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!
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!
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
Bit of weirdness with the photos – I can’t turn some of them round, I don’t know why…
My final projects for 2015, once the blanket was out of the way, were a crochet headband with tinsel yarn trim from 30 Minute Crochet plus a mini basket – both in Peacock Bamboo Cotton as it was the only yarn I took away with me when we went on our Christmas travels across the country! I was working on Christmas Eve so managed to whip up the bow while I was manning the incredibly quiet phone lines. I tried to crochet the whole bow in tinsel yarn but it is far too difficult to work out where the stitches are – definitely a yarn better suited for knitting.
I also did the £2.00 work Christmas present challenge in style (the idea is that you have a maximum budget of £2 so you have to get creative!). Up-cycled tea light holders made from baby food jars decorated with glass paint – one each of holly, stars and spots, crocheted baubles which were completed on a train coming back from Bristol with my sleeping son in my arms, baked Christmas shortbread plus other edibles and stationery bits all presented in hand stitched stockings made from a felted jumper that I’ve been meaning to do something with for ages. The jumper had been shrunk by my brother in law’s girlfriend, she was gutted and couldn’t face throwing it away so passed it on to my daughter – it did pretty much fit her but as with all accidentally shrunken clothing was a bit of a funny shape so I acquired it! I really enjoyed doing the tea light holders, I need to spend more time with the glass paint markers, apparently they can all be used on ceramics too – maybe a mug decorating project beckons?
A very productive end to 2015 all in all and 2016 began in a similar vein with the first new baby crochet bunny completed by 5th January, this time in Maypole Baby Crofter with a purple felt face and lime stitching and by chance I managed to find a matching vest to parcel up and send off – smiles all round!
Yarns: King Cole Bamboo Cotton DK in Peacock (shade 531) and Sirdar Snuggly Baby Crofter DK in Maypole (shade 173), oddments of the Bamboo Cotton used for the baubles (see previous posts for details)
Glass paints: Marabu GlasPainter in Reseda (shade 61) and Petrol (shade 92) and Edding 751 Gloss Paint Markers in Metallic Gold (shade 53), Green (shade 74) and Pink (shade 79)
Patterns Used: 30 Minute Crochet by Carol Meldrum – bow and basket, Crochet Guide from Homemaker Magazine Issue 38 – baubles.
Before I started rabbit number 2, I started work on my fourth blanket. Crochet ripple this time. There were many moments of deliberation before the final colours were selected and work began in August, a few weeks before the arrival of the intended recipient. I chose 8 shades of King Cole Bamboo Cotton, a bit of a compromise between using Sirdar Baby Bamboo which is gorgeously soft but very expensive and using a cheaper acrylic which may have been harder wearing but not quite special enough for what I hoped would become an heirloom new baby gift. I was very pleased with the colours available and the Bamboo Cotton is also washable – definitely a bonus! We knew the gender before the baby was born but I didn’t want to make it all out “boyish” just in case and anyways everyone needs some Damson and Saffron in their life!
I wasn’t sure when I started. A friend began a similar ripple blanket around the same time and I’d heard reports of the foundation chain being hurled across the room in frustration! Luckily for me, the experience gained from the ripple baskets meant that the whole process was relatively painless, it just took blooming ages!
The blanket in progress travelled on our family roadtrip across the Channel to Normandy and back again via Cadbury World Chocolate Factory, yurt camping in the rain in Somerset and a visit to Stonehenge. I took it to work to put in extra time and the whole thing became a complete labour of love – I definitely owe a debt of gratitude to my work colleagues who became my personal cheerleaders and got me through the final push. It was finally finished in December and given to my nephew as a first Christmas present. It wasn’t perfect but it was beautiful.
I did a treble ripple pattern and changed colour after every two rows. The photos don’t quite do the colours justice particularly the deep purple of the Damson. I edged the whole thing in a bright teal colour (Peacock) which I love! See previous post for matching rabbit and shoes.
I’m not going to say no to doing another blanket but I think what I need to do is start using chunky yarn rather than DK so it grows more quickly and doesn’t drive me quite as mad – give me another six months though…
Yarn Used: King Cole Bamboo Cotton DK in shades 1643 Pale Mint, 518 Ice Blue, 635 Lawn Green, 533 Green, 525 Cobalt, 609 Glacier, 524 Damson and 637 Saffron with 531 Peacock for the edging.
After a failed experiment using some retro Emu Coolspun yarn that I was gifted from my friend’s great aunt I went on to make another pair of crocheted hi-tops for a friend’s new baby. I also crocheted a baby rabbit which I’m really pleased with as I designed it myself (read completely winged it!). I put the lessons learned from the little alien to good use and plumped for crochet rather than knitting. This was mainly done as I felt I could finish the whole thing much more quickly but also I could make it in the round without the faff of double pointed needles (which I am still vaguely scared of). I’ve always found sewing up seams incredibly difficult to master and it’s even more tricky when using sock yarn – it was one of the things I didn’t like about the alien. I think I also fixed the issues I had with the proportions and the head to body ratio.
Shortly after the first rabbit I moved swiftly on to the second one which I made for my nephew. In a bid to be more organised, I’m writing down the pattern as I go along so I can recreate it properly!
So here goes…
ch4 and ss into 1st chain to join.
Round 1: 12tr into round (12 sts)
Round 2: 2tr into each st (24 sts)
Round 3: 1tr in first stitch, 2 tr in second stitch – repeat all the way round (36sts)
Round 4: 1dc into back loop only (36sts)
Rounds 5 – 9: 1tr in each stitch (36sts)
Round 10: tr2tog, 1tr – repeat all the way round (24sts)
Round 11: dc2tog all the way round (12sts)
Stuff body at this point
Round 12: 2dc into each st (24sts)
Rounds 13 – 15: 1tr in each st (24sts)
Round 16: dc2tog, 1dc – repeat all the way round (12sts)
Round 17: dc2tog all the way round (6sts)
Round 18: dc2tog all the way round (3sts)
Fasten off and use tail of yarn to pull final stitches tight. Sew in ends.
I attached little ears and a felt face and tail and I also put a little bell into each of my rabbits when I stuffed the body. It doesn’t make much noise as the toy stuffing muffles it but it jingles a little bit. Rabbit number two is pictured here with it’s own matching hi-tops and also “the blanket” – a pure labour of love to be discussed at a later date!
Yarn used: Rabbit One and matching Hi-Tops – Sirdar Snuggly Baby Crofter DK in Archie (shade 166). Rabbit Two and matching Hi-Tops – stripes of King Cole Bamboo Cotton DK in
shades 1643 Pale Mint, 518 Ice Blue, 635 Lawn Green, 533 Green, 525 Cobalt, 609 Glacier, 524 Damson and 637 Saffran
Hi-Top pattern from Mollie Makes, see earlier post for full details.
As an experiment in texture I want to try using plarn in combination with yarn. I’m using a combination of green plarn (courtesy of the plastic bags used to carry wine home from my local off-licence!) and some neon Red Heart mega wool that I couldn’t resist on Amazon. So far, so interesting! This will be a circle to square base with 4 sides and hopefully two ripples per side. I’ve pretty much decided that as I write this now – I’m sure it’ll probably work out but as always they’ll be some mad maths and pencil scrawlings to work out the logistics!
Right, I’ve done 5 rounds so am ready to square the circle as it were! 60 stitches round, so each side will start with 15 stitches. So to square it, I repeated the following, four times.
2tr, 1tr, 1tr, 1htr, 1htr, 1 dc, 1dc, 1dc, 1dc, 1dc, 1htr, 1htr, 1tr, 1tr, 2tr, with a chain 4 round the corners.
This means that each side now has 21 stitches so I decided to do two ripples per side – 2 lots of 10 stitches with a single dc in the middle. It worked and I finished with a straightening off row at the top. In theory, I’m pleased with the experiment using the plarn and yarn combo but I’m not sure about the mad yarn. The whole neon overload is a bit much for me but the husband likes it. Also have to add that I worked on it poolside in Portugal. Not as glam as the big Crofter blanket in Monterey but pretty cool nonetheless! And the basket is now used to store my son’s socks in a bid to keep the pairs together and stop odd ones wandering off to the land of missing socks, hair bobbles and scissors – all of which disappear from my house on a regular basis – I’m sure there’s some kind of conspiracy…
Yarn Used: Recycled plastic bag yarn, Red Heart Super Saver Yarn in shade Blacklight (E300-3939)
I’ve started experimenting with plarn (plastic yarn) and I like it! I used a template from Crochet Step by Step by Sally Harding to cut plastic bags into one long continuous strip that can be used as yarn. I’m using a 6mm crochet hook and I’m currently working on a little basket trying to do some rippling.
The whole plarn experiment is going swimmingly and I feel I may be obsessed! I keep looking at plastic bags and thinking about how the different colours will work in future projects (Marks and Spencer – lovely shades of green, Sainsburys – orange, Argos – pale turquoise etc etc). Ombre basket in shades of green completed plus one with green and white stripes. I’m working with double thickness at the moment with a 10mm crochet hook – the plan is for an orange and white base with black round the edge of the base and bottom of the sides then back to orange for the rest.
Really pleased with the results and yes, I have a massive stash of plastic bags ready to turn into yarn when I get a free moment! What a fab craft for using up all those hundreds of plastic bags that everyone has stuffed in a drawer / cupboard / larger plastic bag!