Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Creating for Christmas

It is about this time of year I start panicking about what handmade creations I can make for Christmas this year.  I was looking back at things I've done in the past.

Last year the ladies got wristlets made with either this  pattern. Though sadly I didn't manage to get photos of many of them in the rush to get everything wrapped. This pattern was fab and easy to follow. I did manage to get a couple of pictures:


The previous year I made slippers for all the ladies and girls and actually my little boy.  The ones for the ladies and girls had flowers or hearts on them and the one for my boy looked like paws.  Again if I'm making something for a present Christmas or otherwise I tend to leave it till the last minute and not have any pictures.  I love this pattern.  I did modify it a little because I thought they would fall off to easily if I didn't.    So at R6 I did two extra rows  all around.  For the children's slippers I started with a chain of 8 and at R7 I only did 16hdc instead of 19hdc.  I hope that makes sense, because I've not written anything more on my notes!

I did take a couple of pictures on my mobile, so excuse the worse than normal quality of the photos!

Though they look pretty and they are comfy and warm they can be lethal on a wood/laminate surface as you basically end up sliding everywhere.  On the pair I made for myself I added a few dots of hot glue to see if that helped, without making them less comfy.  I'm pleased to say it did.

I dug out the kids slippers, and took a picture of them - these have been well used since I've made them.  The reason I've only taken a picture of one slipper for each child has nothing to do with the fact that I can't find the matching pair of either, nope, nothing at all!

Adding the claws was suprisingly easy, I simply used some yarn to sew the shape that I wanted and filled it in with the yarn.  It was probably quicker than making the flowers I had done for the rest of the slippers.

Later I made some for me too and managed to get a better picture of them.

Through the original panic, and search around Pinterest I've come up with an idea for presents this year and made a start on making them.  This year I've even taken some pictures of the presents before I wrap them!

Monday, 1 December 2014

Advent Books

A couple of years ago I saw something on Pinterest that I thought would be a lovely idea for advent - wrapping up a book for each day of advent.  I wanted it to be themed so I looked through our books and found all the Christmas books, all the books with any snow included and then all the books with a vague mention of winter and managed to scrape together 24 books to use for advent.

Since then I've collected enough Christmas books, so now they are all about Christmas, most from charity shops and ex-library books, but some new ones in there too.  I think that this is possibly one of my favourite parts of Christmas now - plus the kids get to unwrap a load of presents before the day and they think that is great.  They do have favourites, obviously not the same favourites - that would make life way too easy.  I also have some favourites that they really dislike, but that is tough because I will  continue to read them Threadbear until they are much, much older (left home maybe?!).

Here is our list of books (although we do have a few more these are the ones that I tend to use):

A Christmas Carol  - we don't have this one, but something similar, I don't read the original to them

I wrap them up and number them.  I'm careful with the numbering, to make sure that we will have time to read them on that evening.  Even so, it is inevitable that at some point we end up opening 2 books on one day.  I was worried that the kids would be upset that there was only 1 book to open each night and two of them, but right from the beginning they seem to have understood and taken turns. 

A friend of mine borrowed a load of Christmas books from the library and wrapped those, which I think is genius because then you don't need to store them all year!

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Stripy Pencil Case Tutorial

Great imaginative title, I know!

I've wanted to do something like for ages, but I've just been too scared of zips.  My Mum finds them a nightmare on her sewing machine and probably I would too, but I did these by hand.  In case I'm not alone in my fear of zips I thought I would put together a little tutorial of what I did.

I know I've said before, but I am not very confident when it comes to sewing and although I'm delighted with this there are areas where it all looks very messy.  I think I must be the only person on the planet that can ends up in a tangle of knots within the first three stitches.

Anyhow, to start this project I first decided what size pencil case I wanted and simply cut the felt accordingly (no pictures of this I'm afraid).  Next I lined up the zip with the top of the felt. I had the zip closed and attached one side of the zip to ones side of the felt. At this point I still had the zip closed.  The picture is of the zip open so you can see (just) the stitches I made to attach it.  They're not beautiful little even stitches, but I'm proud of them anyway.

Next I opened up the zip, and attached it in the same way to the other side of the felt.  So far so good.  I then closed up the zip again and used a blanket stitch to close off the ends of the pencil case.  Now it was starting to look like something that could be used.  

After that the next job was to create to the outside cover of the pencil case.  I love crochet and I love stripes and my son loves red and orange, this was a mixture of our favourite things.  This was easy, I started with a chain that was just longer that the pencil case middle I'd already made and then used a  half treble crochet (half double crochet in US terms) stitch to create the rows of stripes, changing colours at regular intervals.  I finished with a row of double crochet (single crochet in US terms), once it was large enough to fit the pencil case middle inside.  Then I crocheted the edges together using double crochet (single crochet in US terms), two stitches for each space.  Here it is before I sorted out all the ends, and tidied it up a little.

Next I slipped the middle into the cover.  Despite checking the size I seemed to have to sort of push it into the corners to make it fit properly.

But phew, in the end it went in fine without any problems.  Next I just had to attach the middle to the cover.

I just did this around the top of the pencil case and it has worked fine.

Next add your stationary to the pencil case and you're ready to go!

 I've made a couple now, and both are in use all the time.  My daughter uses hers to keep her money in, much of which is change, so I can say they will hold a fair amount.  My son has taken his to school and uses it everyday.  So far, so good, I've not needed to make any repairs anyhow!

Monday, 24 November 2014

Egyptian Minecraft Project

I showed you the Tudor house that the rest of my family created on Minecraft a little while ago.  

They have been working on a number of other projects since then, mainly inspired by the kids school work, or by their hobbies (we have an open air gymnastics stadium on Minecraft too.  All the projects have been created in Survival mode too, so they have been learning about collecting and managing their own resources!)

This time I want to show you the Egyptian project they decided on.  The Sphinx.  It is pretty big and you can see if from quite far away - just like the real thing!

As you get closer the details become clearer, you can see the colours they used - made by dying sheep so that when they sheared them, the wool was the right colour already.  You can also dye the wool after the sheep have been sheared, so it is more like real life if you wish, but it takes longer and uses more dye.

Now you can see the sand blocks on either side are in fact his legs.

From a slightly different angle he still looks cool.

I'm always impressed with the amount of work they are prepared to put in, especially when this is coming from pictures, either on the internet, or in books.  He has some glow stone eyes, so he looks pretty cool at night too.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Owl Bags

Did I mention that I liked owls?

I saw this little project a while ago and knew I would have to make it immediately!  I've made a couple of minor adjustments to the pattern, mainly because I can't be bothered to sew on the crocheted circles and beak when I can glue on felt equivalents.  I also have used an i-chord for the strap I found a fab video tutorial for this here and I was too lazy to add the little pigtails to the sides. 

Since I've made a lot of them, normally for my daughter's friends' birthday presents.  As always if I'm making them for presents the photos tend to be a bit rushed, especially if they were on my phone like these:

These were two I made for my nieces.  I like that you can make them so they all look completely different depending on the colours you use.

Recently I wanted to try and make a bigger owl bag, so I used the same pattern principle, but added a couple of extra rows.  To add extra rows on a circle you simply add one more Half Double Crochet  on its own before putting two in the same space.  So following on from the pattern, the next row would be 2 hdc in the first space, 1 hdc in the next 3 spaces all around.  The next row would be 2hdc in the first space and 1 hdc in the next 4 spaces all around.  I hope that makes sense.  I think I got to 1 hdc in the next 5 spaces for the owl bag below.  For my equivalent of Row 5 from the original pattern I did 1 hdc in the next 20 spaces as it needed a larger area because it was a larger bag.

I had also seen that you could create a chunky yarn by using two strands of a normal DK wool, so I tried that too, and I was very pleased with the results.  I did use a slightly bigger hook, but I can't remember which one exactly now (maybe a 6mm, or 6.5mm).

As I've made a few of these, I've started lining them with felt.  I roughly draw around the bag, and then cut 2 slightly smaller versions on felt and blanket stitch around them before slotted it into the completed bag and sewing around the top of both openings.

This time I didn't use an i-chord for the strap as I felt it needed something a bit wider.  I just did a long length of  5 single crochet.  I played around with the colours that made up the bag for a bit of interest, and not because I ran out of one colour, or two colours before I got to the length I wanted.  Honest!

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Owl Hats

I love owls, I always have.  I used to have a whole collection of owls, collected from wherever we went on holiday or when I saw a particularly cute looking one.  That was until my Mum decided that I should be the one to dust my collection, then it reduced drastically very quickly!  

This means that I love making owl-y projects.  I am grateful that I am not alone in my love of owls and that other people seem to like them too. It means that there are a number of free owl-y projects out there to try.

One that I have made a lot is this owl hat.  It is such a lovely easy pattern to follow, and I've made it in a couple of the sizes and they have fit well.  The trickiest bit is the first row and making sure that you don't twist your foundation chain.  Once you've managed that, the rest is easy.  The only change I've made is being too lazy to crochet the beak, when I've got orange felt to hand (and when I first made the hat I didn't actually have any orange yarn).

Here is the starting chain, which this time I managed not to twist on my first attempt.  Hurrah!

It comes together quickly, especially if you're making it for a little head!

Here it is without the owl-y decoration, I have a few ideas on how to make different animals using the same pattern.

I love those ear flaps.

Finally adding the finishing touches.  I really like that the owls are sleeping.

And here is our phrenology head modelling the owl hat.  Which I have to remember is a pretty good size for a baby/toddler head!

I think that this hat would be a perfect project if you want to try a hat, but don't feel up to crocheting in the round yet.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Oranges/Satsuma Pumpkins

Does that title even make sense?  Maybe not, but that is what we made.  We used plain sticky labels, well actually I think we used old computer disc labels.  Do you remember them?  Weird to think my kids have no idea what we're talking about when the Husband and I discuss them.

Anyway all you need is some sticky labels you can cut and colour and then stick onto whatever fruit you have to hand.  We chose oranges because that is what I had.  Each one got a face lift on both sides as the kids really did enjoy this activity.

I thought that the stickers would be a good idea because then I would still feel comfortable eating the fruit after Halloween.  Though originally I got the idea from here and they drew straight on to the fruit with sharpies.  I know they have a thick peel, but I would have been worrying about whether there were any toxins that had seeped through that I needed to worry about.

We didn't do this last year, I didn't have any of the right coloured fruit, but I must remember to get some in this year for some half term holiday fun.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Spooky Stuff

I love decorating the house for Halloween and thankfully my kids would much rather stay in the house and give out sweets than go and get some themselves.  I think this may be to do with doing it one year in the cold and rain.

I thought a few little posts on some easy Halloween decorations might be nice, especially seen as I recently found a whole load of Halloween decoration photos I've taken over the last few years.

This first one is so easy, and yet a lot of fun. It is simply a phrase typed up and printed onto paper, I've then laminated it so I can use it over and over again.  I don't remember where I first saw the phrase (anyone know it?), but it made me chuckle the first time I saw it and I thought I'd copy.

One of my favourite things is being able to hear the reaction from the other side of the door (before you open it).  I love it when people see this sign and get a little spooked.

I love it even more when someone in their group makes them jump by grabbing them on the shoulder, boo-ing them, or just generally scaring them.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Flowers for a Wedding

Not real flower arranging mind, I always seem to struggle with that effortless look some people can achieve.  No, I was asked to make some crochet flowers as napkin holders for my youngest brother's wedding.  I did know they were having a few guests, but it certainly felt like a lot when I had finished this little bundle:

I had fun playing around with which colours to put where, which ones went well together.

On the day each table different colour flower (and herb).  It was a lovely day, I'm sure my brother would say that it was totally down to the crochet flowers!!!

On the day I totally forgot to take any pictures of them in situ.  Duh.  Luckily my son obviously thought they looked nice and took a couple of photos of them for me. Excuse the lack of focus.

I created the flower pattern a while ago, it was based on a couple of others, and different things I liked about them.  My pattern uses different stitches which I think makes it look quite interesting, it also has quite wide petals because I like that too!  Flowers and hearts were some of the first patterns I learned when I started to crochet, because I wanted to put them on cards. I also wanted something quick to see if I could do it.  So I hope that this isn't too tricky for beginners out there and that you enjoy making some quick  flowers. 

Easy Flower Pattern - UK terms

R1:    Magic Circle (or Chain 4 and slip stitch into a circle)
R2:    Chain 2, 9 treble crochet into the centre, slip stitch to join (you should have 10 stitches)
R3:    Chain 1, 2 double crochet into each treble crochet from the row before slip stitch to join (there                 should be 20 stitiches now)
R4:    Chain 2, 3 treble crochet into the 1st stitch, slip stitch into the next 2 stitches, then *4 treble                     crochet into next stitch anfd slip stitch into the next 2 stitches to the end

You should end up with 7 petals and everything working fine, but if you weren't concentrating on your counting and either have too many or too few stitches don't worry these will work with 6 petals or 8 petals too!  If you look carefully you can definitely see a 6 petal flower in this bunch!