Tuesday, 3 March 2015

On finding inspiration

It's a seasonal thing, but I've been stuck in a rut. Looking back at the blog, almost everything I wrote about recently was planned before Christmas. My Journal has been neglected since the end of January with only a few pages written and not many pictures (those I've drawn look bleak and sad). Had I been paying more attention, what is unwritten is very telling - the truth is that I hadn't realised how uninspired I was feeling...  until I suddenly felt inspired again.

Firstly, flowers started popping up. Our slushy grey walks suddenly became punctuated with pockets of colour. Then I found myself wanting to write in my journal - just so I could use the letter 'g' (Little Miss had been reading to me from an Oliver Jeffers book and I love the lettering).  
On finding inspiration
Of course Unravel festival was a major turning point - after that I even picked up a spindle for the first time in months! You can see from my picture that I've been doodling too. In fact, last night I was inspired to start a couple of Lisa Congdon courses on Creativebug. They are jam packed with inspiration (and there's a free trial) so I'm planning to write a proper review (of the classes and the platform) in the next few days.  This quick little WIP made me very happy, and what's more it's totally whetted my appetite for more drawing and for incorporating more colour into my designs.

It is amazing how creating something - and really it might be anything - can make one feel inspired and it starts a chain reaction for new ideas and new directions.  I guess you could say I've found my inspiration in various places recently. Where do you find yours? 
Saturday, 28 February 2015

Tulpen Crochet Shawl - The Recipe

I'm not quite sure what has happened to time this week, but I seem to have lost a day somehow! Last week I promised you the recipe for the super-simple Tulpen Crochet Shawl which was last week's Finished Object. If you missed it, it's a basic (and very easy to crochet) rectangle, which can be styled in various ways with the use of a shawl pin. At Unravel I wore it folded in half as a thick collar/cowl and got  lots of lovely comments about it. 
Tulpen Crochet Wrap - the recipe
Only three stitches are necessary to make this wrap, so it would be a good one for novice crocheters (and knitters who want to try crochet). It works up quickly with chunky yarn and a big crochet hook. If you fancy trying it, I've linked to the stitches and yarn at Deramores (affiliate):
You will need:
- 400g Scheepjes Vinci - I used Colourway 004
- 8mm crochet hook
- Needle for sewing in ends
Stitches used - UK terms: 
- ch = chain (tutorial)
- dc = double crochet (tutorial)
- tc = treble crochet (tutorial)
Finished measurements: 105 cm wide x 46cm deep (without blocking)
  1. Start by making a chain of 110 stitches 
  2. 1 dc into the second ch from hook, *skip the next 2 ch, 5 tr into next ch, skip next 2 ch, 1 dc into next ch; rep from * to end
  3. 1 ch (does not count as a stitch, this is for turning), 1 dc into the first ch, *skip the next 2 ch, 5 tr into next ch, skip next 2 ch, 1 dc into next ch; rep from * to end of row, where you need to work 3 tr into the final stitch before turning 
  4. Repeat row 3 until the work is 45cm deep (I worked 34 rows) or until it's to your desired length. TIP: You will see that the dc is worked into the middle of the 5 tr on the previous row, and the 5 tr are worked into the dc from the previous row, so you won't need to count the stitches, simply remember to work the ch at the beginning of every row and it'll all work out. 
  5. At the end of the final pattern row, simply turn the work 90 degrees to add the edging (pictured, below). The edging is simply 1 dc into each stitch along the bottom and into each space along the side of the rows (see pic). To turn the corners, work 3 dc into the same stitch.
Edge of Tulpen wrap
I hope you have fun with this. Do leave a comment or post a pic on the CftC Facebook page if you make it. 
Thursday, 26 February 2015

#Unravel2015 Part 2: The Highlights

It's taken a few days to digest Unravel, hence this post is a day late. This was my fifth visit to the Festival of Knitting and certainly the best to date. I showed you some of my favourite pictures in my last post but here are the highlights of the weekend...

#unravel2015 a weekend of awesomeness!
My friend, crochet blogger Wink (A Creative Being), came from The Netherlands again this year, bringing lots of exciting gifts including her new book, which I'll tell you about in another post (spoiler: I love it). It has been said that I'm responsible for enabling Wink to knit, so I was delighted to also be responsible for introducing her to Louise Player from Spin City UK. If you're within reach of Louise for more than two minutes, chances are the magic will happen - lo and behold, she had Wink spinning in no time! She then spent the rest of the festival with her new spindle in hand, looking at fibre, and an evening being inspired by Louise's many talents over dinner (her fashion designs are seriously amazing).

Wink and I also met up with Tink (Master of a Thousand Things), Tanya (A Yarn Loving Mama) and Joanne Scrace (Not so Granny). After four years of 'knowing' Joanne online, I'm so happy that we finally got together in person. It's funny how you can feel like you already know someone so that when you meet, you are completely comfortable with them. That's how it was. As well as being a talented designer, she is a wonderful teacher and very knowledgable about so many different things. Joanne was teaching at Unravel but joined us for an evening of laughter, info-tainment... and maybe just a little plotting too!

#unravel2015 a weekend of awesomeness!
As a blogger, you never really know how helpful your posts might turn out to be, so it was very cool to discover that Joanne had been inspired by my Tips for Unravel post and was fully prepared for button-purchasing - with a knitted swatch including a button hole. I couldn't resist photographing her using it.

Despite being a veteran 'Unraveller', it's the first year that I've made it to any of the talks - the revised show layout this year meant it was much easier to get a seat without queuing on a staircase. I couldn't resist the chance to see the people behind Nudinits, and Wink and I were joined by a lovely Instagram friend. The session began with a full 22 minute screening of Tickled Pink - you can watch it here (warning: it contains knitted nudity and lots of double entendres) - and ended with a Q&A session and the chance to take a look at some of the models and props.
Knitted car - Nudinits at Unravel
The attention to detail on this stop-motion animated film is amazing - every single thing is handmade, including a cow pat with flies, the clouds, litter and so many other things you really need to see it a few times to fully appreciate it. Perhaps the most impressive item was the car which has a working steering wheel and all sorts of little details inside the cabin, which I didn't manage to photograph.

I spent most of the afternoon talking to people - some who read this blog or my facebook page, bloggers I love to read, podcasters I listen to - most notably Kate from A Playful Day and Corrie at Plutonium Muffins, who was (easily) persuaded to join us for dinner. I met other designers and people I 'know' from Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.  I also had a chat with Daisy from Devon Sun Yarns who did such a great job dyeing yarn especially for my Seafoam design. I'm not quite sure of the exact point at which chatting to lovely people turns into "networking", but there was lots of both and there are various plans afoot as a result of conversations that sparked ideas. I love this about being around creative people. I only wish I'd taken more photos.

To top it all off, the event seemed to have been planned more effectively this year. Last week I pre-warned about lots of queues and limited seating but this wasn't an issue at all on Saturday. Friday opening - which started last year as a short preview - was extended to a whole afternoon, and it seems that this had a positive impact on the number of Saturday visitors. In addition, the stalls were spread out more than usual - there was enough room to get around even the busiest stands, and to chat to vendors. (I have another post planned to tell you about some of the new-to-me vendors I especially liked as there is just too much for this one post.)

All of this made an enormous difference to the overall experience - it was far more relaxing and pleasant than in previous years. Many of the vendors I spoke to said that their sales were up as a result of having more time to engage with their customers. As well as Wink's spinning, we were able to get a weaving demo, and we saw lots of other people being shown how to knit, spin, crochet and felt.
Yes, it was a fabulous weekend, and I'm already looking forward to Unravel 2016! 

Links to related Unravel posts:  Not So Granny, A Playful Day, Spin City UK and Plutonium Muffins Podcast 
Tuesday, 24 February 2015

#Unravel2015: Part 1 - The Pictures

I have so much to tell you about my amazing weekend at Unravel, it still feels a little overwhelming and I'm not sure where to start. So for today's Show & Tell, I am simply going to share some of my pictures, and tell you about the things I couldn't resist bringing home. Come back tomorrow for a round up of my Unravel Highlights. 
#unravel2015 a weekend of awesomeness!
Beautiful felted creatures by Jenny Barnett
#unravel2015 a weekend of awesomeness!
Amazing colourwork and design from Marie Wallin
#unravel2015 a weekend of awesomeness!
Knitted aliens from the Surrey Knitting & Crochet Group
#unravel2015 a weekend of awesomeness!
A collection of vintage designs from Susan Crawford
#unravel2015 a weekend of awesomeness!
Romantic vintage-inspired designs (and kits) from Jennie Atkinson
#unravel2015 a weekend of awesomeness!
Two of the stars of Nudinits
#unravel2015 a weekend of awesomeness!
New designs from Alison Ellen
#unravel2015 a weekend of awesomeness!
A last hoorah at The Natural Dye Studio (closing in April)
Having left home with a very small list of 'needs' (mainly buttons and shawl pins for other people) I came away with a long list of things I'd like, but just a few things I couldn't resist.
#unravel2015 purchases
1. The pink knitting bag from Quincepie (others available via Etsy and there is more of this fabric by request) was the ONLY ONE like this, prompting me to immediately break my own rule about not buying on the first sweep. I'm glad I did, as I love it. 
2. Some obligatory shawl pins from The Textile Garden
3. One 100g skein of Scandinavian yarn from Midwinter Yarns - this is a stall I haven't seen before and the people were absolutely lovely, I did well to come away with only the one skein. It's similar to other yarn I've used - feels a bit rustic and rough in the skein, but blooms with a good soak. 
4. Some short length DPNs from Knitting4Fun. I could make up a reason for needing these but they are just so cute! 
5. Handles from Creative You (who also sell a great selection of t-shirt yarns). I already have a project in mind for these.

Mostly I will treasure the memories I brought home - but more on those tomorrow! 
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Crafts from the Cwtch is part of the Deramores, Craftsy, Etsy, Creativebug and Amazon Affiliate programmes and works with a few carefully selected sponsors. Where posts or projects are sponsored, the opinions will always be entirely my own. You can find out more about affiliate links and blog sponsorship here.
Welcome to CftC! You'll find lots of knitting, spinning, crochet, books and snippets of family life amongst the archives and you may like to start with my most popular tips & tutorials, or the patterns. You can read more about me on the 'Hello' page and if you like it here, you may also like to visit the CftC pages on Ravelry, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Etsy. I hope you enjoy your visit! Sarah

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