Wednesday, October 22, 2014

How To... Make a Hanging Halloween Decoration

You will need

A fallen branch collected from a woodland walk - trim off any unwanted bits and let it dry out before using
a couple of metres of ribbon
orange and black felt
card and paper for templates
basic sewing kit (needle, thread, pins)

Start by making your templates - you can draw them free hand like I did or try Googling 'Halloween Templates' for downloadable/printable templates.  I drew half images on the fold of a cereal box. Cut the half image out, place it along the fold of a piece of paper then draw around the shape.

 Cut around the image leaving a half centimetre or so margin around the line you have drawn (I'll explain why in a mo), then open out the paper piece, flip the template over (if you have used an old cereal box like me, so the printed side of the card is facing up), line it up and draw the other half of your template in.  You will need one paper template for each felt piece you want (I used 4 bats, 3 pumpkins and 2 cats)

Now pin your paper templates to your felt.

When cutting felt shapes out it can be quite tricky to get a good crisp line. When you cut through both paper AND felt it it much easier, this is why you need that little half cm margin! 

If you prefer you can just make card templates and draw round them straight onto the felt (biros are good for this) but I prefer this slightly more labour intensive method...

Arrange your felt pieces along lengths of ribbon. I used this lovely black and white spotty ribbon from the Jane Means collection - perfect for Halloween crafting! Make your hangers different lengths and arrange the shapes until you are happy with the way they balance out. Then pin them into place, making sure each piece is central on the ribbon.

Stitch the pieces into place using a simple running stitch (be careful not to pull the thread to tight or the ribbon will pucker up)

I love the contrast of this bright green vintage thread from Nan's sewing box!

Now loop your ribbon lengths over your branch and pin then stitch into place.

Tie each end of a length of thread, knitting yarn or string to each end of the branch to hang your Halloween decoration by. 

We added some pompoms too... just for good measure!

This super simple Halloween hanging decoration would be an ideal half-term craft project for older children. You can use coloured papers instead of felt if you want; try a garden cane or even a wrap a coat hanger in washi tape or crepe paper to hang your ribbons from.  Add pipe cleaner legs to turn the pompoms into black fluffy spiders for extra spook-factor...

Our hanger will probably end up in the kitchen window, casting spooky shadows across the front path to welcome trick or treaters on Halloween night. If you do the same, make sure you don't hang it near an open flame such as a flickering candle - we don't want any accidents!

Wishing you all a Spooktastic Halloween!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Gang Labs 2 Winner!!!

Just a quick post to say....

Oh Em Geeee!

My Koselig Blanket design only went and WON the Wool and the Gang Gang Labs 2 competition!!!

I am currently happy dancing around the living room whilst decoding my notebook scribbles to get the pattern written out ready for publication...

So, thank you everyone who took the time to vote for my design, it is much appreciated! This year has been one of much soul searching and wondering what I am  ACTUALLY going to do with my life (turning 40 can do that to you...) and winning this competition has confirmed to me that following my heart and taking this  new direction is definitely the right way to go.

Can't wait to see my blanket available to buy as a knit kit on Wool and the Gang's website!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

How to... Crochet a made-to-measure plant pot cosy

I picked up a lovely pot of apricot coloured chrysanthemums from my local supermarket for a bargain price of 60p the other day. I do hate to see a good plant left to die so naturally it came home with me.
All it needed was a good water and a bit of dead heading to look as good as it's full-priced sisters.

Oh, and something HAD to be done about it's somewhat dowdy pot...

I love upcycling jam jars with little crochet covers so I though that would be the perfect way to spruce up the 'mum pot too. Thing is, unlike jam jars that tend to come in a pretty standard size, most pots are NOT the same so here is a little 'how to' for making the perfect, made-to-measure crochet plant pot cosy... (please note this cosy was made for my much loved Echeveria plant so I could take step by step photos for the purpose of this post...)

First thing you will need to do is take three measurements - the bottom of your pot, halfway up your pot (as most are tapered) and around the rim.  For my pot the measurements were 27cm (base) 30cm (halfway up) and 37cm (rim)

Now hook up a length of chain stitches to fit comfortably around your base. I used Drops Bomull Lin yarn I had left over from a bag I crocheted earlier in the summer and a 4.5mm hook - for my pot I needed 46 chains. Slip stitch the last chain to the first to create a ring. Ch 1 then 1dc into each chain all the way around, slip stitch into first ch.

For the next round I hooked trebles - so ch3 then 1tr into each stitch all the way round, slip stitch into top of first tr. Repeat until you get halfway up the pot - on this cosy it was only 2 rounds of trebles, on the 'mums cosy it was three as the pot was taller!
Now you need to increase your stitches to accommodate the widening of the pot. You can work increases by hooking 2 trb in one stitch.  My halfway measurement was 3cm larger than the base. I measured my work to see how many trebles there were in 3 cm and it was 6 - this is how many stitches I need to increase on the next round. I spaced them evenly around the circle - every 7tr is an increase.

After the increase round check the cosy on the pot again for fit. As you can see on this pot the increase row takes me quite close to the rim. I want to add an eyelet row below the rim for some ribbon trim so my next round was just dc into each stitch to give me room for the eyelet row which comes next...

for the eyelet row you need to leave a gap between each tr to thread the ribbon - the easiest way to do this is tr1, ch1, miss a ch then tr 1 in next ch, ch1, miss a ch, tr 1 and so on... all the way round. Don't worry too much if you end up with 2 tr stitches next to each other at the beginning/end of round.

 Try it on the pot for size again...

 ...then hook 1dc into the top of each stitch for next round.

Now we need to increase again to get the cosy up over the rim.  Again check your measurements. This time I needed to increase the round by 7 cm (rim measurement minus halfway measurement) which meant approx 14 stitches. I did a 2 tr increase every four stitches which actually gave me a 13 stitch increase which was close enough!

Try it on for size again - a tall rim may need another row of trebles, a row of dc's may be enough for a smaller rim.
Finally you may want to add a pretty edging. I used a simple picot stitch for this cosy (*1dc, ch 3, 1 dc in same stitch, 1dc in each of next 2 ch* repeat from *-*) but you could use any edging you prefer or just finish off with a row of slip stitches in a contrast colour. It's your custom made cosy - make it your own!!
Again don't panic too much if the pattern doesn't match up perfectly at the end!
Thread some pretty ribbon through the eyelet holes - I used Jane Means Narrow Stitched Ribbon in sage for the 'mums cosy and the gorgeous Vibrant Turquoise stitched ribbon for the Echeveria pot cosy.

And there you have it - how to create a made-to-measure crochet cosy to pretty up your plants.

Happy Hooking xx

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Ganglabs #2 - The Koselig Blanket

Do you remember my very excited post back in June about how I got shortlisted in the very first Wool and the Gang Ganglabs challenge? Click here to read all about it...  (The competition was extremely popular and you may be interested to know that the three winning designs are now available to buy as knit kits )

WATG announced the Ganglabs #2 in the middle of July, and possibly the best summer weather we have had in years! Despite the soaring temperatures, however, we were asked to think about cold winter nights and submit beautiful blanket designs made with the gorgeous chunky soft Crazy Sexy Wool and WATG's new HUGE 25mm needles!

With just ten days to submit designs I got to work straight away...

I started knitting swatches using Magic Mint (it's really more of a turquoise but I am not one to split hairs...)

I wanted to create a beautiful textured fabric so I delved into a fab vintage knitting stitch book my mother-in-law lent me. Working with the huge needles was a challenge in itself and finding a stitch pattern that was simple to work, that held it's shape and wasn't too 'holey', bearing in mind that the recommended needle size for this wool is usually up to 15mm, was very much a case of trial and error but I finally settled on a beautiful herringbone stitch...

...and of course I simply HAD to add a fringe...

For the second Ganglabs challenge Wool and the Gang were only going to shortlist three designs so I was over the moon when I found out that, once again, I had made it to the shortlist and would get to turn my idea into an ACTUAL sample!

I received a box full of lovely squishy wool all ready to knit up my design and as I had planned to take Riley to my mum and dad's place in Wales two days before the deadline I had just five days to do it!

The blanket is knitted in two panels but that's still a fair few chunky ol' stitches on the needle!

Big needles + big wool makes for a fast growing blanket though! Each panel took approx 5 hours to knit...

The two panels are then stitched together using a large sewing needle.

Wool spaghetti! Cutting lengths of wool for the fringe...

...which is added to the cast on and cast off edges.

Presenting the Koselig Blanket!

Koselig is a Norwegian word usually translated into English as 'cosy' but it means so much more than that! It is all about creating a feeling of deep warmth and contentment, companionship and comfort. The Koselig Blanket perfectly embodies this - warm, soft, comforting, beautiful to look at and perfect for snuggling under with someone special....

I think Riley likes it!

The cat also seems pretty impressed...

I am totally in love with my blanket which was so much fun to design and knit and even more fun to snuggle under! (although I am thankful the weather cooled off a bit - the panels got quite warm as they spread across my lap with each row!) 

But what do you think? Would you like to make the Koselig Blanket yourself? Well if it wins Ganglabs #2 then you will be able to! At this stage of the competition it is now down to you lovely people to vote for your favourite design (you only get one vote so make it count!) - the winning design will be developed into a commercial pattern and knit kit available to purchase from Wool and the Gang for you to knit up ready for those chilly winter nights...
I am chuffed to bits to get this far again but to win this competition would be awesome! I would love it if you would vote for me and share this post and the competition with your friends.

For more information please visit the Wool and the Gang website here or head straight over to the Facebook voting page here.

Thank you all in advance. Keeping all fingers and toes and everything else crossed!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Crochet Baby Blankets - A ripple a day...

There are two new additions to our (extended) family this summer! My cousin is expecting her first baby and the Other Half's cousin is expecting her fifth (!!). I thought this was an ideal opportunity to take my crochet skills up a notch and tackle something slightly bigger than a jam jar cover or a little bowl!

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

#YouCompleteMe challenge update...

Do you remember me posting about the Craft Blog Club June #YouCompleteMe challenge?

The idea was to fish out a long forgotten, started but not finished, craft project and, erm, complete it...

Well I picked a lovely cross stitch picture I started more than a decade ago and decide I would make a concerted effort to finish it in June.
June 30th - not quite completed

So did I do it?

Errrrrrm. Not exactly.

But I did complete a whole page of the chart. Only three more pages to go!

To be fair I knew it wouldn't be completed. There are not enough hours in my day to do all the stuff I HAVE to do let alone all the things I WANT to do! However I really looked forward to the little bit of time I allocated each day to stitching and watching it grow over the days and weeks has been great!
I have loved all your comments and encouragement as I have updated each day's progress on Instagram too - thank you all for that!

beginning and end - only three more pages of charts to do!

So what have I learned from this challenge?

Mainly that I have way too many unfinished projects that I really should complete before I start anything new! (she types, whilst staring at knitting basket with at least four different WIP's stashed in it...)
I have also learned that I still love cross stitch - even if it is one of the most time consuming crafts! - and I WILL get this beautiful picture finished, framed and hung on my wall. And it WON'T take another decade...

still working on it...

I have linked up with Frugally Peachy's YouCompleteMe challenge reveal post, as have a few other craft blog clubbers. Why not hop over and see how everyone else did?

ps - I will continue to post #youcompleteme pictures of this cross stitch project on Instagram - you can follow my progress here :-)

Friday, July 04, 2014

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Brownies Recipe

Here's a little recipe for what is quite possibly the stickiest, gooiest, sweetest, richest, scrummiest Chocolate Brownie I have ever had (and I have tried a few...)

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