Birthday on a Budget/Best Present Ever!!

A Unitopian Birthday!

A Unitopian Birthday!

At the weekend my youngest daughter turned seven. For a long time now, she has been obsessed with unicorns. In fact I think many of her presents from previous birthdays and Christmases have involved unicorns. So much so, it can be very difficult to get in her room for them. When asked what she would like this year for her birthday, unicorns were once again her answer.

This year, as I work as an artist, money has been more tight than usual. There has been massive cuts in the sectors I traditionally work freelance for and I need to ensure I can still pay my studio rent, insurances etc. So spending on day to day has tightened and certainly what we would normally spend on our girls for birthday presents has cut right down.

Luckily, as you may have seen on my previous pages, I can turn my hand to most craft/making/arty thing. So, I decided to hunt out some unicorn related crochet patterns and make her seven unicorns for her seventh birthday. Which was quite time consuming, proved inexpensive. The pattern I used is Amigurumi by Lan-Anh Bui and Josephine Wan, published by GMC Books. I’ve used this book before and it has great, simple instructions for outrageously cute amigurumi creatures. I adapted the horse/zebra pattern by adding a unicorn horn, plus using very bright colours.

First crocheted unicorn, in sparkly wool.

First crocheted unicorn, in sparkly wool.

Each unicorn took about three hours to make and the wool we already had around the house or was topped up from our local Poundland. The fun part was choosing the colour combinations!

Unicorn with fairy-tale house.

Unicorn with fairy-tale house.

Over a couple of weeks, I worked on the unicorns.

Five made, two in pieces...

Five made, two in pieces…

Once the unicorns were finished, we decided it would be even more fun to make a unicorn head band! So, mixing three wools together, I crocheted a triangle shape which could be sewn into a cone shape and attached to a headband.

Crocheting the unicorn horn.

Crocheting the unicorn horn.

On her birthday, her two elder sisters had created a treasure hunt for her unicorn presents. She was given her unicorn headband to where and the first clue to find them. Then she was off, racing around the house to find all of her seven new friends. Since then, they have not left her side and great fun has been had, giving them all names.

A new uni-tastic friendship has begun!

A new uni-tastic friendship has begun!

All in all, I probably spent about £15 on buying more wool, stuffing and the headband. Not bad for the Best Present Ever’!

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February Stash Buster Challenge!

I’d noticed all over the internet there seems to be lots of Stash Buster Challenges going on and I think in February, there is a big event on Tumblr. Now, I’m not on Tumblr – don’t know if I should be – but the girls and I decided that we will do our own anyway…

Now, the point of the exercise is to only make something with wool (or fabric etc) that you’ve had hanging around in your ‘stash’ for over a year. So, yesterday, we took a trip to the studio to have a good root around to see what wool I had which had been there for sometime. My middle daughter found the colourful acrylic wool that I always have about and she has decided she is going to make a stripy snake using a circular, knitting loom. My eldest daughter also fancied using one of the knitting looms and has started making a hat out of some chunky wool. My youngest daughter has decided that she’s stash busting the Hama beads and is making lots of lovely pictures!

I found a pack of lovely wool I bought possibly five years ago with no plan on what I was going to use it for, except that I liked the wool! The wool is Click by Sirdar in an amazing multitude of colours. I decided that I fancied making a tank top in it and although I KNOW somewhere I have a pattern, I can’t put my hand to it at the moment. So, foolishly, I have decided to try and make my own using graph paper and the suggested tension measurements to help me! Time will tell if it works!

Sirdar 'Click' wool for Stash Busting!

Sirdar ‘Click’ wool for Stash Busting!

During February, hopefully, I’ll be able to update you on mine and my daughter’s progress with our making. Fingers crossed that we get our projects finish in time and – even better – maybe bust some more wool from the stash!!

How to: Broomstick Crochet

Broomstick Crochet is a traditional technique dating back to the Victorian period. It is a very decorative technique which can make the finest mohair’s, to the cheapest polyester and the chunkiest wools, look beautiful – whether by giving them a spider web feel or an architectural structure.

Finished Broomstick Crochet Scarf

Finished Broomstick Crochet Scarf

To make this scarf, I used some beautiful wool my husband bought me for Christmas. It is called Jitterbug, made by Colinette, 100% wool, 4 ply and 400yds in length. It’s not cheap, but the colours available are fabulous! He bought it in a lovely wool shop called Woolaballo in the pretty market town of Hexham.

To make this scarf you will need:

1 x 4mm crochet hook (larger if using chunky wool)

1 Ball of wool, sock weight/4ply

1 x 15/20 or 25mm knitting needle (the larger the needle, the bigger to loops)

Wool needle to finish off the ends.

Stage 1:

Cast on in multiples of 5 (for each loop series). I usually cast on 40 chain stitches, plus 2 for turning.

Crochet cast on

Crochet cast on

Stage 2:

Crochet 3 rows of double crochet (40 stitches on row)

Foundation of Scarf

Foundation of Scarf

Stage 3:

Using your crochet hook, slip stitch one loop from the top of each stitch from the previous row and hook it onto the large knitting needle. (Not lady like – but I do find it helps to place the knitting needle between my knees to do this!) If you started with 40 stitches, you should aim to have 40 loops. (The odd one more or less is fine as you can correct it later*).

Loops onto the knitting needle.

Loops onto the knitting needle.

Stage 4:

Next row. Pick up 5 stitches (loops) together with the crochet hook and double crochet 6 times into them (first set of stitches only). Continue picking 5 stitches together across the row, but now just crochet 5 double crochets into each set. You should now have 40 stitches on your row again.

Picking 5 stitches together with crochet hook.

Picking 5 stitches together with crochet hook.

Stage 5:

At the end of the row, you should now have a pretty ‘fanned’ effect across the top stitches.

Fanned and twisted effect caused by Broomstick Crochet.

Fanned and twisted effect caused by Broomstick Crochet.

Stage 6:

Now, double crochet 2 more rows. Then, as before, make slip stitch loops into the tops of the 40 stitches and place them onto the knitting needle.

Making new Broomstick Crochet loops onto the knitting needle.

Making new Broomstick Crochet loops onto the knitting needle.

Stage 7:

Continue this way until you have reached a length you are happy with for your scarf then cast off last stitch and fasten in all your ends.

Keep working further rows.

Keep working further rows.

The beautiful fanned, texture of Broomstick Crochet.

The beautiful fanned, texture of Broomstick Crochet.

Besides making scarves, I have also used this method to make lovely warm neck collars for the tops of coats and small, more fitted snoods which work well as a roll neck on a jumper. Once you know how to achieve the technique, there’s lots of beautiful things you can make.

Below, is a ‘figure of 8’ snood which I made for my niece. This was made using organic, aran weight, Welsh wool. As you can see, this weight makes the Broomstick Crochet less ‘spidery’ but it gives it a lovely architectural look.

Broomstick Crochet Snood

Broomstick Crochet Snood

*Occasionally, you might find that you end up with 39/41 loops. Don’t worry about this as you can amend this by picking up a batch of 4 or 6 loops to correct the number and ensure you still crochet in a multiple of 5 double crochet stitches to rectify the mistake – no-one will know.

In the orginal photo of the scarf you can see at the top of this blog post. I wrapped the scarf round twice, then placed the two ends of the scarf over each other and pinned it with a brooch. This creates a cowl/snood, very warm effect.

The brooch was made using the last length of the wool. To make it, I French knitted a length, folded it into a flower shape, which I stitched together. Then I decorated it with a piece of broken jewellery in the centre and stitched beads around the edge. This can now be used to keep my scarf together (which doesn’t have to be just an outdoor scarf) or used to decorate a jacket or bag.

French Knitted brooch.

French Knitted brooch.

Broomstick Crochet Snood

Broomstick Crochet Snood

Broomstick Crochet Snood

My niece is doing well for Christmas presents this year, she has been watching my posts recently and has regularly spotted things that she fancies. This piece I have made specially for her after she’d seen a scarf she liked on the internet and asked if I could make her one. I have kept to the grey and yellow theme she liked and the ‘snood’ look, but I have made her scarf using Broomstick Crochet, which is the technique that creates the beautiful twist in the wool. The wool I have used is hand spun Welsh Aran weight, organic wool, un-dyed and the yellow is some Rowen baby weight wool, that was just the right shade.

Close-up of the yellow and grey wool tones.

Close-up of the yellow and grey wool tones.

I feel a ‘How to:’ coming on, as Broomstick Crochet is such a beautiful technique and I often use it in both mohair weights, sock wool is great, Aran weight works well and even the cheapest of wools can look pretty in this technique. In the heavy weight wools it shows off the structure of the design quite architecturally.

Close-up of Broomstick Crochet stitch.

Close-up of Broomstick Crochet stitch.

Anytime. Anywhere. Socks!

Knitting the toe

Knitting the toe

The great thing about knitting socks is that you can take them anywhere and knit anytime! I have a lovely little handbag a friend gave me, which is just big enough to fit one ball of wool, four sock needles, my pattern (which I probably don’t need), a wool needle and a tape measure. So, whenever I know I may be sitting down for short or long periods of time, the bag gets picked up as I walk out the house.

This photo was taken yesterday whilst my eldest daughter was having her bassoon lessons at the Sage, Gateshead. I did get to finish the first sock and now I’m half way down the second. There’s a slim chance I may now get them finished for Christmas and they could be a present to myself – which would be novel! Generally, they are given to friends and family. But, I do love the fact that some of the socks can take up to six months to make with a little bit knitted at a child’s party, some knitted at swimming lessons, slightly more knitted on long car journeys.

Matriarchal Trefoil Progression

                       Image

Using hooky technique, I have continued creating the trefoil stained glass design with the portraits of my Mum, my Nan and my Great Aunt. Recently, I have been dyeing wool blankets in lovely bright colours to use, though I do also reuse clean old clothes (don’t want to encourage moths!)

Image     Image

The two images above show how I worked the portrait of my Great Aunty Wilma, who was a very strong women within our family. Although, within stained glass portraits the image, and in particular the face, was generally kept grey/cream, I felt it was important to maintain the hair colour as my aunty always had, in my memory, a ‘coloured rinse’. Her hair would range from lovely lilacs, to pale blues and pinks to oranges.