Happy hooker – getting hooked on crochet

I can’t remember if I mentioned earlier this year that I took a quick class on beginner’s crochet – my first attempts were a bit feeble as you can see below, and my tension is all over the place, as expected. After the class, though, I decided to attempt a dishcloth to practice the basic single/double crochet stitch. You can see the green disaster below with the missing stitches as I lost a few each time I turned rows. I persevered, though, and picked up pretty quickly where I was going wrong – I tried again with another blue cotton yarn and ended up with a dishcloth I was relatively chuffed with (although I still haven’t added a border to it yet).

 

Life then got in the way, as it does, and I didn’t have the mental capacity to learn to do more. Since moving into the new apartment, though, for some reason I’ve been wanting to learn more and more since pushing my boundaries at the patchwork retreat. I’m a bit bored in my job, I think, so I’ve been craving mental sustenance … what better way than to pull out some cotton yarns and get stuck into doing a bit more crochet again. This is what I’ve managed to get up to over the last couple of weeks …

First up I decided to attempt a coaster – not a perfect job, but not too bad either. I still have to make the mug cozy to go with it (which is the main thing I wanted to make but I accidentally started the wrong pattern then wondered why it was so square haha) – which I’ll do soon. The bigger one was my first attempt – then I got better tension with the smaller one – it’s still far from perfect, but it’s ‘OK’.

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Next up I bit the bullet and started my Spice of Life blanket from the Spice of Life CAL by Black Sheep Wools. I thought I may be biting off more than I could chew being so new to crochet, but thought I’d give it a go anyway. I think I’ve unpicked way more than I’ve kept, and finally decided to throw in the towel at the below point to give me time to get a bit more confident before continuing. I’ve managed to lose a couple of stitches I think on the previous row, and I’m not happy with my tension in the last row I’ve done, so one day I’ll come back and re-do those last sections again. For now, though, I’ve decided to shelve it a wee while longer while I get a bit more confident with the basics.

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Then I found some ugly-looking cotton yarn (it didn’t look that ugly in the ball, so that’ll teach me not to judge looks by its cover) and a YouTube tutorial for a nubbly dishcloth – the rest is history. The first one was quite large due to looser tension, but also due to a higher number of stitches. The next ones I reduced the stitch count and managed to get a better tension. I’m pretty chuffed with them overall!! When I told my Mum weeks ago I wanted to make some dishcloths, she put an order in for some so these will all be going to her in time for Christmas.

The final thing I made yesterday was a washcloth/facecloth – it’s so incredibly soft, I think I’ll have to make one for myself too! I struggled a wee bit with the stitches of this one until I got a rhythm going about 1/3 in, then it seemed to go a lot more quickly. This is dishcloth #97 from Leisure Arts #3027 The Big Book of Dishcloths. I ordered a copy from the Book Depository before realising you could order a digital download from the Leisure Arts store in Ravelry … so guess who now has both versions, because I couldn’t be patient enough to wait for the book to arrive in the post! 😉

I have some time off at Christmas so I think I’ll be seeing a bit more crafty goodness coming out of the spare time during that time … inbetween doing more unpacking and getting the apartment finally into some sort of order. The big question will be what craft gets air-time first … cross-stitch, crochet or quilting (which is also on the to-do-list) … time will tell 😀

 

 

 

 

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Patchwork stitching retreat

As I mentioned in my last post, in early October I attended a Patchwork & Quilting Retreat in the Blue Mountains, NSW, organised by Linen and Threads. It was such a wonderful day away, I’m so glad I made the effort to attend in the middle of all the turmoil at home. I can certainly recommend the retreat – the organisation was great, the tutors wonderful, and the other attendees really lovely and welcoming.

These are all the great projects that were taught over the weekend, and the progress I managed to do in that week or two after I moved apartments. I love how each of the projects is big enough to give a challenge or two, but small enough to be totally manageable and more likely to actually get finished post-retreat!

The Little Things Pencil Case by Hatched and Patched

The Little Things Pencil Case by Hatched and Patched

The Little Things Pencil Case by Hatched and Patched

I was so chuffed with this one, my first ever wool appliqué project. I was a bit nervous about the construction, but actually managed it all without too much trouble. A huge shout-out to Anni, the designer/tutor from Hatched and Patched, who took me through all the key requirements one-on-one seeing as I wouldn’t be there the following day. Her tips were invaluable when I got home to start working on it! My rotary cutter now resides proudly in this wee case away from the elements. My very first wool appliqué project, and a finish no less!!

Snowmen & Santa Decorations by Hatched and Patched

The next project I attempted (and again actually completed) was another wool appliqué kit by Hatched and Patched – and I really, really love these wee ornaments! I will definitely do some more of these, they’re so much fun! I managed to whip through the stitching of these really quickly, and definitely will be looking to do more wool appliqué in the future! I guess that also means another stash pile of fabric will be starting very very soon 😉

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Snowmen & Santa Decorations by Hatched and Patched

The next couple of projects were by Marg Low Designs – and once again it was lots of fun challenging myself with new types of stitching, as well as doing the finishing by hand. I’ve managed to finish the first project, but still have to complete the last two.

Thread Roll by Marg Low

This is the one project of Marg’s that I’ve managed to entirely finish – however I changed my colours entirely from the designer’s version (mainly because of the pink colour being so prominent, and it’s by far my least favourite colour … so true to form I made mine in blues and greens instead). The picture below shows a sneak piccie of the original design, in the top left corner of the first picture, along with my fabric choices:

Thread Roll by Marg Low

Thread Roll by Marg Low

Make a Christmas Wish by Marg Low

Then I did the stitching on this one – but my initial thought of having teal/turqoise background fabric didn’t quite work out, I think … when I put the finished stitching onto the blue fabric it looks a bit ‘off’. I’m now thinking I might have to revert back to a red background fabric instead, hence why this one isn’t “finished” and frame yet. Seriously, how cute is that wee red reindeer button?!!

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Make a Christmas Wish by Marg Low – the original chart with my choice of fabrics

Make a Christmas Wish by Marg Low

Make a Christmas Wish by Marg Low

Hearts & Berries by Marg Low

The final design by Marg Low was another one I opted to kit up myself – and as always I chose to have blue tones in my fabric … I tried to follow the designer’s recommendations to a certain extent, though, and ensured to have a checked red fabric for the trim. These colours are a bit out of my comfort zone with the red/brick highlights, so I’m still pushing myself a wee bit with my choices. I’ve only managed to get as far as stitching the heart for the outer of the bag so far – one day soon I’ll get the actual bag itself constructed and finished, though.

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Hearts & Berries by Marg Low – the original design and my choice of fabrics and embellishments

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Hearts & Berries by Marg Low

Travel Cord Buddy by Michelle Marvig

And lucky last, the project that scared me the most from the weekend away – doing wee quilt hexagons … yikes! To say I was out of my comfort zone for this one is a total understatement. I didn’t have to do that many hexagons in the scheme of things, but I have to admit this was the least pleasurable of all of the projects and I’m not sure why. Perhaps doing hexagons while trying to match all the stripes wasn’t the best way for me to learn this skill! I have to say, though, I was pretty chuffed with the results, even though not every hexagon is perfectly lined up. This one also had me running to find a thimble, which I don’t normally use, but crikey my poor wee fingertips took a pounding with this one. I’m also not keen on the quilting job I was doing as I couldn’t get the tension right on my machine and couldn’t find my machine manual, so it ended up getting put away at this stage. I’ll get back to this one again soon, though, because I found a digital machine manual I could download, and as soon as I unpick the last stitches and tweak the tension, I’ll have another crack at it (and this time start a bit closer in to the hexagons for the first quilting line). It’ll be wonderful to have it finished as it’s a really useful tool to use (it holds your power cords etc for travelling) – it’s a gorgeous wee project, that’s for sure. And maybe in the New Year, I’ll be ready to tackle another hexagon project again … maybe 😉

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Travel Cord Buddy by Michelle Marvig – original design and my choice of fabrics

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Travel Cord Buddy by Michelle Marvig

So there you have it – a really stunning selection of projects from three terrific tutors. I enjoyed myself so much even having just one day of attendance, that I’m already booked in for next year’s retreat on the Central Coast of NSW. I can’t wait to see what projects will be awaiting us next year … and by then I should have all these projects finished too 😀

 

WIPocalypse November 2017

Wow, where did the time fly? It certainly wasn’t spent doing cross stitching, I know that much!! Not much stitching to share for the last three months I’ve been AWOL, at least for my WIPs anyway.  The only WIP updates I have are to the following, and even the progress here is pretty minimal.

First up there was Roswood Manor’s ‘Quaker Diamonds’ in early September – before and after:

Then there was Mirabilia’s ‘Red’ (in blue) later in September – before and after:

And lucky last I managed a few hours on Mill Hill’s ‘Starfish’ kit a week or two ago:

The rest of the time has been spent unexpectedly moving apartments as the owner of the apartment I’d been living in for almost 11 years decided to sell. In the middle of moving I also had a stitching retreat to attend, so I decided to still go to one day of the weekend retreat anyway – partly because I’d paid for some kits and and prepaid all the costs and accommodation … but partly because I thought I deserved the break. My mum flew over to help me pack/move, but sadly her early signs of dementia made that add a bit more stress to the proceedings and actually slowed things down – it was fantastic having her company, though, in saying that. Anyway, I’m all moved in now, and only about 20 boxes left yet to unpack (!). Most of the stitching stash has been unpacked now, so at least I’m free to go back to picking up the odd WIP or two when I feel like it.

After moving I couldn’t find my XS stash for ages, but the good thing is that I had the retreat projects handy and ready to go. As soon as I’d returned home from taking Mum back to NZ, I gave myself a week off from unpacking and had a week full of doing some wonderful ‘new-to-me’ crafts. It was really awesome, and just what the doctor ordered. There was so much to post about, I’ll make a separate post for these projects – mind you, they’ve now become WIPs, so a couple of them may reappear again in the future as non-XS WIPs for WIPocalypse …

Anyhoo, to finish off the post, here are the outstanding questions:

September 24 – Which floss (or color of floss) do you absolutely adore and want to stash constantly?
I adore Gloriana silks, and about six months ago signed up with a floss stash program where I’m sent four skeins every month with no postage costs. If I could choose them all to be BLUE skeins I’d be in seventh heaven, but having an envelope each month with luscious-feeling silks in any colour has been heavenly in itself. Obviously anything blue is something I’m always wanting … and every time I go to find a blue silk or floss I still never have just the ‘right’ shade to use …

October 29 – How did you begin stitching?
I used to try different crafts out all the time when I was in my ‘teens. At some point I decided to try cross stitch, and bought a small kit on aida to make for our office receptionist’s retirement gift. It’s the only craft I’ve continued to do year after year, while all the other crafts have fallen by the wayside over the years.

November 26 – What finishing style have you never tried but would love to do?
I have so many ‘smalls’ that I’d like to try finishing the list would be endless … I can’t truthfully think of just one that stands out above all others, though.

 

WIPocalypse September 2017

Thanks to my rotation ticking along swimmingly, I’ve had another month with relatively good progress on my WIPs 🙂

First up is where my latest start finished up at the end of my rotation slot – this is Mill Hill’s Starfish, which was technically a new start last month, but I guess has migrated into the WIP definition now … Here’s how it looked like at the end of August’s WIPocalypse, and how it looked at the end of the rotation slot:

Next up was my “Large/BAP” rotation slot, so I dragged out an older WIP to get a bit of love. This is Rosewood Manor’s Quaker Diamonds, and what it looked like before and after 10 hours of work on it.  Lots of colour changes in this one, but it’s quite enjoyable to stitch on the whole – at least it looks like some decent progress was made anyway!

And now for the question of the month:

Which floss (or color of floss) do you absolutely adore and want to stash constantly?

That’s a no-brainer for me … anything blue! Every shade and deviation possible!! And whenever I stitch I never seem to have just the ‘right’ shade of blue … but it doesn’t matter, just flicking through my blue silk stash in particular gives me joy. As for threads themselves, Gloriana and Belle Soie silks are probably my ultimate favourites to stitch with, followed by Au Ver a Soie d’alger, and Rainbow Gallery Splendor silks.

A small finish Ahoy, and starfish overload

On Sunday I managed a new start, which also ended up being a new finish – gotta love those small projects and a good audiobook to keep the momentum going all day! 😉

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“Square.ology sandcastle.frame Ahoy” by Hands on Design
Stitched on 32ct hand-dyed linen by Countrystitch ~ colour Blue Ice
(the photo looks grey, but it’s actually a delightful pale blue!!)
with recommended threads – the felt star and button came with the chart

Next up is yet another new start – I only got one hour’s stitching into this one on Sunday night, and another 40 mins last night, but I have a feeling it’s going to be another quick one to stitch up as it’s nice and blocky on the whole! Hmmmm just realised it’s another starfish – there seems to be a theme happening this week! 😀

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WIPocalypse August 2017

My goodness, doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun? I can’t believe it’s check-in time again for the WIPocalypse … although for once I finally have some decent stitching to share!

This month I’ve decided to go back to doing a formal stitching rotation, with 10 hours stitching in each rotation slot. The first time I did this religiously I noticed I got a heck of a lot more stitching done, and it seems like this time is no exception 🙂 My rotation contains a mix of old and new projects to mix it up a wee bit, with plenty of opportunity to give some older WIPs/UFOs a bit of tender loving care. It also now means I have a number of new WIPs to add to my WIPocalypse pile, as most of my projects are ones that will take a few rotations to complete. My rotation is basically as follows:

  1. Focus piece – currently Mirabilia’s Red (done in blue)
  2. Medium-sized projects – new start Jim Shore/Mill Hill’s Three Kings
  3. UFOs
  4. Focus piece
  5. Small to medium-sized projects – something to get a quick finish or two under my belt, and primarily new projects already kitted up
  6. Large and BAPs – currently Rosewood Manor’s Quaker Diamonds
  7. Focus piece
  8. Stitching smalls & Christmas ornies
  9. Canvaswork
  10. Non-cross stitch – to give myself a regular challenge

First up is my focus piece – this one appears in rotation slots 1, 4 and 7, so it will be getting lots of love regularly until it’s finished. My current focus piece is Mirabilia’s Red done in a blue conversion by Beverley and available here. Here’s the before photo on the left, and after two rotation slots on the right – it was very exciting to move the scroll bars up a bit!

Next up came a new start for me – Three Kings by Jim Shore/Mill Hill. This is stitched on the recommended fabric and has been kitted up for a wee while now. I figured it was time to get it started and some return on my hard-earned $$$ spent 😉 Here’s how it looked at the end of the rotation slot:

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Next in line was the UFO slot in my rotation – and the one slot that’ll likely give me lots of WIPocalypse fodder in the future. I summoned up the courage to finally get the stitching finished on a very old WIP – Flight of the Bumblebees by Ruth Schmuff. It’s not 100% finished yet, as I can’t find my Access Commodities gold spangles to finish it off. I also couldn’t find the bee charms, but managed to dig those up last week woohoo. Spangles are on their way from a US store, and it means that by the time the UFO rotation slot appears again, I can use it to finish this delightful labour of love. I have to say I never EVER want to re-do that drawn thread border ever again on canvas … that was a lot of love with not much love 😉 I really do adore this project, though, and so thrilled to see how far along I managed to get it this month! Once again a before and after shot:

Because I still had six hours of my rotation slot left over after not being able to finish Flight of the Bumblebees I dragged out another UFO – I really struggle with this one, so those six hours felt like forever. Not sure I’ll continue to keep this in the rotation next round, or maybe I’ll do half the rotation slot on something else and half on this one … I dunno, will see how I feel closer to the time …

Next up was of course my focus piece again, which I’ve already covered – and then it was into the small-medium sized projects, which are new starts, so I’ll do a new post to cover those. All-in-all though a VERY productive month stitching-wise, which feels awesome! Before I sign off, though, here’s the question of the month:

How do you get yourself out of a stitching drought?

Truly I don’t stress about it anymore – if anything I tidy up my stash, fill up my wishlist online, and just look through the pictures in online stitching groups. More often than not, though, if my stitching mojo has gone it also affects my energy for everything else. I always know, though, that it will return … so I don’t stress and just do whatever my heart tells me to do until my mojo returns – and it has always returned at some point 🙂

 

Hallowe’en SAL – all caught up with Jul/Aug!

Halloween ornie SAL

Wow, I really got ‘in the zone’ this weekend with my stitching – I think I even surprised myself yesterday!!  Here are my choices for July and August.

July – Ghosts

20638661_10154797585668148_4050567271399719620_n “Happy Halloween” by Simple Stitches (freebie)
Stitched on 32ct summer khaki (or dirty?) Belfast linen
with my own choice of DMC threads (similar to the charted GAST)

 August – Creepy Trees

I once again went back to Prairie Schooler’s When Witches Go Riding to stitch the main tree – this is where I can see the colours are very different between the witch and the tree, so I guess I’ll have to re-stitch the witch etc before I’m 100% happy with it – will see how I feel at the end …

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Now that I’m al caught up with the Hallowe’en SAL, I’m about to start kitting up four months worth of Christmas ornament stitching – as usual I’m also behind on my Just Cross Stitch ornie SAL for this year too (using last year’s ornament issue).