Three months have passed…

…How did that happen I’m wondering and then I think what’s happened in the last 3 months and I forgive myself for being awful at keeping up with this blog. We’ve had builders in since the end of April and all manner of upheaval at home. Our living room has moved to the basement, the kitchen is temporarily in the dining room and most things we own are in storage to keep them away from the dust. It’s a job to keep the few clean spaces staying that way and there’s not been a lot of spare time for much else. Plus it’s been so so so sunny and when you’re house is a building site and the weather is wonderful where would you be spending your free time??

On the first really wet day in a long time I went out with a friend to see the Kaffe Fassett exhibition at the American Museum in Bath. There was no doubt about where we were heading when we arrived, the exhibition was well signaled by this wonderful colour-adorned tree. DSCF0323DSCF0272Though the pompoms were looking less than perfect is their rain-soaked state.

Once inside we were bombarded by colour, the exhibition space itself has been painted in typically bright Kaffe Fassett colours and the exhibits themselves were a collection of more brights.

DSCF0286Being a huge colour fan I found it hard to leave without treating myself to a little something and came away with this…

DSCF0328No what to do with it???

 

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Easter Project

It wouldn’t be a proper Easter weekend without a little DIY project. I picked up this chair at reclamation yard back in January for £20. Destined to be my husband’s new office chair it’s been languishing in the living room with all the tools and dust sheets looking sorry for itself ever since.

DSCF9475The original idea was to paint it bright yellow in Annie Sloan chalk paint, the sort that requires little preparation and paints over pretty much anything. I picked up this upholstery fabric for a seat pad for my own chair and thought it could work for both bringing a bit of unity to our shared office space.

DSCF9479And then I started sanding the chair, because while the chalk paint goes over anything, even varnished surfaces, this chair needed a bit of love before painting. The cracked and peeling varnish came off so easily that half way through I had a change of heart and decided it might look lovely simply waxed rather than painted.

DSCF9477I had to call on the other half to finish the sanding as my wretched wrist started bothering me but it meant I got on and covered the seat pad. I didn’t bother removing the original material as it wasn’t torn or damaged. With the help of a staple gun (everyone should own one) and a few very short minutes it was done. Rather than finishing the underside like the original, with another piece of fabric I turned all the edges under and caught them under the staples for a neat edge. Nobody’s going to look but I’d know!

DSCF9480A coat of beeswax polish and I’m really pleased with how it’s turned out.

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Hexagons

I’ve finally finished my hexagon blanket. I’m slightly regretting the half hexagons on the edge which I feel look a little messy but then the alternative edge is even less appealing to me. It’s currently found a home on the chair in our bedroom but might make its way down the stairs when our living room looks more like a living room and less like a building site.DSCF9411DSCF9413After taking so long over this blanket I’ve decided that I much prefer to make blankets in rows, less ends to weave, quicker to make, no sewing. But then I fell so in love with my next motif for Simply Crochet that I’ve found myself turning it into a baby blanket for my new niece/nephew. At least being only small there won’t be so many ends! I’ll update you on that when the magazine is published.

Ravelry Admin

I’ve finally got around to adding a my motif patterns published in Simply Crochet to Ravelry. It’s taken a lovely message from deHaakBaak to push me into doing it.

Screen Shot 2014-04-15 at 12.49.46She’s hooked up a plethora of my Cool Clematis motifs from  Issue 7 of Simply Crochet and made a stunning shawl which you can see here. It’s lovely to see other people’s versions of your designs and Ravelry is such a great way of getting designs out there and seeing the end results.

So I’m planning to keep on top of things now – I have a couple of patterns coming out in the next issue (18) and I’m hoping to get more designs out there soon.

Testing hooks

I’ve always favoured the most basic of crochet hooks, you know the sort, straight metal ones with a little grip detailing the size of the hook. Most of mine are by Pony and for years and years I’ve got on with these like a house on fire. Until about 6 months ago, that is, when I got a very painful case of RSI in my wrist and had to put down my hooks completely for a while, I also had to stop almost all other things I do with my left hand, cleaning, stirring dinner on the hob, you name it, it hurt like mad.

I reckon a couple of months went by before the pain turned to more of an ache and it became more sporadic, only bothering me when I did something repetitive for a long time. So cooking and cleaning were back on the menu but crocheting was still causing me some issues. First of all I started working in shorter bursts, it meant I watched parts of films instead of crocheting all the way through and I saw views from the car window instead of only the yarn in my lap. I had hoped the problem might go away but another couple of months passed and I thought I’d better start looking for a way round the pain so I started experimenting with different hooks.

I doubt I’m unique, but rather than move the yarn round the hook as I’ve seen a lot of people do, I tend to keep the yarn very still and twirl the hook to pick up the yarn, this is one of the reasons why I love the Pony hooks, they’re perfectly cylindrical and the aluminium finish means they spin nicely in your palm. I also tend towards tighter tension than some and probably hold the hook a little too tightly, all of which I’m sure is contributing to the aches and pains. It has meant that my quest for the perfect hook has been a challenge, newer, ergonomic designs like the Addi Swing hooks are out of the question for me as they assume you move the yarn and not the hook. So I thought I’d give an old Clover Soft Touch hook go, I’d been given it as a gift and never used it as it doesn’t lend itself well to being turned in your hand. I actually got on with it surprisingly well and the elliptical shape worked out ok due to the smooth plastic finish. I couldn’t help noticing, however, how short these hooks are, a whole 2cm shorter than my beloved 15cm Pony hooks which meant it didn’t quite rest in my hand as I like but more poked a hole in my palm after a while.

DSCF9401From left to right: Clover Amour; Prym Soft; Pony with a Susan Bates Comfort Cushion; Clover Soft Touch

Then I chanced upon the discovery of Prym soft hooks on Janie Crow’s site and thought these would be the answer to my prayers, longer than the Clover Soft Touch at almost 14cm, and with a soft cylindrical grip, what more could I ask for? The euphoria subsided quickly as I found the shape of the head to be too bulbous, lacking in any definitive point it made for hard work. It’s not that I want it to be pointed but I found it didn’t naturally find it’s way through stitches and the result was a notable tightening in tension in the summer top I’m making and as I said earlier, my tension is already snug. So I ripped back the rows and put the hook to one side and set out to buy another Clover Soft Touch to continue my top.

A trip to my LYS who’d run out of Clover Soft Touch left me a bit lost, keen to work on a new scarf pattern for Simply Crochet while I was away this last week, I really wanted a new hook. Chatting to a member of staff, she suggested I try the Clover Amour, at double the price of the Soft Touch I was reluctant, but she passed me one to try and I was persuaded. It turns out this hook is my friend, 14cm, the same head style as the soft touch and with an almost triangular soft grip, it doesn’t spin quite like the aluminium hooks but it seems to be giving my wrists a rest and the soft rubbery handle doesn’t allow me to grip too hard. I will gradually be collecting the set I think.

So back from my trip I forgot all about the Amazon purchase I made a couple of weeks ago, clutching at straws I had tried out holding a hook inside a bendy hair roller, I’d removed the metal insert which gives it hold and replaced it with my hook, the idea had legs but the rollers were too fat and so with the power of the internet I found these Susan Bates Comfort Cushions.

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As far as I could tell these aren’t easy to get hold of in the UK so I purchased some from Amazon and they’ve taken a while to arrive. There are 2 sizes available and as I do most of my crochet on smaller hooks I went for the smaller size which fits up to a 4mm hook. They don’t go on easily, not onto a 4mm hook at least, a little liquid soap is recommended on the packaging but I’m not sure it’ll come off willingly now its in place. So far this feels like another good option for me, squidgier than all the other grips it means I can use my existing longer hooks but while the foam feels robust I’m not convinced it won’t degrade with use – only time will tell.

Where does the time go?

Where does the time go? That pretty much sums out how the last few weeks have gone, it’s not that I don’t feel a lot has been achieved, just that I really thought I’d find time to do more crochet.

Lots of other things have taken priority, the floors have all come up in our living room and been insulated and like all DIY projects in Victorian properties it wasn’t quite as simple as that. It might also be the reason I’ve not managed much crochet as the sofa is my chosen crochet location and it’s been under dust sheets. I have, however, done lots of baking. The sun came out for a very short while and then it hid away again and I’m finding it hard to move away from winter recipes so we’ve had homemade pies, nutty apple loaf from the hummingbird bakery cookbook, which is divine, and old school recipes like treacle tart and jam tarts.

I’m slowly working away at my summer top pattern which is not holding much appeal when it’s so dreary and cold outside. Here’s a little peak at the swatch I made in DMC Natura Just Cotton. The swatch is in Curry (N74) but I’m making the vest in Moss Green (N75) which is brighter and yellower (Is that even a word?)DSCF8514I’ve managed a few squares of my granny square blanket and been working on a few home accessories for Simply Crochet and that’s about it. I have had my head down working on a couple of tech features for a publication coming out later in the year so I’ll keep you posted when that comes out. It’s been a very long time since I’ve put pen to paper and the last time I wrote over 2000 words is over a decade ago so it’s been an enjoyable challenge.

The next project to add to my ever growing list will be a summer scarf pattern for Simply Crochet which I’m very excited about. I like to wear scarves all year round and made from beautiful Manos Serena it’ll be perfect for summer.

DSCF8796Next time I post I’ll have more progress pictures to show I hope!

 

A busy week of crochet

So the latest issue of Simply Crochet landed at my door yesterday and like most months I flicked to the back pages to see how my motif is looking. This one is really special, I’m so pleased with how the design came out. It looks a lot more complicated than it is and I love how the coral flower shape jumps out at you. I think I might make it into a sweet blanket for a little girl as the cotton is so soft and pretty.

DSCF8589Also in this month’s issue is my Gypsy Shawl design with a big black filet crochet rose in the centre. This is made from beautiful Drops Baby Alpaca Silk which at around £3 a ball is a steal for such luxury. It’s wonderful to crochet with and the end result has superb drape.

DSCF8588This year I’ve set myself the task of stash busting and I’m trying really hard not to buy yarn without a project in mind. I’m forcing myself to finish some WIPs and now I’m well on the way to a complete hexagon lap blanket which has been over a year in the making. I took the granny hexagon design from Issue 5 of Simply Crochet from back when I started helping out with tech editing, and then got bored sometime last year. It’s now become my go-to project for when I have a few minutes to spare on journeys and the like. It’s going with me everywhere at the moment in a desperate quest to finish it. It might end up on the chair in our bedroom as it compliments the duvet cover so well but this wasn’t the original intention.

DSCF8579I’ve also finished another quick hat pattern, the Women’s Peaked Cap pattern by Patons, available here. Lot’s of people on Ravelry seemed to find it came out a little too small but I hooked it using Manos del Uruguay Silk Blend and a 5mm hook and the size is perfect. I make a hat for my friend Laura every birthday so this will be this year’s done and dusted several months ahead of time. The muted tones will look fabulous with her fiery red hair.

DSCF8584I’m juggling lots of crochet projects at the moment (and not a lot else it seems) in a bid to reduce my stash, occasionally I embark on a bit if knitting but it too often seems to fall by the wayside. I’m working on a vest pattern for summer and about to start a giant granny square blanket inspired by my friend Faye’s version in Erika Knight Vintage Wool. I’ll make in in Katia  Sherpa, of which I have lots that I bought a few years ago when living in Spain and it is oh so snuggly. Using the same Katia yarn I’m making a cute bear as this stuff is so smooth, it’s perfect for amigurumi. There are some other ideas in the pipeline too but this week has been all about crochet.