25 December, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Crocheted snowflake hanging in the kitchen window on a hot and humid summer afternoon. I think irony might be the right term for it! #crochet #snowflake #christmas

Merry Christmas to you all! It's a humid and rather unpleasant day here in Auckland as we catch the tail of ex-cyclone Evan, but Santa made it here fine despite the weather and we're having a very quiet day with just the three of us. I hope wherever you are, whether its Christmas Day or Christmas Eve, that you enjoy it thoroughly!

One of the things Santa, or should I say the reindeer, left behind was a little deposit near the reindeer food, carrots and water we put out on the deck. Apparently reindeer eat cocoa, coffee grounds, our reindeer food (oats and glitter), a few drops of oil and some water.

Hazel: They're real reindeer poo!
Me: How do you know?
Hazel: I poked them with the end of the old broom stick. Don't touch it, it's covered in poo. 

Reindeer poo (cocoa, coffee grounds, oats, glitter, a few drops of oil, water). Either I have reached the heights of verisimilitude, or I've tipped over the edge into complete insanity. My husband thinks its the latter. #reindeerpoo #christmas

The things we do to keep the dream alive eh?

19 December, 2012

The Math Facts Quilt

Math facts quilt for Hazel's teacher

Phew! Done in the nick of time - last day of school tomorrow and I handed it over this afternoon. It's been awful weather for even standing next to a quilt, very hot and humid, and even more so when I gave it to her teacher, but it'll come in handy in the winter I'm sure!

The pattern is by Crazy Mom Quilts, but I added in the minus and division signs (forgot equal until it was too late!) and it's a bit smaller than the pattern calls for, more lap-sized.  Although you can't really tell from this photo, there are four different reds used in the quilt which gives it a nice mottled look. The differences are more subtle than in the pattern example, and they're all solids. Two I already had in my stash and two are Moda Bella - Betty's Red and ummm... (Helen, help! what was the other one?)

The back is a very cute blue gingham, and it's bound with a larger red gingham by Riley Blake, both from The Little Craft Store. They definitely saved it from looking too Christmassy - a natural hazard for anything red and white at this time of the year!

Hazel did the dedication to her teacher in fabric pens, I think it's sweet - love how she mentioned guitar first rather than two years of being her teacher! She's had Ms. N. for two years and is moving on to a new teacher next year, again for two years. It's a wrench for all of us because Ms. N is a delightful, inspiring and genuinely all-round very cool teacher and I know that Hazel has been lucky to have her. She's getting married over the summer too, so this quilt is also part wedding present.

Math facts quilt for Hazel's teacher

 The null set square came out well too

 Math facts quilt for Hazel's teacher

It didn't all go smoothly though, mainly because my walking foot seemingly stopped working after about four lines of quilting. It's been a bit dodgy since one of the plastic prongs that hold it on to the foot post broke, but it started slipping off and so I gave it up and went on with the regular foot. Big mistake! I didn't realise until I was done that despite my best efforts it was pushing the top around and I ended up with wrinkles and a bit of distortion. I tried the walking foot again for the binding and of course it was fine! Oh well. It's not too awful on the whole, and it definitely doesn't look as bad as the photos suggest!

16 December, 2012

Is this now a crochet blog?

No, no it's not but it does seem to be all I blog about at the moment! I'm sure that will change at some point but at the moment it's all I have to blog about :)

So what am I crocheting at the moment? Coasters and table mats, or place mats or pot thingies or trivets or whatever they are called, I'm not sure. I got the pattern from one of the three great crochet books I have out from the library - Simple Crocheting (or Simple Crochet or Crochet Workshop as it's also known by - why three different titles?!) by Erika Knight. The other two are Creative Makers: Simple Crochet and Knot's Itoami Plants, which I'll hopefully get around to saying something about soon. Anyways, I'm really enjoying Simple Crocheting and will definitely be getting it for myself, it has a great assortment of actually useful projects and was quite popular at knitting/crochet group last week when I took it along. 

Crocheted table mats

 They're done in cotton yarn and there are three motifs to do all up. This is the first time I've used cotton and it's just some cheapy stuff I picked up from Spotlight so I suspect possibly not the easiest stuff to work with. Much less forgiving than wool, but I love how defined the pattern looks with it. I have to say I had some problems with the patterns, I ended up having to improvise several times and change things around to get them to work. I don't know if that's me as a beginner or the patterns themselves or what. For example I had to remove one chain between clusters on the last round of the grey one because it wasn't laying flat. I didn't do one round on the pink because it just didn't sit nicely - but they both look fine in the book's examples. Maybe it's the yarn? I also really struggled with the way the patterns started new rounds, it just seemed to be really awkward and I was left with ugly thick bits and wonky-looking areas. It also does a lot of stitches into the top of dc (or tc in British terms) which I found almost impossible to get to look nice. In the end I tried to work into chain spaces where I could and slip stitched into spaces to start and it just went more smoothly. Is that a style thing maybe? I suspect my lack of experience. Anyways, the result is worth any minor quibbles! And thank god for You Tube when it came time for the dc5tog on the green ice crystal, there's nothing in the book about how to do it, but just google your problem and some nice and talented person has made a video for you that solves everything.

Funnily, I had done a couple before I realised I was supposed to be doing them with the yarn doubled, so I ended up with big and small versions! The big grey one is about 18cm across and the little one is 11cm.

Double vs. single yarn motifs

It's a totally different effect with doubled yarn. The little coasters are delicate and sweet, the thicker ones lose the pattern a bit, but have a nice solidity to them, the pink begonia wheel especially (that's my favourite pattern by far). I tried repeatedly to make puff stitches in the first round of the big grey wagon wheel as per the pattern, but just couldn't make anything that looked halfway decent. There weren't actually any directions for puff stitches in the pattern, so I went from a puff stitch in another project, which was fine in the single yarn, and when that didn't work for the double I tried less loops until I just gave up and did dc clusters instead. Again, yarn maybe? I'm going to get some good cotton and make some more over the holidays.

I'm looking forward to trying a few more projects from the book because they really are lovely, although I'm not 100% confident that I won't run in to pattern issues like I did with this one. Still, if it comes out in the end you can't complain too much can you?

Gardenia motif

02 December, 2012

Crocheted snowflakes

Crochet snowflakes

I think I'm kind of addicted to making these! I've spent quite a lot of time trolling Ravelry and Pinterest for various patterns, and I know I've only skimmed the surface! I really need to get one of those '1001 Snowflakes to Crochet' kind of books, but of course they're all out of the library at this time of the year.

I've been experimenting with different hook sizes and with two different yarns - both 8-ply but one is slightly felted and I think it shows off the patterns slightly better, but they're both fine.

The most common one up there is from Attic24's wonderful tutorial - if you haven't made snowflakes before I highly recommend starting with that one and it gives you all the skills you need to move on to other variations. They're really quite simple once you get going. I've stiffened them with a mixture of PVA glue and water, directions are here. My solution was probably more like 70/30 water and PVA than 50/50 though, I didn't want them to be too stiff.

Other patterns I've used are:
My favorite snowflake
Snowflake ornament at Redheart
Drops Snow Stars
Quick Picot Snowflake (also available as a free class from Craftsy)
Not pictured is Meet Met At Mike's stars which I tried last night - quite a different technique and look than these ones (not surprisingly considering they're stars!), but still fun.

Crochet snowflakes


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