to crochet with and the result is lovely and snuggly, I'm not very keen on the colours. I think my taste must have changed since then, although it looks better as a ball. It is ecological though and knowing me it was probably on offer? ;-)

What do you think? Thanks so much for reading this post!

Until next time craft in earnest, Craftin' Ernest x

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Wool, Bees & London!

Ooh I've been a little lax of late post-wise as so much has been going on!
The weekend before last was truly wonderful thanks to the fantastic City of Bristol! Although I live in South Wales I am just a hop, skip and a jump from the border with England and thus only 20 minutes from Bristol (where I actually work and got married).
Bristol is such an amazing and colourful city, it's quite small but has a lot of diversity and has a truly ethical spirit. It has it's own barter currency, it really promotes supporting "local" and has a real artsy feel about it. The famous graffiti artist, Banksy is from Bristol and there's always some impressive art project taking place, for example see my previous post about Knitted Bristol here.

Being such a great place, more often than not there's something that attracts my attention but that weekend was extra special... Bristol hosted it's first WOOL FAIR and a BEE FESTIVAL!! Whoop, whoop, two of my favourite things :-D
I volunteered for 3 hours at the Wool Fair, my duty was to stand at the entrance/exit gate collecting people's tickets and giving them a wristband. It was a lot of fun and I met some interesting people, many of whom were quick to give their opinions (most of which were positive thankfully) and saw lots of sheep and a couple of lovely alpacas. 
For the few hours of volunteering, I had free access to the event and felt totally justified spending the money I had saved on the entrance fee (and a bit more too) on woolly goodies!
Here is my lovely haul...
If I really had to choose a favourite it may be the pair of 11mm rosewood knitting needles from The Little Knitting Company. They're such a pleasure to knit with and what made me love them even more was my husband thought I'd bought myself a Harry Potter wand when he first saw one of them.

The Bee & Pollination Festival was hosted by The University of Bristol's Botanic Garden which is a wonderful venue in itself. There were lots of exhibitors, talks and demonstrations and, as it was a beautiful day, there were lots of bees and pollinators about, doing their thing, buzzzzz!

After the fun of the weekend I had my birthday to look forward to so made a week of it. I headed to London for a girly break with my sister for a few days. We shopped a lot, caught a West End show, "The Pajama Game" which we really enjoyed and it included sewing (it was set in a pyjama factory), perfect!

We returned in time for my birthday on Friday, this was spent exploring the amazing Roman ruins in Caerleon which is only 15 miles from where we live and eating lots of cake.

Then on Saturday I hot-footed it back to London for a long weekend, this time with the hubby for more sight-seeing and BBC Radio 2's Festival in a Day. 
Of course, I took some crochet with me to keep me busy between the bands.
Again we had a fantastic time and we got to see the incredible poppy art installation at The Tower of London, "Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red". It marks the anniversary of the First World War and by the end of Autumn the Tower's dry moat will be filled with 888,246 ceramic poppies, each one representing a British or Colonial soldier killed during the war. The last poppy will put in place on Remembrance Day. Already it is a pretty incredible sight and very moving.
So all in all I've been pooped since we got home on Monday, I returned to work on Tuesday and I have only just returned to "normality"!
Thanks so much for reading, I really appreciate it.
Until next time, craft in earnest! Craftin' Ernest x