Sunday, 8 May 2011

a merry may

It's been a few weeks again, but the weather was so good over our Easter break that the last thing I wanted to do was sit in a very hot attic with my computer!

I hope you all enjoyed the Easter festivities and the fabulous Royal Wedding.  Didn't Kate look amazing in her McQueen dress?  As my Brownies were having a Royal Wedding Party the night before, K came round over Easter with her sewing machine and we made some rather splendid bunting!  We were both surprised with how well it turned out considering we'd had a lovely bottle of red wine just before we started making it...

I hung it out on the washing line the next day just to see how it looked.

Whilst I had my sewing machine downstairs I decided to make a peg bag with some gorgeous Amy Butler fabric I've had sitting in my stash for a year.  I was fed up with pegs all over one of my cupboards in the kitchen and now this makes me smile when I'm doing the washing:

We had friends over after the wedding, which was an excuse to make some chocolate cupcakes - it's so hard to justify baking for two, so it was lovely to potter about in the kitchen making a chocolatey mess!

K and I went on a felt bag making course yesterday and I think I can safely say that felt-making isn't my craft!  After an afternoon of soapy massage my "bag" is still hanging on the washing line dripping away into a bucket!  We did a few minutes of needle felting, which is much more my cup of tea.  I'm determined to finish the poor forlorn thing off this week, but at the moment it's a bit of a sorry mess, which might just give you a giggle...


I've also been busy with the Crochet Club project.  I'm up to date with the April patterns and am just going to remake a couple of pieces I'm unhappy with before the May patterns are released next weekend.  The last set of patterns come out in June so I'm glad I'm up to date for the big finale!  I've been desperate for something new to put up in the dining room for a while and this should be just the thing.

I hope you're all enjoying a lazy Sunday - I know I am!
- Rachel x

Friday, 15 April 2011

spare parts

Goodness me, where on earth did the past two weeks go?!  Actually, I have a feeling my crochet hook is responsible for a good chunk of my time away from the blog.  The Crochet Club box arrived and I've been completely enthralled by the patterns.  Here are a couple of peeks at what I've been up to - as it's a mystery club I have no idea what the finished wall hanging will look like:

April's patterns arrived in my inbox today and I couldn't help a little squeal of delight (much to Mr B's amusement as he's working from home today!) - it looks like I'll be working in the round, which is always fun.

In other news, I have to say that I meant to fill you in on the next piece of news weeks ago, but time (and my hook!) ran away with me yet again.  I really don't know how the more prolific bloggers can keep up with their busy offline lives as well as creating such beautiful blogs!

Right, a few weeks ago I took a call at work from a lovely lass in Australia who successfully ran an exhibition last year in Brisbane called Spare Parts.  The exhibition took amputees' old pre-loved prostheses that were gathering dust and reinvented them as works of art - awesome, eh?  Well, Priscilla Sutton, who created the exhibition in Australia, is bringing the show to London in 2012 to coincide with the Paralympics!  What's even more exciting is that Priscilla has very kindly said that I might be able to get involved with a crafty limb creation of my own, so do watch this space!

Do check out the exhibition catalogue from last year here as you can see some great close-ups of the amazing things that the artists did with the limbs they were given.

It was such a happy coincidence to meet Priscilla through work - whilst I love the amazing work that we do as a company to help improve the quality of life for amputees and wheelchair users, it was such a nice change to have a creative discussion whilst sat at my desk!  We have been e-mailing website and blog recommendations to each other since then, and Priscilla has put me onto the rather marvellous Aussie publication frankie magazine.  Why, oh why, can't we have some smart and sassy magazines for young creatives here in the UK - it's a real shame that our magazines lag behind other countries and news-stands are crammed full of gossip mags for the brainless masses.  Ooh, sorry, that may have been a bit ranty for a Friday afternoon!

Have a wonderful weekend!
- Rachel x

Friday, 1 April 2011

mother's day

Well, I finished Mum's necklace last night, so as promised here it is:

The little red flower is so sweet:


My only worry is that the largest flower is pretty big, but it seemed to sit ok when I tried it on:


The nice postman delivered me a big box of yarn and beads today.  Someone wanted to sell their spot on Jane Crowfoot's Crochet Club 2011 and I was lucky enough to get it.  K had grabbed a spot, but I wasn't able to sign up originally with Mr B out of work.  I'm really looking forward to making my tension square later on, but I have an awful lot to catch up on as the first three months' worth of patterns have gone out to the group already.  Lucky I have a week off work over Easter - looks like it'll be full of hooky time!  There are more details on Jane's blog here if you're interested in registering for 2012.

I'm off to spend the Mother's Day weekend with my lovely Mum down in Sussex, so I wish you all a very happy (and hooky!) weekend!

- Rachel x

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

ta da!

Well, the lovely doctor gave me some magic cream that made me feel a million times better almost straight away.  I felt so much better that Mr B and I were able to paint the front room over the weekend.  We heard on Thursday that the curtains were ready, so it seemed a shame not to get everything repainted and have them fitted this week!

Here's the before shot - I can't believe how much better the dodgy paintwork and faded curtains look in a photo, but believe me it was looking pretty sad after 10 years:

Now here's the ta da moment with the shiny new curtains and a splendid (if I do say so myself!) new paint-job:

Mr B has been very amused by my near-constant stroking of the new curtains.  Here's the view from my crochet spot on the sofa:

At the risk of becoming a curtain-bore, here's a close-up...

After all the excitement, I even managed to start hooking up a necklace for my Mum for Mother's Day on Sunday.  She's going on a cruise in May, so she asked for something in nautical colours.  I hope it's not too 4th of July rather than nautical...!

For any other happy hookers, I made the choker with a 4.5mm hook in alternating coloured rows of half-trebles (half double crochet for those of you in the States!) and then finished off with a row of double stitches (sc for the US) as I was worried it looked a little out of balance with the foundation row.  I then turned it ninety degrees and worked a row of trebles (doubles!) along the edge and finished of with 2dc, 2 htr, 1 tr, 2htr, 2dc to form a little scallop (2sc, 2hdc, 1dc, 2hdc, 2sc).  I've done the same on the other end and will actually use a big popper as a fastening - it's invisible from the outside and ends up looking pretty neat and tidy!

The flower is from an antique pattern that's really meant for size 10 fine crochet cotton.  I've tried that out before, but my Mum has a big personality and prefers chunkier jewellery, so this seemed like the right time to try it with a thicker yarn.  Tonight I'll be making 2 smaller flowers to hang below this one.  I shall put on a trusty naval-striped top tomorrow and take some photos.

I guess you might like to see the other pieces I've made.  The first followed the antique pattern to the letter in classic ecru size 10 cotton with a 1.5mm steel hook:

The other one was inspired by the lovely Desigual top I bought to wear to my Nan's 90th birthday celebrations in January this year.  Again, I made up the pattern for the choker and used the flower pattern to match up with the top:

The problem I find with the cotton is that it's so delicate that it easily warps out of shape, which is a shame.  I'm loving the DK version, though!  You live, you learn! :)

It's been a very productive few days and I seem to have lots more lined up before the weekend, including Mother's Day crafts with my Brownies tomorrow evening!  I hope you've managed some crafty time this week!

- Rachel x

Thursday, 24 March 2011

every cloud...

I'm still not well and have another doctor's appointment this afternoon, but I'm trying to look at the positives.

I've had more time for hooking this week, so my shawl is coming on apace:

I'm pleased with how it's going and think blocking it is going to make a real difference, turning the little "flowers" into crisp, pointy stars.

Outside, my little dwarf peach tree has made it through the winter and rewarded me with the best display of pretty pink blossom - they smell great, too!  We had 5 peaches off it last year and we're hoping for even more this year.  I would never have thought we could have harvested peaches in the South of England, but evidently our patio is warmer than it looks!

We've also finally decided on the paint colours for our living room revamp.  Whilst I've loved the decor we've had for the past 10 years, we've decided to have a change.  The curtains have faded badly, so the lovely Mr B has treated me to some new ones made up in Designers Guild fabric.  When I was up in London the other week with my Mum and brother we had a wander down the Kings Road in the sunshine.  The DG window stopped me right in my tracks.  This beautiful fabric was hanging right down their enormous front windows and it was love at first sight:

It's called Mariedal and is made up of printed dahlias in shades of grey, some of which have then been overpainted in cobalt blue, lilac and yellow.  As we wanted to keep our grey carpet and all the furnishings, this is just the update we need, along with a new paint-job in Dulux shades with the usual exotic names "Night Jewels" and "Holiday Blues".  We were hoping to paint this weekend, but we'll have to see what the doctor says this afternoon.  I shall post some before and after pics when it's all done...

If we can't paint this weekend, all is not lost, as I've dug out some felt and my cutting mat to make up some of the Tsunami Flowers from my Japanese book.  If the weather stays nice I may even get to do some crochet in the garden.  Now doesn't that sound civilized?! :)

I have my fingers crossed that you all feel better than I do right now!

- Rachel

Sunday, 20 March 2011

poorly sick

I realise I've been a little elusive for the past week or so.  Unfortunately I've been rather poorly, and it's still lingering.  I won't bore you with the gory details, but normal service will (hopefully) resume in the next couple of days!

- Rachel x

Monday, 14 March 2011

horrible irony

On Saturday, less than 24 hours after I'd first heard about the dreadful earthquake and tsunami in Japan, my latest craft book "Traditional Japanese Tsunami Fabric Flowers" arrived from the lovely Megumi over at Pomadour 24.  Fortunately, Megumi is safe and well, and seems more worried that purchases from her shop might be delayed by the disaster than anything else!

I've been intrigued by these flowers ever since I saw them made in sugar in the beautiful Delicate Sugarcraft from Japan - a wonderful birthday present a couple of years ago.

I'm a huge admirer of crafts from Japan - they always look so fresh and clean.  The attention to detail is amazing - check out the wonderful Fumi Fukumuro's Miniature Flowers in Sugar.

I do so hope that all of our crafty sisters in Japan, and their families, are safe and well in the wake of the terrible events last week.

Here's a little peek at the book.  It's all in Japanese, but there are very clear step-by-step pictorial instructions for the various petals:

I think I'll experiment first with some offcuts of felt from some recent craft projects made with my Brownie pack, but I think they'd also look beautiful in Amy Butler fabric... actually, what doesn't look beautiful in her fabric?!

Wherever you are, be safe.
- Rachel x

Thursday, 10 March 2011

phew - it's finished!

It’s finished!  My first complete crocheted garment!  Considering K and I only went on our Beginner’s Crochet Course last May, I’m inordinately happy with this.  Yes, it’s a wee bit short and the weather has decided to improve enough this week that I’d boil if I wore it right now, but it’s there and it’s finished! 

The pattern is by the super-talented Robyn Chachula and I first saw it when I was browsing on Ravelry.  It was from an old issue of the fab US magazine Crochet Today, and I was lucky enough to track down a copy through the powers of the interweb!  I have another pattern of hers for a waistcoat that's waiting to go (remember my 'sprout' coloured yarn?), but I'm going to hook up some of the yarn from my last post first.

 I’ve had a little bit of a mishap with one of my skeins of yarn from Unravel… in my eagerness to get going on a shawl pattern I’d bought from Amanda Perkins, I thought I’d try out a couple of motifs without first winding my skein into a ball.  Er, bad move!  For the past four evenings Mr B has been helping me to try and untangle it in front of the TV.  We got there last night just in time for Grey's Anatomy, but I can at least console myself that it was worth the effort for the cutest and softest little flowers that I made before “the great tangle” happened:

Now my untangling is done I can actually get on with hooking up the rest of the shawl… well, when we've wound the other skein, I can!

Eugh, time to get ready for work - I prefer to post at the weekend, but I have some rather exciting news I want to share with you later, so thought I'd get this out there now.
Have a great day!
R x

Sunday, 27 February 2011

the weekend unravelled

It's been a busy weekend, with an early start on Friday to meet my Mum and brother up in London.  We treated ourselves to a morning coffee break in the beautiful Laduree Tea Room in Harrods before a lovely long walk all the way down the Kings Road and back up the Chelsea Embankment:

I bought Mr B and I a little box of macarons with both our favourite flavours in - Rose for me, Salted Caramel for him.  These were the perfect accompaniment to our CSI boxset on Friday night:

Yesterday, my Mum and I met K and her Mum at Unravel - a local knitting and yarn festival in Farnham.  Mum and I went last year and I couldn't get enough of the beautiful artisan yarn.  Now I'm more confident with my crochet I was able to go with some projects in mind and really treat myself.

Here are the little treasures that came home with me.  First up, an iphone case and pin cushion from Emma Bradbury:

I've been balancing a magnetic needle case that came free with a knitting magazine on the arm of the sofa for some time now - definitely time for a pretty and practical upgrade!  

Next up, three mini skeins and two full skeins from the lovely ladies at Skein Queen:

I coveted the wool on their stand last year, but couldn't really justify it.  This year I have some jewellery in mind for the mini skeins and a shawl for the full skeins - perfect! :)

I had a great time talking to Amanda and Phil from The Natural Dye Studio - they had a fantastic selection of crochet patterns, designed by Amanda, and the most beautiful yarn from Peru.  I bought two skeins of hand-dyed Angel 4-ply - it is the softest, most divine mix of baby alpaca, cashmere and silk and it is currently sitting on my lap whilst I type and periodically making its way up to stroke my cheek...  ooh, off for a little reverie there with my yarn, oops:

Last, but certainly not least in the yarn stakes, I bought two skeins of sparkle sock yarn from Fyberspates.  My photos don't really do the pretty silver shimmer justice.  I really don't know how they manage to keep the yarn so super-soft with all the sparkles.  I always hate it when sparkly wool is spolt by scratchiness, but there are no worries with this beauty:

My last two little buys were fabulous buttons from Textile Garden:

and the cutest little card from tillyflop - this is destined for my desk at work, to help me try to rise above the office politics:

A very picture-heavy post, but it's been a complete treat of a weekend, and I feel like a very lucky girl indeed!  Oh, I almost forgot - whilst we were walking round Mum spotted someone wearing an incredible aran cape.  She plucked up the courage to ask if it was handmade, and it turns out that the very talented Keira of bimblenmooch had designed the pattern herself and it's available from her etsy store!  I'd urge you to try out the Cape Country pattern - I'm hoping I can persuade my Mum to make me one once she's finished hers!

Right, that's quite enough from me for today.  I hope you've had a wonderful weekend!

- Rachel x

Sunday, 20 February 2011

what a sweet surprise!

One of the auriculas in my greenhouse has decided to put in a very early appearance (they don't normally appear until April)!  Sweet little "Kilby" put a real smile on my face today, despite the grim weather outside:

I was really excited to see lots of shoots in the garden today.  I'd been really worried that the long snowy winter might have seen some of my plants off, but even my little dwarf peach tree had furry buds on it!  My "winter corner" of aconites, snowdrops and cyclamen looked really cheery, but I also had the sweet surprise of a flowering pink camelia hiding behind one of my shrubs!

Mr B and I spent the day up in London yesterday.  As we had to pay for the train ticket to go up for his hospital appointment (thyroid function perfect, thank goodness!) so we decided to make a day of it and have a late Valentine's treat.  I had some Christmas vouchers from Liberty so I treated myself to some more Stitch Nation yarn in a really cheerful green called "sprout".  I'd seen a great waistcoat pattern in the latest issue of Crochet Today and thought I'd line it up as my next project... (more on this when I post about my current WIP!)

The real surprise was discovering a new craft section in Forbidden Planet!  Mr B treated me to two little japanese craft books:

I couldn't resist these cute little felt friends!  Now I have to admit I'm more of a cat than a dog person, but this next little gem was full of the sweetest little pups you ever did see - definitely on my "to hook" list:

A bit frivolous, I know, but they were both reduced and I can see the patterns coming in very handy for little gifts.

Quite a rambling post today, but it's been a rambling and blissfully chilled out weekend!  I hope yours has been, too!

- Rachel x

Sunday, 13 February 2011

oh we do like to be beside the seaside...

My best friend K and I had a wonderful day down in Brighton yesterday.  As luck would have it we had brilliant sunshine for the third year in a row for the Creative Stitches and Hobbycrafts Show at the Brighton Centre.

The real highlight for us was the "Above and Below the Waves" exhibition in aid of the RNLI.  Over 2,000 knitters from around the world took almost 2 years to create a giant underwater world of coral and sea creatures, together with cliffs and beach scenes on the exterior walls.

For more information on this fascinating exhibition take a peek here.

It would have been rude not to do a little shopping, too, so I came home with some KnitPro circular needles for my first foray into sock knitting.  I had a great conversation with the lady from Coleshill Accessories who had also just started a pair of socks from Socks from the Toe Up (Mr B bought me a copy a couple of weeks ago) and was delighted to show me her first attempt. 

K and I also spent quite a while chatting to a super-excited Mandy Shaw of Dandelion Designs who had just received an advance copy of her new book - K and I were both completely smitten, and will definitely be ordering this when it comes out at the end of April.

We were both quite restrained with our purchases (much to the relief of the hubbies waiting at home!) as we're off to the Unravel festival of knitting in Farnham in two weeks.  We can't wait to stroke all that beautiful yarn...

We took advantage of the sunshine to have a little walk along the seafront after the show.  The old West Pier looked incredible as the sun began to set:

It was also a lovely surprise when K spotted some guerrilla knitting right down on the seafront, where some creative-type had decided to brighten up the railings overlooking the beach:

What a wonderful day, and how lucky we were with the weather as it's pouring with rain today!

- Rachel x