Saturday, 30 November 2013

Union Jack Designs

I was flicking through my photos the other day and saw the photos I'd taken during the creation of this project and thought I'd document it. In the 18 months I've been crocheting, it is by far my most proud achievement. I came up with the idea for a blanket for my friend who was expecting a baby. I knew she was mad on Union Jacks, they even featured in her wedding back in May 2011, so I wanted to make a Union Jack blanket for her and her baby. But I couldn't find a pattern! A few knitted ones but I feel more comfortable with crochet, but I didn't feel comfortable in my ability to create a pattern, as I'd never attempted anything like this before. Then I discovered graphghans. A graphghan is a way of charting out a pattern, using squared paper (or in my case, an excel spreadsheet!). One square equates to one stitch, so you just work out the number of stitches you need to achieve the size you want the project to be, and chart it out. There are even websites you can use which will convert an image for you (usually designed for cross stitch or knitting but can also be used for crochet, the principle is the same). 

So, I found my image, got it converted, tweaked it a bit here and there and began... 

When I started making the blanket, I was cutting and joining in the new yarn at each colour change, which was resulting in having a thousand ends to sew in and was terribly time consuming. In my nervousness about tackling a project like this, I had procrastinated about starting. And then my friend had some issues with her pregnancy and her little boy was born in May, at 32 weeks! Luckily, after a short stay in hospital, they were home by Father's Day, which was wonderful. But it also meant that I needed to get a wriggle on. So the cutting and joining and sewing in of the ends was not helping. Then my lovely nan, who is a knitter-extraordinaire, suggested I adopt the method used in intarsia knitting, where each section of colour has it's own ball. You twist the old and new together at each colour change, leaving the old behind so it's there for you to pick up when you come back the other way. Once I got the hang of juggling so many balls, it really helped speed up the process. As long as I was careful to keep them as untangled as possible (hence the chocolate tin, which prevented them from bouncing around the room), I was able to make real progress. 

Halfway point :)

I chose the grey colours as I wanted a subtle palette for this blanket, rather than the more in-your-face patriotic red, white and blue. I used Stylecraft Special DK yarn, a lovely and soft 100% acrylic. With it being a baby blanket, I wanted to use something that could be chucked in the washing machine (and I have since heard that it has been washed on several occasions and is still looking as good as new, which has pleased me no end :) )

So nearly done! At this point I was starting to think of the border, and how to finish off the blanket. I haven't made many blankets yet but I really think a good border can really make a blanket and I couldn't decide what to do. I knew I wanted to keep it simple, and let the design speak for itself so I finally decided on three rows of each colour...

And here it is!! 

I feel like I took as much care with the presentation of the blanket as I did in the creation of it. I love giving gifts, and was very much looking forward to my friend seeing this for the first time. The original plan was to give it to her when we were both staying in the village where our parents live (well, my parents and her mother in law), as we actually live about 50 miles from each other and generally only see each other when we are at a social gathering back home, but I wasn't able to get it finished on time to coincide with such a gathering, so in the end I had to mail it to her. But the message I got when it was opened was well worth it. I have since seen many lovely pictures of her little boy snuggled up in it and it really is one of my most favourite items I have made so far. 

I vowed when I finished that I wasn't going to attempt another graphghan project as it was just too complicated, but of course that lasted about a week and ever since then I have been planning an even more ambitious design, which I am soon to start. So watch this space... :)

Sunday, 20 October 2013


It's almost a bit late in the day to be talking about Yarndale, as it was back at the end of September. But I had such a lovely weekend that I'm going to talk about it anyway :)

Yarndale was a two-day festival of knitting, crochet, yarn and creativity held in Skipton. Two friends and I travelled up on the Friday afternoon and, after finding our hotel near the Yarndale venue, we wandered into Skipton to enjoy the small market town in the wonderful late summer sunshine. 

As we walked though the park, we came across some fab yarnbombing. It was obvious that a lot of work had gone into creating these pieces and they were really lovely to see. 

We walked along the canal into Skipton and soon came across the irresistible scent of fresh fish and chips. It was so irresistible that we had to go and treat ourselves for lunch. We went to Bizzie Lizzie's restaurant and had a very nice meal of fish, chips and tartar sauce :) 

Skipton is a lovely little town, with a nice range of shops. We came across a lovely little charity shop full of lots of creative things, like gorgeous fabrics and buttons, and knitting and crochet things. I also found a gorgeous dress for just £7 which I *had* to buy. I'm wearing it now in fact, with my trusty leggings and cardigan combo! 

As the afternoon went on, we walked back to our hotel for the evening. We'd booked into the local Travelodge as it was extremely close to Skipton Auction Mart, the Yarndale venue. In all honesty, the Skipton Travelodge is tired and could do with a good refurbishing. But it was cheap enough for the three of us, and adequate for our needs. If Yarndale is held again next year I think we shall be looking at different accommodation, but it was fine for what it was. We had taken a stash of food for the evening and had a bit of a pyjama/crochet party in our room. 

The next morning we checked out of the hotel and went in search of breakfast before making our way to the auction mart. As we got inside the venue, the first thing you noticed was the bunting! Strings and strings of gorgeous crochet bunting! 

The bunting triangles had been sent from over 30 countries around the world, following a request from Lucy, one of the Yarndale organisers and writer of the fabulous 'attic24' blog. They received over 6,000 triangles (Lucy's Yarndale bunting story can be found here... )Anyway, it looked amazing.  

We first made our way to the stall of the lovely Lisa, who's business, For The Love of Yarn, sells gorgeous fimo-handled crochet hooks, stitch markers and beautiful hand-dyed yarns. My friends, Lisa and I are on a couple of Facebook crochet groups together so it was lovely to meet her in person. 

After wandering around about half of the stalls, we made our way to the 'Knit and Natter lounge', hosted by Attic24's Lucy. This was a cosy area in the centre of the building, with plenty of space and chairs for people to sit and relax and do a bit of knitting or crochet too. Lucy had decorated the area with her crochet items. Any follower of her blog would recognise some of the blanket and cushions she had brought along, especially the blooming flower cushion. And the yarnbombed lamp was amazing! 

We sat and crocheted for a while, then after some lunch explored the rest of the stalls. All too soon it was time to leave Skipton and make the two hour journey back down south. 

We all had a fantastic time, and I'm really hoping the Yarndale team decide to repeat the event next year. It seemed to be a huge success and I know I'd love to go again. 

Lazy Sundays

Today has been a lazy Sunday. 

Mr H got up at 6am when Lady A woke and let me have a lie in.  I got up at a more leisurely 9am and had most of my peanut butter on toast stolen by a very cheeky Lady A. We went food shopping.  Came home for lunch and Lady A went for a nap (two hours and she's still sleeping!).  Mr H has been busy in the kitchen making a delicious smelling tomato, chickpea and chorizo soup for our lunches this week. And I've been curled up on the sofa, devouring a chocolate orange, and making progress on my giant granny stripe blanket.

I love days like this :)

Hope you're all having fab Sundays.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Getting Started

So. First blog. I guess I'd better introduce myself. I'm Annabella, 32, wife to Mr H, mother to Lady A, crocheter of unfinished projects, cat owner/slave. Oh, and lover of cream cakes. I am writing this with a fresh cream scone waiting expectantly beside me. I do love a good cream cake. And sometimes even a bad one. But then there's not often such a thing as a bad cream cake.

Sadly I can't claim the above as my own, mine was just a standard shop-bought scone. But it was good enough. Looking at pictures like this always gives me the urge to bake. I think I need to make some scones in the not too distant future... I can just imagine, freshly warm from the oven, split and layered in proper butter... Mmmmmmmmmm :)

Anyway, I digress. I live in the East Midlands, in a standard 2.5 bed 1950s semi. It doesn't really lend itself to the shabby chic style I'd love to embrace so my home is currently a modge podge of random inherited bits of furniture and Lady A's ever-increasing stash of toys and stuffed animals. Oh the clutter! I'm such a hoarder. Something I hope to document over the months with this blog is the gradual declutteration of this house. We are trying to save up for a deposit to buy our first home and when that finally happens, I'd love to be able to only have to move about half of the contents of this house. So it is a work in progress. I managed to sort the Room of Doom when I was expecting Lady A, which was the box room and we wanted it to be her bedroom. We moved here in November 2009 and for the first two years it was a forgotten room, full of still-packed boxes, old paperwork, and random junk. The door stayed permanently shut and it was definitely a case of 'out of sight, out of mind'. Being pregnant gave me the kick we needed to get the room sorted, I managed to chuck out a load of things I hadn't looked at for two years and it really felt good! But that was November 2011 and not much else has been discarded since then. Plus we've obviously acquired a nearly two year old, and all the stuff that comes with one! Becoming a mother has forced me to become a tidier, more organised person. Well, to an extent. I am still not particularly tidy or organised but I have more good days than bad. Like I said, it's a work in progress. Both the house and myself!

On to my hobbies. I only really have one, my crochet. I've been crocheting just over a year now and I love it. I just wish I was faster as there are too many things I want to make and not enough hours in the day. Not if I want to sleep anyway. I shall of course be sharing some pictures of my projects along the way.

I'm loving my giant granny stripe blanket. I've got a long way to go, I started this months ago but it was neglected for weeks as I worked on some gift projects, but now that the nights are drawing in, I really need to crack on. I've a few Christmas gifts planned, plus I've just started a spiral cardigan for Lady A but hopefully some time will be devoted to this gorgeous blanket as well, and I might even finish it before next summer...

So that's a little about me. I've got some other things in my mind I want to commit to blogdom, but I'll save that for another time... :) x