Ripple me this

No, there’s been no sewing going on in these parts. And precious little knitting too. It’s all about crochet my dears!

Ripple blanket

I’ve revisited my first woolly hooky love in recent days by starting a lovely ripple blanket using up scraps of wool left over from this project and these projects and whatever else I can find. It’s for general purposes (in other words – it’s MINE, gerroff baby, gerroff husband and gerroff cats). It’s the width of a double bed so it’ll take a while…

It’s so relaxing sitting of an evening with this on my lap, hooking away. Terribly easy but terribly yarn-hungry. Oof – it gobbles up £5 balls of wool quicker than you can say ‘another Hob Nob dearie?’

To those who were wondering if I ever finished the Baby Sophisticate cardigan – yes I did and it’s been worn countless times now. Wish I had a pic of it in action but this will have to do.

Baby Sophisticate

It was fairly straightforward. Used vintage buttons I think I picked up in a second hand shop in Norwich – I love that metrosexual shot of pink in a boy’s cardigan (let’s ignore that they’re a bit leany to the left – dunno what happened there but it’s not obvious when on!). My boy can rock colour you know. He’s got yellow trousers and everything. He gets it from his dad who wore pink shoes on our first date. Make of that what you will.

In sewing news… eurgh. I just can’t get round the lack of time and space thing. I’m trying, really.. I’m often to be found sadly pawing through my patterns and fabrics but I don’t take it further. It’s just getting over that hurdle… any tips on making a return to the needle? I’m just about to watch the Great British Sewing Bee on iPlayer so maybe that will galvanise me into action! I tell you what else has got me excited – Tilly’s brand new pattern! Check out Coco – she’s a proper little madam.

Why crocheting preserves your sanity…

I am playing the waiting game. It’s physically arduous, mentally exhausting and very very dull. I am now overdue by a week. But I have crochet to keep me on just the right side of crazy.

Crocheted baby bootees

This is my second pair of baby bootees, made from scraps of wool from the baby blanket, using a pattern from Cute and Easy Crocheted Baby Clothes. They took maybe two hours each at the most to knock up, with lots of breaks.

bootee-2I thought I’d hang them on the tree in anticipation of the new arrival. Check out this adorable little ornament my sister sent me too. What a keepsake. Thanks sis!

Baby's first Christmas

I’ve also picked out the colours and started work on my next granny square blanket. I’m using Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino yarn in Teal, Clotted Cream, Light Blue and Mink. Don’t you just love the sounds of those colours?

New granny square patternI’m using the Cornflower pattern from Granny Squares and adding an extra round of treble crochets to increase the size, as well as using a 4.5 hook instead of a 3.00. The overall effect is chunky and cosy, just right for a blankie.

Today I’ve got an appointment with my consultant and hopefully getting a ‘sweep’ which might move things along a bit more. Wish me luck!

Completed: Granny square baby blanket

Granny square baby blanket - finished!

Granny square baby blanket – finished!

I simply can’t believe I’ve managed to finish this before the baby arrives. This blanket has been a year and a half in the making you guys! It didn’t even start life as a baby blanket, just as a bunch of granny squares in pretty colours that allowed me to practice my new-found crochet skills, taught to me by my chum Bridie on a summer crafternoon.

Square and edging detail

Square and edging detail

It’s the simplest of granny square patterns ( I’ve included it at the end for anyone who’s just starting out too) but it uses the softest most gorgeous extra fine merino wool by MillaMia Sweden. At around £5 to £5.50 a ball, this blanket was not cheap to make! I’d estimate around 30 balls were used, making the materials alone an astonishing £150 or thereabouts (thankfully spread out over the course of a year)! Altogether 192 granny squares make up the finished blanket. I used approximately three more balls (plus a bit more grey) for the edging.

More edging detail

More edging detail

The edging was created by doing one round of double crochet in that lovely dusty pink to even off the sides and then one round of treble crochet in the same colour; then a round of treble crochet in ‘snow’, then the same in grey with a further final round of treble crochet clusters (seven into one stitch, miss two stitches, slipstitch, miss two stitches, repeat) to give that lovely scalloped edge.

See how big it is?

See how big it is?

This blanket has travelled the world with me too. It’s been to Ireland, to Paris, to Santorini, to Thailand and even to Laos!

On holiday in Laos and on the Eurostar to Paris

On holiday in Laos and on the Eurostar to Paris

I’d guess maybe upwards of 150 hours have been spent on it. It’s been a conversation starter, an anxiety reliever, a chilly afternoon warmer-upper and, when I discovered I was pregnant, it became a potential heirloom. A best friend and comforter for our son or daughter that will hopefully travel through their life with them.

It’s big enough to be doubled over as a sturdy cot or pram blanket but it also covers a single bed and is large enough to wrap up a overdue pregnant woman! Witness!

Overdue pregnant woman wrapped

Overdue pregnant woman – wrapped

I love this blanket so much. I’m almost heart broken to have finally finished it.

But I can’t wait to start a new one! I’m thinking a 400 square granny blanket to keep me and the husband warm in our dotage. It’ll probably take that long…

Here’s the granny square pattern. These are the same instructions I used to teach Mela how to crochet a granny square and she’s making great progress so hopefully they’ll work for you.

Meet Pete: Crap Ted

Awh bless him. This is Pete – my unborn child’s first best friend.

Pete the crap tedThat’s assuming said unborn child doesn’t scream at Pete’s wonky head, unbalanced torso, lack of mouth and rickety legs. Rather alarmingly, Pete already looks like a Ted that has seen better days, which might mean that he may not last the distance we all hope our first Teds will. But no matter. Pete is soft, lovable and a bit wrong – like all my favourite childhood toys.

He’s been made using another pattern from (Cute & Easy) Crocheted Baby Clothes and stuffed with safe toy stuffing from John Lewis. I like the combination of colours – gives him a bit of a retro Rainbow look.

And here’s another project from the same book! A blanket for the pram using a sort of chevron stripe and featuring corner pom poms.

Baby blanketThe purple/mulberry colour around the edges and within the stripes matches the pram perfectly and goes rather well with Pete too. Bonus. Here’s a pom pom close up.

Pom pom close upNext up – maybe some more bootees, definitely more granny squares for the ongoing baby blanket project and maybe even start a cardigan for myself! I’ve got my eye on this little number from The Best of Interweave Crochet which I purchased a while back.

I love the bow detail and the oversized buttons. It’s supposed to be fairly straightforward and suitable for beginners so let’s see how I get on…

Have you found yourself doing more knitting/crocheting/embroidery than sewing recently? Is it because it’s just so much easier to curl up on the sofa with?

The evolution of the cardigan

I’ve just finished my third crocheted baby cardigan, using a pattern from (Cute and Easy) Crocheted Baby Clothes, and I just have to share this pic of all three as it tickles me so much to see the difference!

The evolution of the cardigan

Apart from the size (which IS deliberate by the way) you can clearly see some sort of development in confidence and skill. I’m not saying the most recent is perfect by any means – but look at the difference! Makes me almost sorry for the baby when it’s tiny as it has to wait a couple of months before it can wear the good stuff!

Here’s a closer look at the latest addition to the family. The pattern is called the Baby Shell Cardigan  on account of the shell-style detail in the skirt. Apparently it’s been adapted from an old vintage pattern.  It’s quite feminine in style as a result of the shells but hopefully the colour and the traditional buttons make it more gender neutral.

Cardy close up

A few of you expressed amazement in my last post that I was so far along in pregnancy so I thought I’d share a pic of the bump from last week so you can see how big I’ve got! Bonkers eh? Gracie is wondering if it’s a new place for keeping kitty treats. Gracie, you’ve got no idea what’s coming sweetheart. These are the salad days. Cherish them my little fluff-duster.

Le bump et le chat

Finally – I’ve managed to make a start on the winter coat. I’ve traced out all the pattern pieces onto Swedish tracing paper, ready to cut out my muslin pieces.

Winter coat pattern piecesI’m trying out a new tracing paper this time. I used to use Kwik Trace (92cm by 4.6m) for £10.21 but I’ve recently found Gloriarty’s Swedish Sewable Tracing Paper in a roll (74cms by 9.14m) for £9.99 which is much better value.It’s thicker which means you can really make out the pencil notes on each piece which is great in this failing autumnal light.

Next up – cutting out the muslin and putting it together! Slow and steady Joanne, slow and steady…

Planning ahead? I can’t see my own feet…

I was filled with good intentions not so long ago of making a stylish and comfortable maternity wardrobe. Bolstered by some fabulous donated patterns and a haul from Walthamstow market I dreamed big, BIG I tell you. But then my abdomen swelled and my ankles swelled and my waist disappeared and heartburn and back ache began and I thought ‘sod it – I can’t be arsed’.

Massive respect to those bloggers who post glama mama pics throughout each trimester, but that’s not for me. If I can lace my own Converse up in the morning without emitting 100 decibel OOOFs I’m high-fiving everyone on the way to the train station.

But I’m not stressed or frustrated by my slight lack of sewjo. It’s just a gentle winding down in my opinion. It’s my body reminding me that bending over a cutting table or sitting at a sewing machine for a couple of hours in a hard-backed chair just isn’t the way forward. It gently leads me to the sofa where I settle with a cup of tea and a slice of something sticky and do a bit of crochet instead. Which is so much easier to do when your mind has zoned out. (I zone out regularly now into some kind of catatonic state, unable to recall what I was thinking about just a moment ago. I think it’s a coping mechanism for impending childbirth. At least I hope so.)

I would like to make a few more things though – the Renfrew with Zoe’s maternity adjustments is calling out to me as a third trimester must-have, as is an easy maxi skirt with elasticated waist for going over the bump – a la Megan Nielsen.

DIY Maternity maxi

DIY Maternity maxi

I think the winter coat project will see me through the next six to ten weeks at a leisurely pace. I plan to do a fairly robust muslin beforehand and I’ve ordered the teal wool and had it dry-cleaned in advance. I just have to … peel myself… off the sofa…

In the meantime, I thought I’d share a little pic of these booties I’ve crocheted to match the apple-button cardy I completed a couple of weeks ago, using the leftover yarn. I want a pair in my size!

Crocheted baby booties

I’m just loving this book, Cute and Easy Crocheted Baby Clothes. It has a selection of gorgeous projects like the booties above, plus blankets, cardigans, hats and toys rated at three different ability levels: beginners, improvers and enthusiasts. I’ve just started on another cardigan (this time at improver level) in a muted blue-grey cashmerino wool which features the most adorable shell patterning and it seems to be working out just fine – fingers crossed.

I can definitely recommend crochet if you want to try something new. Here are my top tips for getting started (and why you should):

  • The easiest way to learn is to watch someone else doing it and copy them, whether it’s a willing friend or a youtube tutorial.
  • Granny squares are probably the easiest and most rewarding project to begin with. You get to try out lots of stitches and styles, have loads of fun with colours and put them all together for a unique and cosy blanket.
  • The thicker the wool, the bigger the hook, the chunkier the project. Most yarn will have a recommended hook size printed on the side of the yarn wrapper but if in doubt ask a sales assistant.
  • Crochet is portable! You can take it anywhere – the tube, the plane (yes – hooks are allowed), the park…
  • It’s a conversation starter almost everywhere you go, people just can’t resist leaning over and asking you about it.

Finally, I mentioned in an earlier post about some news I received a while back which took some getting used to. Now that it’s all sorted I can reveal what it was; I was made redundant a few weeks ago! I know, it all seems rather bad timing given that I’m almost seven months preggers. But actually, I think I’m fairly happy and relaxed about it all (or maybe I’m just zoning out again?!) and I got a fairly good package that should keep me and the baby in fetching fabrics for a while yet.  My only concern will be coming out the other side of maternity but to be honest with you that’s so far away it’s not worth worrying about right now. I quite fancy a change of direction in any case, so the time off will come in useful for deciding where I want to go/what I want to do next. Hey everyone, let’s move to New York! Just kidding… what about Portland instead? ;-)

P.S. Must just give a shout out to my fellow pregnant sisters in sewing – there’s something in the water! Huge congratulations to Pincushion Treats, Casey, Julia Bobbin and True Bias! Watch out for some serious maternity style.

A weekend of reflection and crochet

Here in the UK we just experienced what will probably be our last proper summer weekend. It was pleasantly hot, gloriously sunny and with just the slightest breeze – absolutely perfect.

I had hoped to kick off the weekend in true style, by meeting up with Karen and a bunch of other lovely bloggers for the V&A outing to the Ballgown exhibition on Friday evening. I had my ticket ready, I was wearing my best polkadot frock in honour of Jane and Roisin joining us… when I got a bit of interesting news that set the cat amongst the pigeons.

I’m afraid I can’t go into detail until another time when things are a bit more sorted, but suffice to say I had to do a lot of thinking over the weekend and particularly on Friday night. So after having a good old chat with the husband I took myself up to Alexandra Palace’s duck pond to finish off the baby cardigan and enjoy the beautiful evening.

Alexandra Palace duck pond

Alexandra Palace duck pond

I find crochet fantastic for tuning out all that other noise and fuss. It reminds me of when I used to do kickboxing – the concentration on fairly repetitive actions just makes me feel more zen, more focused, more relaxed. It lets me concentrate on just one thing at a time and declutters the mind, much more than sewing, which I can find fairly stressful even though I enjoy it.  So it was crochet all weekend!

At the duck pond…

Crochet in the park

On the train to Norwich…

Crochet on the train

and in the in-laws’ garden (blimey I look huge in this pic).

Crochet in the garden

The upshot being that by the end of the weekend I had finished the baby cardigan and made another row of granny squares for the interminable blanket. Hooray! The bonus being that I’m pretty much happy with recent events, subject to a few improvements and hope to report back further in due course! In the meantime, here’s the baby cardy.

Baby cardigan

The finished item!

Hopefully not too bad for a first attempt? I know there are multiple mistakes in there but I’m just chuffed I finished it and it might actually fit a real live baby. I also realise that the sleeves are a little Pigeon Street in appearance but that ramps up the adorability in my opinion. ;-)

I just LOVE those buttons – they were stupidly expensive (£1.70 per apple!) from John Lewis but they were just so perfect I couldn’t resist them.

How was your weekend? Do you find that making things allows you to de-stress, de-clutter  your mind and just focus on what’s important?

Crafty weekend plans

Ooh it’s been ages since I’ve got into my sewing room. The reason? There’s a great big cot in the way:

I’ve instructed the husband to find a new home for it as we won’t be needing it for months yet, and then I can get on with some projects I’ve been itching to finish (and start for that matter)…

The nightie.

Remember I bought a couple of metres of adorable swiss dot at Walthamstow market a month or so back? I’m trying my hand at making a one-size-fits-all-or-at-least-most nightie with contrasting yoke neck for myself. If it works out and looks good I might think about running a few up to sell on Etsy or something (hey this kid’s gonna have to eat and my maternity pay is shite). But I’ve got to get it finished first. So that’s first up come Saturday morning.

The blanket.

We are now on 145 squares and the blanket’s measurements so far are 40 by 45 inches. I’m loving this project and I’ll be completely bereft when it’s over. To be honest I’m not even sure when it will be over. Will I just be forever addicted to churning out pink, white and grey granny squares until I cover everything south of the Watford Gap?

The baby cardigan.

In an effort to prise me away from the granny squares I’ve started on a crocheted baby cardigan, using a free pattern from Bella Bambina Knits. Below is what the finished cardigan is supposed to look like. It’s. so. damn. cute. it. kills. me.

This is the first thing I’ve attempted to crochet other than granny squares so we’ll see how it turns out but it’s such a lovely little project to undertake and I just love the wool and the colour – it’s Debbie Bliss Cashmerino in teal. Oh yeh – I forgot to mention this baby will be dressed entirely in teal whether it’s a boy, girl or monkey-cat hybrid. Awesome colour.

In other news I will be bidding a sad farewell to a good chum of mine, Tanya of Strikk Handknits. She’s heading off to a fab new job and life in Zurich for a while, at least until we can tempt her back. There will be tears! In the meantime why not browse her beautiful handknitted items and give her some extra work to do? ;-)

What are your weekend plans – crafty or otherwise?

Works in progress

It’s been all go here at S&W towers. I’ve been busy this week crocheting up a storm, whilst the weather continues to NOT play ball. Bad weather, naughty weather. It’s June. Why have I got the heating on again?

I had crocheted about 120 little granny squares and had started to despair that I’d be crocheting into my pension years before I had enough to make a blanket… until I had the (durr) brainwave of adding an extra outer rim of ivory wool to make them bigger – hence less squares required! Genius? No. Genius for me? Yes.

Woollen loveliness

In fact I much prefer them with this lovely soft ivory outline – it should lighten the whole look of the blanket. I’ve started stitching a few together using a basic blanket stitch. I reckon 12 by 12 squares ought to do it. The wool is gorgeous soft merino by Millamia of Sweden but by god it’s expensive stuff. Just one ball sets you back about £5.50 and there’s already at least 14 balls in here. Cripes! And to think I bought a massive crocheted throw off Etsy for about £20 recently.

I’ve almost finished another sewing project – I downloaded this simple kimono pattern from Salme Patterns:

Kimono Salme Patterns

I figured I could easily shorten it to make tops as well as the dress, but first up – the dress! Here’s a sneaky peek.

Kimono

I’ve used some gorgeous Marc Jacobs crepe de chine I’ve had in my stash for a couple of months. I just love these colourful parrots. I seem to be developing a taste for birdy fabric!

It’s also fully lined with this sumptuous silky plum lining which really bolsters the dress’ volume and makes you feel all slinky when you slip it on. I just have to hem it now. More pics to come later this week hopefully!

Kimono lining

Hope you’re all having wonderful weekends wherever you are. xxx

Colette Violet – the sequel

So I have a bit of a confession to make. I had intended to do something different with this version, maybe some piping or something round the collar. But I was so excited to be whipping up a blouse in a day I just kind got on with it instead. So it’s pretty much a carbon copy of the previous Violet – but in a different fabric. Hey – if it ain’t broke etc.

Colette Violet: The sequel

Again I used fabric from Walthamstow market at £2 a metre. Bargainous. The buttons are vintage and are from a stash my mother-in-law gave me a few years back. I love their larger size – they make me feel like a kid again for some reason!

Colette Violet: The sequel

I absolutely know I will make this again. I just can’t resist how easy or how cute it is. I’m in danger of slipping into Violet-dependency though…

Colette Violet: The sequel

In other news, I’m woefully behind on the Minoru sewalong. I’ve only just cut out the fabric. Plus, I know I won’t get any sewing time over the next couple of weeks so I’ll miss the deadline completely.  Thank god for blogs where you can go back in your own time and start again!

I’ve really been enjoying Sewaholic’s Renfrew pattern-testers cropping up all over the place. Karen and Jane‘s are particular highlights - fantastic versions and a great advertisement for the pattern. One for the list.

And finally, I’ve mastered* crochet! I’ve been whipping up granny squares when I get a moment for the last couple of days, ever since my friend Bridie came round for another tutoring session last week. I shouted and cried all the way through (sorry Bridie) but I got there in the end. I’m not up to the crochaliser standard yet, more’s the pity.

Yay for crochet

*When I say mastered I mean I can do one version of a granny square and my tension is probably all wrong but I’m happy as Larry just knowing that I’ve got the basics.

What about you? Any new crafty skills you’re learning? Does it feel weird being an absolute beginner again?