Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Crafting Christmas Cheer


image of crochet Xmas tree on home-made card
I'd like to start this post with a HUGE thank you to those of you who left such wonderful comments on my crochet Christmas tree pattern. Your comments are always greatly received (- especially when I know how any of your spare time is precious at this busy time of year!). It gave me such a thrill to see other people create their own Christmas tree projects pictured on Ravelry because they were inspired by my design. It encourages me to believe in my own creative abilities and gives me the confidence to share my designs with you in the future. Thank You!

Some of my trees went onto the front of personalised Christmas cards for the teachers at my daughter's school, and for family and friends. I even had my first order from a member of the family to make ten of these cards for her colleagues at work. It was quite quite nerve racking actually because she hadn't seen the finished item yet so the pressure was on to produce a card that would be simple and yet have universal appeal. I'm so glad to say they were greatly received by all (phew!). I've really enjoyed my Crafternoons lately...of which there have been many! But it's not all about crochet trees....

image of home made Xmas wreath
A wreath like this one above is being sold in a local farm shop for £30 - yes £30! But this one cost the price of half an orange and a few cloves because... I made it! The straw wreath circle, the pine cones, berries, cinnamon sticks and the bow are thrifted from last years supermarket bought wreath. The evergreen fern is from my garden, the holly from my local woods, and the spiky bit of greenery is from the pine trees from Delamere Forest where we had a lovely day out with friends last weekend. The sweet little felted Robin is from the packaging from a Xmas present last year and the bells are from a broken Christmas decoration (I don't throw anything away!). It was so easy to put together - everything was simply threaded through the string bindings of the wreath - easy peasy. I thoroughly enjoyed making this, it looks so much nicer than a supermarket one and it's cost effective!

A good tip on drying orange slices is to place them on a radiator to dry out instead of drying them in the oven. Once they've been sliced, pat them with kitchen roll or a tea towel to absorb any excess moisture, then leave them on a hot radiator. They retain their fresh orange colour... if baked for too long in the oven it can result in them looking too dry, shrivelled, and brown. Plus there's no extra cost of having your oven on for 2-3 hours - another win win situation!

This is my latest cheap supermarket find...
image of a Santa tree topper I just couldn't resist it - only £5, and its really well made (I could never have made something like this). They did have a crochet Angel, but I much preferred the Santa - I know I know it's terrible that I should say that but I can and will make my own crochet Angel one year. Anyway the tree is covered with Angels and we do have an Angel on the girls Christmas tree, see...
image of pink Christmas tree
...this tree was meant to live on the landing outside my daughter's bedrooms, they decorated it last year here in the hall downstairs and it looked so nice that I just kept it there. Another supermarket bargain in the sales at just £5. I would have LOVED this tree as a little girl so here it stands again in the same spot this year. I think the Angel looks better suited sitting atop this girly tree! Just a few more gorgeous decs to show you...
image of Christmas decorations on mantelpiece
All the items on the mantelpiece are made from tin. The houses are tea-light holders and when the candles are lit it looks like the houses are aglow from the inside. They are full of traditional detail, wonderfully festive and very glittery. These are my Christmas treasures which I would love to see passed on to my Grandchildren. I have to admit they bring tears of joy when I unwrap them for the first time and tears of sorrow to see them packed away again for another year. I'm a big kid at heart! The Santa and snowman are also tea-light holders, and the heads wobble when touched. Love 'em I do!
image of christmas decorations on fireplace

image of fireplace Christmas decorations
It's so cosy of a night as the only lights we have on are the fairy lights on the tree and the fireplace, add to this the warm glow of the tea-lights on the mantelpiece and firelight and a cup of hot choc, and it really does wonders for the soul! Unfortunately I had to use the flash so I couldn't capture this for real. Can you see Santa's Express? It's made from wood and is choc-a-block with toys. This is another one of my Christmas treasures which will hopefully be cherished for years to come.

It's become a bit of a tradition each year for my husband and I to make each other a Christmas card. I didn't have time last year and he wasn't impressed with his shop bought card especially as he'd really gone to town with his which had fairy lights in it!
image of hand made Christmas tree card
Sorry I didn't have enough batteries to put the lights on to get the full effect and the light wasn't great but you get an idea of just how big it is! This year's is just as spectacular...
image of home made snowman card
image of hand made snowman card with fairy lights
I was banished to the living room whilst my husband and girls sat in the kitchen and giggled and squabbled for two hours making this. I adore it and it makes me feel very much loved and appreciated. Puts a big smile on my face every time I see it.

I debated whether to show you my husband's card I made. So (er-hem) here it is..
image of home made Christmas card
I giggled a lot during the TWO hours this took to make. The girls were happy watching Christmas movies so I had a more peaceful time creating this on my own. Although I am looking forward to spending time with them in the kitchen  today to make some festive Christmas cookies. Hopefully things will be cleared away by 1.10pm as I will be watching It's A Wonderful Life on Ch4 this afternoon. Can't wait as I don't think I've seen this movie all the way through.

There'll be no running around frantically like a headless chicken for us this year because we're spending Christmas Day with my sister-in-law. This time last year was sooo different as we had 15 family members to cater for! We did have a great day though, and the meal was a complete success, but I really am looking forward to taking it easy, and who knows I may even get some hooky time in too!

So my friends from my family to yours we wish you a Very Merry Christmas, and a Peaceful and Prosperous New year XXXXXX
image of  inside of amjaylou's Christmas card wishing you a Merry Christmas





Tuesday, 10 December 2013

The Legend of The Christmas Spider

image of beaded Christmas spider decoration on tree
On Christmas Eve, a long time ago, a gentle mother was busily cleaning the house for the most wonderful day of the year... Christmas day, not a speck of dust was left. Even the spiders had been banished from their cozy corner on the ceiling. They had fled to the farthest corner of the attic. The Christmas tree was beautifully decorated. The poor spiders were frantic, for they could not see the tree, nor be present for Santa's impending visit. Then the oldest and wisest spider suggested that perhaps they could wait until everyone went to bed and then get a closer look. When the house was dark and silent, the spiders crept out of their hiding place. When they neared the Christmas tree, they were delighted with the beauty of it. The spiders crept all over the tree, up and down, over the branches and twigs and saw every one of the pretty things. The spiders loved the Christmas tree. All night long they danced in the branches, leaving them covered with spider webs. When Santa Claus came with the gifts for the children, he saw the tree covered in spider webs, and smiled to see how happy the spiders were, but he knew the mother, who had worked so hard to make everything perfect, would not be pleased when she saw what the spiders had done. With love in his heart and a smile on his lips, Santa reached out and gently touched the spider webs. The spider webs started to sparkle and shine! They had all turned into sparkling, shimmering silver and gold. Ever since this happened, people have hung tinsel on their Christmas trees. It has also become a custom to include a spider among the decorations on the Christmas tree.

Isn't it lovely! This folklore story originates from Germany and the Ukraine. There are many different versions of it which you can find online...the other popular version replaces Santa Claus with the Infant Child Jesus who comes to bless the house. I have never come across these folklore stories before and I love both of them. 

I received this wonderful beaded spider from my mum. She bought it from a friend who was selling them at her school Christmas Fair. I was thrilled to bits to receive it - it looks quite at home on my daughter's very pink and bejewelled Xmas tree. Not in a million years would I have ever associated spiders with Christmas!

Looks like I just can't get away from them lately. Spiders have been a permanent fixture hanging on my Autumn bunting for the last few months (which I'll be sorry to see go this week in favour of something a little more festive), and I also mentioned them recently on this post. I'd created tiny crocheted spiders for my bunting but I wanted one a little more appropriately festive to adorn the main Christmas tree in the living room. The first one I made was more like a huge hairy tarantula! The yarn, although very pretty and glitzy looking on the tree resulted in a bulky looking spider...just look at it - it's a beast!
image of crochet spider
I did have much more success with the legs though. Crocheted legs didn't work with this yarn - they were just too floppy. So I strengthened them by cutting a length of silver pipe cleaner, threaded it through the body of the spider to form two legs, then simply wrapped the yarn around it till it was sufficiently covered. Getting them to bend into the right shape was a doddle.

image of crochet Christmas Spider
This one is a much better size. Not too big (or hairy!). If you want to crochet yourself a Christmas Spider you can find the pattern on my spider web bunting post. 

This is such a lovely tradition that I think we'll be hanging a Christmas Spider on the tree every year from now on. Will you be doing the same? Not so scary now are they?! XX




Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Crochet Christmas Tree Decoration

Crochet Christmas tree pattern and tutorial: image of three crocheted Christmas trees
Can't believe it's time to start thinking of some festive hooky creations - where has the time gone!. At the end of each Summer and Xmas school term I like to make a little gift for my daughter's teachers...something home-made, simple and cost effective. At the end of the Summer term I made Lavender bath melts, which were a great success. This time though I wanted a crocheted Christmas creation.

I had the idea for these simple Christmas tree decorations about a month ago. They tick all the boxes - they're very quick, simple, and economical to make, and they are also small enough to go on the front of a home made Xmas card, which the teacher's can then remove and hang on their tree - a card and present in one. Ideal!

This is a great beginners project or one for the kiddies to have a go at as part of their Xmas crafts session. I'm sharing the basic pattern with you, but you can easily adapt it to suit your own needs - you could make them smaller, larger, sew two together with a little stuffing inside, or decorate in any other way you like. I chose to add some sparkly yarn to give a glistening snowy border to the tree, and some multi-coloured metallic bells for baubles.

The pattern is worked from the top point of the tree down to the base. The top section is a basic triangle shape with increases at the beginning and end of every row. Each row will increase by two stitches. Each segment of the tree has 7 rows, with a small square section at the base to represent a pot. You can use any type of yarn just remember the thicker the yarn the bigger the motif will be. It's always a good idea to count your stitches at the end of every row. There should always be an even number of stitches - if there isn't then you've probably forgotten to increase at the beginning or end of the row.  Here's the pattern...enjoy!

Crochet Christmas Tree Pattern

(written in U.K. crochet terms).

Abbreviations:   
ch - chain. 
sl st - slip stitch
dc - double crochet (U.S. terms sc - single crochet).

Top Section

Row 1. To begin Ch 2, work 2 dc into the 2nd ch from hook, ch 1 turn. (2)
Crochet Christmas tree pattern and tutorial: image of first row of crochet xmas tree
                                (pull the tail end to tighten and neaten the slip knot)

Row 2. Work 2 dc into each of the dc st from previous row , ch 1 turn   (4)
Crochet Christmas tree pattern and tutorial: image of second row worked of xmas tree

Row 3. Work 2 dc into the first st, dc, dc, 2 dc in the last st, ch 1 turn    (6)
Rows 4 - 7. Work 2 dc into the first and last sts, and a single dc in each st along the row until you have 14 sts, ch 1 turn. Work 5 sl sts along, ch 1.
Crochet Christmas tree pattern and tutorial: image of top section of crochet tree complete

Middle Section

Row 1. Work a dc in each of the next 4 sts, ch 1 turn. (4)
Rows 2 - 7. Always work 2 dc in first and last sts, with single dc sts in between them. Each row will increase by two sts, until you end up with 16 sts on the 7th row, ch 1 turn, work 5 sl sts along, ch 1.
Crochet Christmas tree pattern and tutorial: image of middle section of crochet xmas tree complete

Third Section

Row 1. Work a dc in the next 6 sts, ch 1 turn. (6)

Crochet Christmas tree pattern and tutorial: image of 2 dc increase

Rows 2 - 7 Same as the middle section work 2 dc in the first and last sts, with 1 dc worked in each st along. You will end up with 18 sts on Row 7, ch 1 turn, work 7 sl sts along, ch 1.
Crochet Christmas tree pattern and tutorial: image of complete crochet tree, starting to work the pot/base section

Base

*Work 1 dc into the next 4 sts, ch 1 turn*. Work * to * another 3 times. Fasten off.

Crochet Christmas tree pattern and tutorial: image of crocheted Xmas tree section complete

Decorative Edging

Thread six metallic balls onto the yarn, then attach the yarn to the hook with a slip knot. (I had to cut my yarn to size for this part, and thread them all the way to the end - the metallic bells kept snagging and fraying the yarn whilst they were on the thread waiting to be worked in.  I was really surprised at how much yarn I used to outline the tree. I measured the yarn from my fingers to my elbow then worked this length another eight times before I snipped the yarn - it measured about 125 inches/ 317.5 cms - so do it this way if you have the same problem).

With right side facing you make a sl st just underneath the point of the bottom section of the tree, position the first bell right up to the hook, but out of the way whilst you make a dc in next st (see below)
Crochet Christmas tree pattern and tutorial: image of crocheted snowy like border and first bauble worked onto tree

Always work 2 dc in the same st at each corner (this is a little tricky on some of the points - just work the corner where your hook can squeeze into). Work 1 dc in each space along till you get to the turning point to start the next section of the tree (see photo below).
Crochet Christmas tree pattern and tutorial: image of crocheted snowy border being worked and baubles added
I found that working a sl st before starting the next section of the tree reduced the bulk of yarn between each section - it just looked better on mine. It's not exact so try this with yours and see if it makes any difference.

Crochet Christmas tree pattern and tutorial: image of positioning the bauble before crocheting the next stitch
The picture above shows where I've positioned the 'bauble' before making the next stitch. I found the best place to work them is just under the pointed section. If you attach them on the point of the tree they stick out horizontally from the branch, and don't dangle properly.

When you get to the top point of the tree work a dc, tr, ch 15 (for the hanging loop) sl st into top of tr to secure loop, dc all in the same stitch. (You may need to reduce or increase the amount of chains according to the thickness of your yarn for the hanging loop). Continue in the same way down for the other side of the tree. Finish with a sl st after the final bauble has been added. Fasten off and weave in ends.

Block

Crochet Christmas tree pattern and tutorial: image of crochet xmas trees being blocked

With the wrong side facing you, pin the motif  onto a foam pad covered with an old towel. Pin and stretch each point into place, then with a brush spread some PVA glue all over the main tree and pot sections, making sure you work the glue all the way to the points to stiffen and strengthen the motif. Make sure they are completely dry before you unpin them.

Crochet Christmas tree pattern and tutorial: image of completed crochet xmas tree
You could pop them on a home-made Xmas card, decorate the Xmas tree, string them together to make a Xmas garland, or stitch one onto a stocking - just a few suggestions! I'm going to make a larger one to hang from the rear view mirror in the car which I'll share with you soon.

If you do decide to incorporate them into your own designs then I would really appreciate that you link them back to me as the original designer.

I really hope you have lots of festive fun making these. I'd love to hear your feedback on this - your comments are very much appreciated.

Have a Tree-mendous Christmas!!!
XXXXX


Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Crochet Bobble Hat

image of luxury Angora yarn 
This is the luxury yarn I bought at Yarndale a few months ago. I couldn't resist it's super-soft charm and got very tactile with it on the day... there was plenty of squishing and stroking and debating whether to buy it or not (an eye watering £7.50 each). 

Bigwigs stall was jam packed with like-wise minded people, and the yarn was literally flying off the shelves. I've never bought yarn as expensive as this but I knew exactly what I wanted it for so I decided to part with the cash, and I'm so glad I did. I'm all for supporting small, local artisan products. You can tell this is a passion for Sarah, the rabbits looked very healthy and well cared for - just look at these Angora cuties...

image of  Angora Rabbits

Loved this dappled brown one with gorgeous tufty ears.

Want to see my first ever crocheted hat?

Here it is....

image of slouchy crochet bobble hat
Can you see how fluffy it is!? I finished this about two weeks ago. Although it would have been finished a lot sooner, but there was a bit of a problem with the pattern. I followed the pattern to the letter but it didn't slouch properly. It turned out more like a beanie hat. So I had the soul destroying job of taking it all out and started all over again. I knew the gauge wouldn't be correct because of the different yarn I was using, but the number of stitches given for the medium sized hat fitted perfectly so I just kept with that. The pattern says to crochet into the front loops for the initial band but I didn't like the effect, so I crocheted into the back loops instead which gave a better ribbed effect. Then there was the problem of the rows between the bobble rows being too short, so I crocheted two extra rows of trebles to give it the length it needed to slouch.

Once I'd sorted the initial problems out it really was an easy hat to make. It took me the best part of two nights to complete. I love it! I think it's worth every pretty penny. Don't let me put you off though - you can purchase the pattern through Ravelry or Vogueknitting. I've worn it a few times now...it's snug, soft and warm, and best of all it doesn't itch - or tickle for that matter! I did worry about this at one point though - I could see individual bunny hairs sticking out (with an added bit of straw for authenticity!). Thankfully I had enough yarn to finish it - that little ball of wool is all that's left, so I'm wondering whether to add a small pom-pom style bobble at the back. Here's a view of the back...

image of crocheted slouchy style bobble hat
I could then re-name it to my double-bobble hat or nobbly-bobbly hat or bobbly-bobble hat or bobbly bunny hat. (sorry!). 

I love my selection of hats though they are great to slap on when you're having a bad-hair day, or too- much-grey-popping through-need-to-go-the-hairdressers-day. I normally buy my hats (of which I have plenty) from T. K. Maxx. They have such a great selection of ski/snowboarders hats, but this bunny hat is my favourite by a mile. I want to make this one next from playinhookydesigns. I'll probably end up making one for each member of the family. The added bonus is it's a free pattern too...thanks so much Liz.

Looks like I'll get plenty of chances to wear it this week as we're in for a cold snap here in the U.K. Bring it on!

image of Autumn sunrise with red bushes
This was the view from my garden this morning just as the sun was rising over the hills. The bushes were glowing so much they looked like they were on fire. Stunning. Autumn certainly has the WOW factor for me this year.

I'm now working on my Christmas projects (yes you've guessed- bunting is in there somewhere!). I bought some lovely spangly yarns from a recent trip to Abakhan in Liverpool. I love this place - could easily spend hours and lots of cash there. Here's a sneaky peek of what I bought...

image of Christmas coloured yarn

I haven't bought one Christmas present yet. So much to do - so little time. I'll see you soon with a free Christmas pattern. TTFN XXXXX




Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Crochet Autumn Bunting


image of autumn coloured yarn
Just pootling past to say a big hello, and share a quick crochet Ta-dah with you. The Kidlings are back in school now so the normal routine has resumed, and I have so much to catch up on. First there's the housework - Oh My Goodness it's such a mess round here! We had lots of half term fun, I said a big fat NO to proper Get Stuck In housework. So now I'm ploughing my way through the heaps of teeny tiny toys scattered everywhere and the tumbleweeds of dog hairs in every nook and cranny of my home. It's going to take me all week...I'm not joking!

Thanks so much for your lovely comments on my crochet Autumn wreath. It was a really quick project to put together. However I can't say the same for my bunting - it just grew and grew and ideas evolved along the way with many unplanned additions. It all started with this idea...

image of crochet spider web bunting and spider
These bunting triangles can be used for Halloween decorations or like I've done I've used it as part of my Autumn bunting so it can stay up longer. I've written a free pattern for the spider web bunting and tiny spider if you fancy having a go yourself.  Just going to go right on and show you so...

Here is my finished Autumn bunting...
image of crochet Autumn inspired bunting
For something that I didn't really know how it was all going to turn out -  I'm chuffed to bits with it. I didn't think anything could top my lovely summery crochet beach hut bunting, which I'd become quite attached to.

It consists of a twiggy branch holding seven bunting triangles. Two Autumnal suns with iridescent discs for raindrops. Five leaves of varying sizes (and more raindrops). Spider webs and spiders. Berries. Four flowers. Three acorns, Two pumpkins and a partridge in a pear tree...if I could have added flying geese, pine-cones, sycamore seeds and more leaves I would have, but I simply ran out of time (and space).

Here's some close up pics...
image of crochet autumnal bunting

image of crochet Autumn bunting
Drat! Will have to add window cleaning to my long list of chores, Blah.
image of crochet autumnal bunting

image of crochet autumnal bunting
This last one isn't in focus properly but its such a bright one and shows off all the Autumn colours at their best. It was so difficult to take a decent steady shot of this and capture the colour quality too. 

image of box of fireworks

Have a great Bonfire Night! We are staying home and will be entertained by Pops who'll be in the garden (on his own - we will be watching from a lovely warm kitchen) lighting these lovelies. Hope the weather will be kind. Fingers crossed! XX

P.s If you love all things cottony and colourful go and take a look at Ada Bea's lovely blog. She has a smashing giveaway which ends this Friday. Quick hurry! x

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Crochet Autumn Wreath

image of willow wreath
I wasn't looking forward to the arrival of Autumn at all. We had such a blissful summer - I wanted it to go on and on. So it took me to the beginning of October before I could really accept the seasonal change and was ready to pack away my beach hut bunting and summer wreath till next year- I loved having them around so much. That was when I knew I had to fill their places with something seasonally appropriate. 

I bought this willow wreath, and another heart shaped one from millieslunashop a long time ago. They are so natural, rustic and pretty looking that I just had to have them even though I didn't have a project in mind at the time. I had intended this one to be for Christmas with natural (not crocheted) holly leaves, berries, pine-cones and ribbons.

An Autumnal wreath hadn't even entered my head - until now that is. Found this beautiful Fall wreath over at the crafty sisters blog - very pretty, very inspiring, but of course it has to have some - not too much - yarny love added.
This wreath is ideal for tying crochet work to, it was so easy and quick, plus I didn't have to crochet a jacket like I did for my polystyrene summer wreath.

image of autumnal coloured yarn

I purchased different types of yarn in varying thicknesses, but this one pictured above is my absolute favourite. It contains all the Autumn colours in just one ball which gives a lovely variegated effect in one motif - so no pesky changing of yarn colours. It's a cotton yarn and is so lovely to work with...I'd love a scarf or cowl in this, it's super-soft. I positively pounced on it when I saw it in the bargain bin in my local yarn store. Unfortunately this was the last ball left, just darn typical!

image of same crochet leaves pattern but using different yarns
These leaves were so easy to do, and when worked with varying yarn thicknesses it created a nice variety of sizes. The pattern can be found at artthreads blog. There is a lot of inspiring projects going on over there - go take a look.

I didn't want to swamp the whole wreath with crochet work...I had to show off some of it's wicker splendour. Although it's pretty easy really in choosing what Autumn motifs to adorn it with - the problem was which ones and how many, and in what arrangement. 

image of amjaylou designed autumnal motifs
But then it took even longer to create some of these as I wanted to have a go at working them out for myself. (You may have met the spider on this post). 
You can see starting from the oak leaf on the left how I experimented and tweaked the pattern each time to create a new shape.

The flower I had originally made on this post but I needed to play around with the pattern so it would lay flat. It's pretty much a basic crochet flower, but the contrasting coloured edge gives it more definition.

I did look around at patterns for the acorns, but each one made the cap separate to the nut part which meant sewing the two parts together at the end - why? They can easily be crocheted together without the need for extra work at the end - I've got the pattern there if anyone would like to use it - just leave me a comment and I'll sort it out a.s.a.p. If not I'll probably add it to my Ravelry page as a free download sometime in the not too distant future.

The pumpkins  were really easy. I'd spent so long on getting the other shapes right that I sort of threw these together a bit last minute...didn't want to spend time working out an amigurumi pattern so worked up two using different stitch combinations but both are worked in the back loops. They could also pass as tangerines too I think!

I also made crochet berries which I forgot to include in the photo.

The advantage of working on this willow wreath is that I can remove any of the items by simply untying them at the back, and can then tie on the new work. (Sorry I didn't get to add your pinecones Gayle - I'll make sure I give myself more time next year).

So here's a close up of the finished wreath...

image of crochet autumn wreath

and here is where it is going to live for the next few months...

image of crochet autumn wreath on door
I photographed this on the outside of my front door because the light was better, but it will be living on the inside so it won't be exposed to the elements. Which means I can keep it there for longer as my Christmas wreath will be on the outside as usual...two wreaths on the one door - fab! It's colourful, simple and quite elegant I think. I'm so pleased with how it's turned out.

The green oak leaves, spider and the pumpkins never made it - in this instance I felt that less was definitely more, but that's definitely not the case with my Autumnal bunting! Can't wait to share that with you soon. Ttfn xxxxx