A few years ago, I spent a lovely day at my local agricultural show (Bingley Show – one of the largest single day events in the North). It was fascinating to see all the different animals on display from the tiny ‘fancy’ mice to the enormous show bulls via cats, hens, goats and everything in between. The show also has a whole load of traditional attractions – fruit and vegetable contests, flower arranging and my personal favourite, handicrafts. There were so many different categories and I made a promise to myself to enter. I was particularly spurred on when it became apparent that some of the categories only had three entries and furthermore all of the entries had been made by the same person, guaranteeing them all the rosettes!
So in June 2016, I downloaded my entry form from the show’s website and set to work. One of the categories was an upcycled item and what could be a better example of upcycling than reusing disposable plastic bags to make practical and functional storage baskets from plarn. You may have realised from earlier posts that I love plarn and I love making baskets so combining the multitude of coloured bags available, I created three rainbow striped baskets that fitted snugly inside each other. Standard crochet basket pattern, flat circle to start, line of dc into the back loops only to begin the side of each basket then carry on until they reach the desired height.
I was pretty happy with the end result – the rainbow lacked purple, I wasn’t able to find a suitable bag but I felt that the baskets hit the brief. It was only then that I read the small print. I hadn’t checked the dates and unfortunately we were on holiday for the day of the show. To enter, you have to present your items on the morning of the show and remove them at the end – no exceptions. After all my work and planning I couldn’t take part! Nevermind, there’s always next year!
As I type this (June 2017) I have downloaded the 2017 entry form – just need to check my dates properly this time!
My son loves cows. Not just a little bit – it’s bordering on obssession. In a way I feel partially responsible. My parents have a holiday home in Normandy, France. It’s a converted farm house and is adjacent to a working dairy farm. The President lorry turns up once a week to collect the milk to turn it into camembert – it’s all very lovely! However, we visited for a few weeks in August 2015 when he was just over a year old and it all began from there! Everytime my son was restless or upset or needing calming down we took him to see the cows and he became captivated by the majesty of these gentle giants. So it made sense that his 2nd birthday card would be cow themed!
Embroidery and applique again and very similar to the one I made for my daughter a few months earlier – hey, if something works and all that! It’s a very simple design but an effective one. The fabric in the background was from a local stationery shop who were selling fat quarters for £1.00 – I think this was designed as a Christmas fabric but I really liked the geometric pattern. Although I always say it, I do like embroidery but only ever seem to do it for birthday cards – I really must make the effort to do more!
I’ll warn you now, this is an odd one! I’d never really considered pincushions or their usefulness until I decided to make one. I got a free kit with Issue 66 of Mollie Makes – they called it retro style, I saw the opportunity to try out some of the floral designs that can be created with variations of the basic fan pattern. I loved the colours, very on-trend watermelon shades (pinks and greens) although I ran out of the dark pink and the green towards the end so had to improvise with some spare grass coloured cotton DK. I made a second one in blue and purple as a gift for my Mum.
Pincushions are really useful! Until I’d finished making this one, I don’t think I’ve ever used one before! I keep my pins in a recycled tiny jam jar and generally used the arms of the sofa or the chair cushions (as long as my husband didn’t see me!) while I was working on embroidery or pinning together limbs for woollen creatures but no more! At some point when I forget all the previous blankets and the time they take, I’d love to use this pentagon pattern to make something lovely for myself – maybe a bigger, non-pin cushion may be a more achievable goal though!
It’s been so long since I’ve written anything here that it’s become a “thing”. A niggle at the back of my mind of something that I should be doing but I’ve got out of the habit. One of the benefits of the Cliff challenge, that I hadn’t really given the whole thing credit for, was the focus it gave me and the momentum it provided to make me share – sharing my trials and tribulations and also my achievements. I haven’t stopped crafting, I make something almost everyday,but the recording bit has got lost somewhere so I’ll start my 2017 here and now with the big reveal of all the Cliff makes!
Due to holidays and commitments of extended family, we were really lucky to have three Christmas celebrations (complete with full Christmas dinners) – the final one of these was with my brother-in-law in January. For anyone who may have missed earlier posts, as a running joke with my husband’s family, I have been the long-suffering recipient of numerous Cliff Richard calendars over the past several years. In 2016, I decided to get my revenge!
And so as part of the after dinner entertainment, my brother-in-law was presented with the 12 Cliffs of Christmas. I’d wrapped and labelled each one with a hand-made gift tag – it was almost sad to say goodbye to the collection that I’d put so much time and effort into but it was worth it! I think the most successful piece was probably the jewellery made from rolled strips of calendar. The most challenging piece was the sonobe origami vase or perhaps the unsuccessful attempt at spinning paper into something able to be woven. I think I actually miss the challenge although I’m grateful that I don’t have to look at as much tanned and leathery old man skin – but I digress!
He took it well. I would describe his reaction as a mixture of confusion, amusement and mild astonishment and I’m relatively confident that there will be no more calendars – at least this should act as a deterrent!
You may recall that I bought a spindle with the intention of trying to spin paper into some kind of weavable material (May 2016 Cliff Craft Challenge). The words, straw, gold and Rumplestiltkin come to mind – some people may be able to spin paper into yarn but those people, I conclude, must be wizards! After abandoning my initial dream, I opted for the safer, more traditional method of spinning mohair wool tops into yarn. I used wool tops from a mixed colour Moorland themed bag that I’d bought from Texere as needlefelting supplies – lovely soft fluff in greens, blues and browns.
Trusty YouTube videos helped me to get started and off I went. I have a drop spindle (as opposed to a Sleeping Beauty style spinning wheel) so the idea is that you charge a leader with twist, then let that twist travel up the fibres, spinning then together. Once I got going, after more than a few false starts, I got quite into it. It’s quite hypnotic and I got a bit carried away with the rhythm and motion of it all.
Getting the twisted fluff off the spindle was another matter entirely and it’s taken me over 6 months (and getting to the start of this project in the process of getting up to date, blog-wise) to pluck up the courage to actually attempt it. So again, following a YouTube video, I wound the yarn (!) into a skein, dunked it in warm water and it’s currently weighted down over a door handle to block.
As I may have mentioned, spinning is addictive so I made an additional skein in pale blue with yellow and hot pink flourishes. There won’t be a lot of yarn so I’m thinking of using what I’ve made to crochet / knit some flowers for a brooch.
The yarn itself is interesting. I’m much more used to using plied yarn so my yarn is single ply but because I’m a proper novice it’s very varied in its thickness and some parts are much more closely twisted than others. I’ve started crocheting with the green yarn using a 3mm hook. It looks OK and I’m looking forward to improving my skills – it’ll take me a while to get to full wizard spinning status but I’m sure it will be good fun getting there!
The end of an era – the final project of a year long challenge! I needed something festive for my grand finale. I had a couple of ideas but really wanted to combine fairy lights and paper stars. I found a few different techniques, mostly involving origami (which we know is not my favourite thing) so settled on 8-pointed stars woven from strips of paper. I cut loads of 12cm by 0.5cm strips. Each star is made from 12 strips each and created in two halves which are then fitted together. The link to the tutorial I used is here:
I joined all the stars together in a long string then threaded some LED fairy lights (Poundland bargain!) through the gaps. The end result is pretty – I probably could have sized everything a bit better so the lights lined up with the centre of the stars – but it fits the bill!
It’s been fun and I feel like I’ve achieved a great deal. The big reveal will take place on 14th January so I’ll let you know how that goes. It’s been a bit of a mad month craft wise. I do love Christmas but always seem to set myself far too much to do to the point where it all gets a bit manic. After having crocheted a bespoke dinosaur mermaid for my son and handmade little gift boxes complete with homemade fudge and cookies for my team at work I was up until midnight on Christmas Eve making snowball pompoms, needle-felted sprouts and printed lino-cut gift tags. I was all great but I definitely needed a rest which is why it’s taken me until now to get December Cliff sorted out! Hopefully I’ll be back to more regular updates in the new year!
Firstly I’ll have to apologise for this being late. I did finish it about a week ago but have been frantically trying to finish off Advent baskets (which I’ve still yet to do – three missed chocolates so far!). I’ve gone back to paper cutting for November’s project but rather than a flat picture, this is a 3-d model.
The pattern for this project, a festive woodland scene with reindeer, was taken from Mollie Makes issue 71. Theirs was very on trend with gold reindeers and a blush border. Cliff was posing on a yacht this month which gave me two distinct colours to work with – tanned skin, as always, and beautiful shades of blue from the sea. The tree in the middle was made with 6 flat shapes from plain white paper folded in half and attached together which gave a nice solid base to the whole design – I chickened out a bit and cut them all out with scissors though! The cutting out of the border was a nice way to ease myself back in to paper cutting – tiny circles with a craft knife were challenging but I got there in the end. I’m very pleased with the reindeer – I managed not to chop off any vital parts – legs and antlers remain fully intact! Most of it is put together with double sided tape although I used hot glue to secure the tree to a sturdy piece of card and glued the border in place to make everything a bit more robust.
I really like the finished result! In the magazine, they cover the whole thing in a glass bell jar, I’m too much of a cheapskate to fork out but I can see that it could look really lovely as a centre piece. It’s been decorating our mantelpiece for the past week and I’ll be sorry to see it go to it’s new owner!
Only one more project to go on this whole crazy adventure – I’ll do a round up and reflection at some point and of course I’ll document the big reveal. My brother in law is out of the country over Christmas and New Year so it’s likely to be January before the 12 Cliffs of Christmas are finally handed over – I’m childishly excited thinking about the look on his face!
You may, by now, have guessed that I like Easter. I’m not religious so my love of Easter is all about new life, baby animals and the first green shoots of Spring after the dark and dreary depths of Winter (crisp, bright wintry days are fab but it’s the sleet and the slush and the whole lack of sunlight that I’m always glad to see the back of). Last Easter (2015) I made myself a bunny basket in shades of blue and purple. This year, I finally got round to making the companion piece – a cute and cuddly lamb basket. It’s crochet in the round in popcorn stitch and I did it in a traditional white (pastel coloured bunny = fine, pink sheep = something not quite right!). Since this basket was a present for my Mum, I thought I should play by the rules for a change! The construction of the basket is identical to the bunny, the only difference is the shape of the ears and the fact that the lamb has a little snout / muzzle for its mouth and nose.
It’s inspired me to try more different crochet stitches. I’m itching to have a go at crocodile stitch and maybe spike stitch – so many other projects to get out of the way first though! I had a slight crisis when I got to the top row and realised I was about three popcorns worth of yarn short so hastily subbed in a tiny bit of white yarn purloined from one of the monthly Mollie Makes kits – it’s round the back, it’s almost the same colour and I won’t tell if you don’t!
Yarn used: Women’s Institute Soft and Silky 4 ply in White
Pattern: Mollie Makes Issue 51
Although this pattern was designed as an Easter decoration, I thought it would work really well as a new baby gift for a friend. It’s another Mollie Makes pattern. It was lovely and quick to make (always a bonus) and easy to personalise. I made the bunnies using some of the left over bamboo cotton yarn from the ripple blanket I made for my nephew. I then over crocheted (I think that’s what it’s called) letters into each bunny to spell out the baby’s name, Benjamin. The letters weren’t as clear as I would have liked but the overall effect works OK.
The colours of these bunnies were dictated by my leftovers but I hope to make another string of bunting in yellows, blues and pinks as an Easter decoration for myself – any excuse to trim up!
Pattern: Mollie Makes Issue 64
Yarn: Oddments of King Cole Bamboo Cotton