Monday, 21 September 2015

It's back! Festive Gift Guide - 2015 edition

For the highly organised, those on a budget (who isn't?) and crafters who will be making their own gifts, it's never too early to think about the festive season. I know, I know... the children have only just gone back to school and it's been t-shirt weather here over the weekend, but I keep seeing reminders that there are less than 100 days until the-day-that-we-don't-really-want-to-think-about-yet. This year I'm bringing back the Festive Gift Guide and it's going to be earlier and better than ever, so you have plenty of time to plan and make. 
Starting this week and running right through to December, I'll be bringing you a selection of gift ideas for all the family. Some will be patterns and tutorials, others will be lovely items I consider to be worth buying. I've already spotted some great 'stuff' and look forward to sharing it with you. Whilst I'm sure my kids will have other ideas, I am aiming to bring you things which are in line with this post from @craftfbloguk
There won't be any mass produced 'tat' so if you come across something you love, or you make/sell something you think is special or unusual and you'd like it to be considered for inclusion, please drop me a message with a link/image and some information about why you think it makes a great gift.
Post Script
If you have a special occasion coming up before December and can't wait for the 'festive gift guide' posts, you might like to visit my curated page on Etsy, where you'll find some of the lovely things I've been looking at (despite how it looks in this preview, it's not just yarn!) 
Thursday, 17 September 2015

Infectious Monochrome

Since my trip to the Netherlands earlier in the year, I've had a new project in mind. While waiting to meet up with my friend Heike, I took a photo of this striking 'patchwork' rug at the hotel...
It happened to be around the time that I was obsessively sketching geometric shapes in my journal, and it occurred to me that I should make a little project which would remind me of my trip, and which would incorporate a similar design. After much deliberation, I've decided to make it monochrome (the rug also had patches of grey and beige in it) and to try some yarn which I first came across on the same trip.

The yarn is Scheepjes Mini Nooodle (with three 'o's) and is a poly/cotton, available in various different colours. Unlike many of the 'fabric yarn' products on offer, this one is produced as a yarn in its own right (rather than being an off-cut from the textile industry) and so it has a consistent width of 1.5cm. It apparently doesn't stretch excessively in the way that many others do, so I'm looking forward to trying it out. At the moment, I don't think the yarn is available outside of the Netherlands, but I'll let you know what I think when I've had a play with it, anyway and will update you on my progress next week. 

I'm still not sure whether to knit or crochet this project, so the fun phase - the sketching and swatching - is about to begin. It's so much fun playing around with the endless possibilities that this could become. 

You may have noticed that the monochrome theme has also spread to the blog header, and I've only just realised that I'm wearing black and white stripes today too... it seems to be infectious!

(My apologies for some really odd formatting on the sidebar today - something has happened, but I'm not sure what, how it happened, or how to fix it. *sigh*)
Monday, 14 September 2015

Tutorial: How to add an icord border to a finished edge

Today I'm put the finishing touches to a little 'baby' project which I'm going to publish as a pattern here on the blog. The design is cute and simple to knit, and the addition of an icord border makes it look 'finished' and neat. While I'm getting it ready to be photographed, I thought this step-by-step tutorial would be useful anyone who hasn't added an icord border before. It's posted as a single graphic as I know how you all love to save these things on Pinterest for easy reference.

Icord Border tutorial at Crafts from the Cwtch
You will need: 
  • A project with a finished edge (or a swatch for practicing)
  • Two double pointed needles - typically these will be smaller than the needles used for the project, but check the individual pattern for instructions (I used the same size needles - 4mm)
  • Enough yarn to work all the way around the edge, in either the same or a contrasting colour
Icord Border tutorial at Crafts from the Cwtch

The yarn used for the tutorial is one of my favourites - Scheepjes Stone Washed, I love how it knits up and how soft it feels next to the skin - it's great for children's projects as you'll see in the new pattern which will be published very soon (it uses two balls of Stone Washed in contrasting colours, just in case you're curious). In the meantime you can find more tips and tutorials here, and a list of my patterns here
Sunday, 13 September 2015

A Beard Fit for A Twit

As a child, my very favourite books were Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Danny the Champion of the World. My children still have the musty paperbacks, complete with my name proudly scrawled inside the front cover, now over 30 years old. As a parent I've discovered a lot more Roald Dahl books that I love, including Esio Trot and The Twits. These are even more special as they have been read to me by my son, who has also been a big fan since he was four and first became a bookworm. 

When I was contacted by Puffin books and asked to take part in the #CraftyTwitsChallenge for this year's Roald Dahl Day, it took about three seconds before I sent my reply - a resounding YES! The brief was to create a beard for Mr Twit, as there is a new 'bearded' edition out now as part of the celebrations and the people at Roald Dahl HQ have launched new apps and activities around the book (which you can find here - they are a lot of fun). This is what I came up with, thanks to some absolutely perfect yarn supplied by Scheepjes, and a very willing model.
Mr Twit Fancy Dress Beard and wig by Crafts from the Cwtch for Roald Dahl Day 2015
If you're a knitter and crocheter, and fancy making your own beard and wig (which could also be used for other literary characters or general fancy dress) this is what I did and should help to get you started...

- 4 balls of Scheepjes Peggy in black
- 12 mm knitting needles for the beard
- 10 mm crochet hook for the 'hair'

1. Using Scheepjes Peggy and 12mm needles, cast on 8 stitches and knit four rows
2. Increase at the start and end of the next row using kfb increase (10 sts) 
3. Knit four rows
4. Increase  at the start and end of the next row using kfb increase (12 sts) 
5. Knit four rows
6. K4, bind off four stitches for the mouth opening, k4 (8 sts)
7. K4, cast on four sts (using backward loop cast on), k4 (12 sts)
8. Bind off 
9. The beard base looked far too neat to belong to Mr Twit so I cut differing lengths of yarn and tied them on (randomly) to make it look as scruffy and disgusting as possible 
10. Using the 10mm crochet hook, crochet a basic 'hat' until it is to the desired size. As the yarn is very thick, I did some 'freeform' crochet after the first few rounds, and simply worked until it was the right shape and size (not too neat!) 
11. Tie the beard to the wig
Mr Twit Fancy Dress Beard and wig by Crafts from the Cwtch for Roald Dahl Day 2015
12. I used small quantities of Scheepjes Catona in various colours, toy eyes, felt and nylon thread for the pair of mice and other disgusting beard adornments which were (knit and crocheted, and then) tied on. This way they can be rearranged or removed entirely to re-use the costume
13. My son's eyebrows are very blonde, so I trimmed a small length of the 'Peggy' yarn and stuck it on his face with pieces of low-tack tape (if wearing for the whole day, I'd have used false eyelash glue)

And there you have it. A beard (and wig) fit for a Twit. You can find other activities and crafty projects online by searching the tag #RoaldDahlDay - there is also a cute video here. Have a great day! 

Friday, 11 September 2015

The 'Inside-Out' Tunic Pattern is now live!

I'm delighted to announce that the 'Inside-Out' Tunic pattern is now available to purchase exclusively from my LoveKnitting Designer page. You can find a detailed post about the design here
(Click image to go directly to the pattern.) 
This image shows the price inc. UK VAT - actual price will vary depending on your location.

You can also find the pattern listed on Ravelry so you can add it to your project records and favourites. I know that there are a quite lot of people waiting to knit this, and I do hope you will link up your projects so I can see your progress and finished garments - especially as there are options to customise it at different stages. Have a great weekend and happy knitting!

Please note that if you were super speedy and downloaded it immediately, there was a small typo - Size C should read '130 cms' in the description on page 1. An updated version has been uploaded to LoveKnitting, but there are no other changes. 
Wednesday, 9 September 2015

WIP Wednesday: Life, Making, Planning and Blogtacular

It's fair to say that we just had the best 'family' summer ever. With our youngest child now six years old and Archie no longer a puppy, travelling was relatively easy and quite fun (largely thanks to "Daddy's Holiday Mega-Mix") despite a long journey with traffic jams. Hanging out together, at home and away, involved conversations and laughs - and even a little dancing. The previous stresses of travelling with young kids seemed long gone. We found a magical 'sweet spot' -  everyone got along and there wasn't even much squabbling. I will admit there have been many times I doubted we would ever get to this point, and I'm sure it won't last indefinitely, so writing it here is a way of cementing it in our family history. It really actually happened. 

With Monday's return to school marking the end of our 'idyllic' summer, I set to work. As I said earlier in the week, I was keen to get back to making something, and a parcel arrived from Scheepjes who are kindly supporting several new projects which I will be able to bring to you as free patterns or tutorials over the coming months. 

I've had so much fun making one of the projects already - it is almost done and I'll share it with you on Sunday, which also happens to be Roald Dahl Day. Several people on Instagram have already guessed what it is, but I'll leave it for you to see if you can work it out... 
As well as making a big black furry thing, I've taken time for planning. Writing this blog means I get lots of offers to do other interesting things, but doing them takes time away from the thing I love doing most... which is the making and blogging that got me the offers in the first place. It's a Catch-22 situation. Taking a couple of weeks away from these page gave me time to think about it and I decided to be more methodical in my approach to blogging for a while and see how it goes. On Monday I started using the Blogtacular* /Lollipop Designs Life Planner. I've separated the columns into 'actions', 'blog' and 'life', and have used the free worksheet downloads to help with prioritising and decision-making. 

A disappointingly high proportion of potential posts and projects usually get lost because I run out of time (my child-free-chore-free hours are severely limited), so I've allowed for preparation and drafting posts as well as time for 'making'. Hopefully this will make it easier to get things done and to be able to say yes to more of the things I'd like to do. We'll see how it goes, but so far so good as I already drafted and scheduled several posts and a new tutorial, plus I know which projects I'll be working on over the next few months! 

I have so much more to show and tell, but that's it for today. I'll be back on Friday with my new pattern - I know a lot of people are waiting for this one, and might be casting on at the weekend. 

*PS I also booked my early-bird ticket for Blogtacular 2016 (June 18th) - tickets are available at a heavily discounted price for just a couple more weeks, and if they sell out, that will be it. (Any remaining tickets will go on sale at the regular higher price next year.) If you are thinking of going, it's definitely a good time to snap them up, and there is also a lovely facebook group so you can get to know the other attendees in advance. 
Monday, 7 September 2015

Yarn for a most unusual project

After a couple of weeks away - without blogging OR making - it feels lovely to be back at my desk with a rough sketch and a pile of new yarn. And what interesting yarn it is, for this week I am working on a most unusual project. All will be revealed in due course but I wanted to show you the yarns which arrived from Scheepjes this morning, and I think they will be just perfect! Above, is 'Peggy', a textured acrylic/polyester which I can't wait to start working with, as it looks like a lot of fun which is totally in-keeping with this project. (The picture is actually a clue.) 

Below, some cute little balls of Catona. This mercerised cotton yarn comes in 25g balls (and bigger balls) and there are 69 colours to choose from which makes it perfect for multi-coloured projects or for small things, like amigurumis.  Another clue. 
If you are curious to see what I'm making, come back at the end of the week when all will be revealed, or you can follow my Facebook or Instagram feeds where I'll post more photos as the project progresses.

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