Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Crochet Bits n Bobs

image of crochet strawberries
The end of yet another school year draws nigh. My little lovelies don't finish till tomorrow (Thursday) so all of the last minute runaround preparations have taken their toll leaving minimal me-time to get any crafting done of late. Coupled with the Mediterranean weather we've been experiencing lately I haven't felt like picking up my crochet work or sitting at the computer - it's been so sticky hot here so while the sun has been shining I've been making the most of it by getting out and about. So I'm here now making the most of these cooler and quieter few hours to catch up with your good selves before the five weeks of the summer holiday shenanigans begin!

My Summer wreath has been hanging on my door for a good month now...
image of crochet summer wreath
Those plump juicy looking strawberries are my first attempt at intarsia crochet. They really caught my eye as I hadn't seen them made in this way before, so I just had to give it a go. The pdf pattern is free, and comes with very basic written instructions. I found it a bit tricky at first but after a few initial hiccups I couldn't believe how easy it was once I'd fathomed out how to alternate between the two colours. Although as you can see I could do with a bit more practise to perfect those higgledy-piggledy stitches. It's given me a few ideas for future projects which I'm itching to get started on...
image of a practise piece of intarsia crochet
 I need more practise !
Further intarsia inspiration came from watching Kaffe Fassett's series called 'Glorious Colour' on 4od. If you haven't seen it you must make time to watch it! It made me want to pick up my knitting needles straight away and start knitting again after seeing this. His colourful patterned work is amazing, and very inspirational. I'm feverishly collecting as many pics of his quilting and knitting work for my Pinterest board as I can. I'm so excited at the prospect of getting up close to Kaffe's work at his current exhibition in Bath this Summer. I'll be visiting it sometime in August with my husband so I'll be taking lots of pictures to share with you sometime in the not too distant future. Apparently there are also yarn bombed trees and lamp posts outside the building - I can't wait!!
image of crochet hexagon cushion cover
Next are my two hexagon cushion covers which initially did start out to be my very first proper-big blanket, but yet again I've been faced with the nasty problem of 'The Wrong Yarn'. I bought this ages ago to make my waistcoat, but yet again it has failed the snuggly-drapey factor which is absolutely necessary and quite categorically required of a proper-big blanket. The disappointment didn't last long, however, as these hexagons are now in the process of being made into cushion covers. Most of my existing cushion covers need replacing, repairing, and cleaning due to the abuse wear and tear they receive from my family.
image of sirdar wash n wear yarn
The Wrong/Right Yarn
The yarn I used was Sirdar Wash n' Wear which is a crepe dk yarn so has a rope like quality which makes it really easy to work with, and best of all it doesn't pill (my local yarn shop owner told me this) so it'll still look good even after many washes...which is why it's a popular choice for clothing (she told me this too). Which is why this robust yarn is perfect for cushions, it has a firmer texture when worked up and yet remains soft to the touch, also the colours I'd bought exactly matched the blanket I had seen and fell in love with on Flickr and Ravelry a while back. I loved the clever use of colour of the different colourful centres contained within the repetitive contrasting muted colours. When viewed from afar they look like circles in a sea of grey, and as you get closer the circles transform into flowers with white petals, and then once you get closer still you can then see the hexagons. I love the contemporary look of it, and is the ideal pattern in creating cushions for my natural coloured living room without adding too much in-yer-face candy colour and yet still having many pops of colour all over - clever! I am still going to make the blanket using these colours, but I'll probably wait till I can buy some Stylecraft dk from Yarndale...it'll work out a lot cheaper making it with this...win, win!

image of hexagon border
Oh those edges! I hadn't even thought about them until it came to joining the sides. Everything I did just did not work, so it was lashed into the basket where it stayed for the best part of a week. Eventually after a few attempts I managed to straighten the pointed edges to make it square-ish. No way was I going to crochet a matching hexagon panel for the reverse side and go through all that again! Luckily for me I had kept this...
image of fleece material
...it's a fleece baby sling which a friend gave to me over eight years ago. It's basically a large piece of good quality fleece material sewn down one side. I hadn't the foggiest idea how I was supposed to use it when I had my first baby girl so into my stash of fabrics it went. This will make the perfect soft and snuggly reverse side to my cushion. I can't decide whether to put a zip in (which makes me nervous as I haven't sewn one in before) or whether to overlap two pieces and then add buttons. So now it's all ground to a halt while I dither try to make a decision.

I am so looking forward to some lazy go with the flow play/craft days with my girls, and hopefully I'll be able to catch up on some of my crochet WIP's then...well that's what I'm hoping anyway.

One more day to go. One more day to go-o!!

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Paul McCartney's Crochet Granny Square Waistcoat


image of Paul McCartney's Crochet granny square waistcoat 
Fab crochet waistcoat of many colours

I'm a born and bred Liverpudlian...a scouser, which is a Random Fact I'm sure many of you are unaware of. Even though we now live further north near to the coast of West Lancashire which is about 30 minutes away from Liverpool we often go there to visit family and friends as well as visiting the many attractions this great city has to offer. We are so excited and really looking forward to seeing the giant marionette spectacular which is happening later on this month to commemorate WW1. 
image of the giant marionettes in Liverpool show
I'm extremely proud of my roots, and coupled with my love of crochet you can imagine my delight when I first clapped eyes on these photo's of Paul McCartney wearing his cool crochet waistcoat first seen during the filming of The Magical Mystery Tour in 1967, and then worn again on a trip to India in 1968...
Paul McCartney wearing his crochet granny square waistcoat
Technicolour Dream Coats
Instantaneously I knew I wanted to recreate this not with the main intention of it being an addition to my 'regular' wardrobe but because I just wanted to, and because I could...and so I did.
Nothing but an exact copy of his waistcoat would do at first, matching each round colour for colour, granny for granny - simple? Er, no! I hadn't realised just what a problem that was going to be until I started my research. First there just aren't that many clear close up shots of the waistcoat out there. Some of the pics are grainy and dark whilst others are in full sunlight, which made it all the more difficult in determining the true colours of the yarn in each granny square, also the majority of the photos are frustratingly in black and white. It took a while to collect a decent amount of images which I pinned to my research board on Pinterest - don't you just love Pinterest?! To think I put off joining for ages because I just couldn't see the point of it, now I'm a daily visitor! Anyway I digress - you can see all the photos I collected over on my then secret Pinterest board which I have just made public for you all to see.

Once I realised it was never going to be an absolute replica of the original I decided on choosing a selection of colours based on both the darker as well as the lighter photos.
I first mentioned this project back in March on this post - you can see the first square I produced. Unfortunately it was only after I'd ordered a large batch of dk yarn that I realised it was too thick and would not work up to scale. I was just a tad annoyed at myself for not making a practice piece first, but because I was so eager to get started any common sense went right out the window; a valuable lesson learnt. Ah well not to worry that yarn is now being turned into some rather lovely cushion covers which I hope to finish and share with you soon.

Eventually after many hours of researching 4-ply yarns online I chose Drops Baby Merino yarn from Wool Warehouse. It was available in a great selection of all the shades I needed including pastels as well as brights. It's really soft, non-itchy, affordable, can be machine washed, has good stitch definition and has good drape. Plus there are three shades of grey to choose from, so I plumped for the middle shade - not too light not too dark.
image of Drops Baby Merino yarn
I also had to change the number of squares at the top front section on the shoulders to just two as opposed to the three seen in the photo below. I just couldn't fathom out how two squares from the back shoulder section could possibly line up with three at the front. Even on closer inspection all five rounds on each square can be seen on some of the close ups. Maybe that's why Paul's waistcoat looks a little ill fitting and bunched up around the top of the arms? Look...
image of Paul McCartney in his crochet waistcoat
Want to see my finished vintage waistcoat?
Here it is in all it's granny glory...
Hmm these shots doesn't really do it justice do they? Plus the sunlight has affected the true colour.
Here it is pictured in a more suitable location...
Apart from hats and scarves this is the first 'proper' crocheted garment I've made, and I'm thrilled to bits with it. I adore everything about this colourful little waistcoat of mine, and what it means to me. I mentioned (shamefully) in a previous post about not being completely smitten with granny squares...I take it all back. I loved wearing it for my photo shoot, but have to confess I felt a little self conscious walking around the city centre in it so I took it off after every shot. Boo! Hiss! - I hear you cry! Disappointed in myself I made sure I rectified my lack of Granny Pride and I've worn it a few times since. It certainly would make the appropriate music festival attire - with added flowers in my hair and some long wooden beads - oh yes bring it on! I shall definitely be wearing it with pride at Yarndale this year, so you won't be able to miss me in the crowds!

I'm so interested to know what has happened to Paul's original waistcoat. I couldn't find any information about it's whereabouts online. Does anyone out there know? I really hope he has kept hold of it, and it's tucked away in a drawer somewhere as a treasured keepsake. I did read somewhere that his Auntie knitted him this vest which he also wore during The Magical Mystery Tour. Maybe she crocheted the waistcoat too? I need to improve my knitting skills so I can make this one day to add to my 'Fab' collection.

Technicolour Tank Top
If you fancy making a historical vintage waistcoat to call your very own then go here, and here to find my written photo-tutorial. Who knows, maybe we could start a granny square fashion revival together!? X

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Home Made Lotions and Potions

image of Happiness is Homemade banner Within the last few years I've noticed how really dry and crinkled my hands have become. I guess it does have a little to do with being in my forties but years of constant hand washing after nappy changes, scooping doggy poop and food prepping have also taken their toll...
*sigh*
 I know I'm fighting a losing battle but when my skin feels dry and scratchy it can frustratingly affect the flow of the yarn through my fingers when crocheting. Slip, snag, slip, snag...hardly conducive to speedy, enjoyable hooky time is it? Hand creams only give a temporary moisturising fix for me now which means I have to slap it on every hour or so, and who's got the time to do that?! Not only do they feel dry but they look pretty awful too. It was quite a shock to see just how bad a condition my hands were in when putting together my last photo-tutorial so I decided against including them in the shots because they looked so awful. It is so true when they say the camera never lies - each and every dry looking crinkle on my hands looked too in-yer-face magnified and highlighted...
*sigh*

With limited time and money I had to do something about it pretty darned quick so I raided the kitchen cupboards to see if I could make my own hand scrub. These are the ingredients that were to hand (sorry)
image of ingredients for homemade hand scrub
I half filled a small jar with some sea salt flakes (don't use the coarse type as it's too abrasive for the delicate skin on the back of your hands). Or you could use ordinary table salt which is O.K. but doesn't have quite the right consistency or scrub-action for my liking, but if it's all you've got in then it'll do. You'll need to use an emollient/oil of some description - Olive or Sesame oil are really ideal. Add a large glug at a time and keep on mixing till you think it's the right consistency. To give it that final 'spa' touch add a few drops of your favourite essential oil. I love Lavender so added 2 - 3 drops of this and just 1 drop of Lemongrass, this combo of oils really harmonize well together, and adds that 'spa' aroma. Don't add too much essential oil as they can irritate the skin, plus they are concentrated so you only need a little at a time to add the necessary perfume. Give it a good stir and that's it! 
Image of home made hand scrub
When the need to pamper yourself arises wash your hands first then take a spoon full of your yummy scrub and massage it into your hands paying particular attention to any dry problematic areas. Then rinse all the salt away, pat dry - making sure you do not wipe the oil away, now massage the oil into your hands. Your skin will feel so soft, smooth and will look glossy - an instant improvement. I can't recommend it enough!

If you want to make your spa scrub that little bit more special or if you are thinking of making these to gift to friends and family (great idea for teacher presents too) then you need to invest in some luxury ingredients that won't cost the earth...
image of hand scrub ingredients
I chose Sweet Almond oil but you could use Wheatgerm or Jojoba instead. You can easily find these ingredients at any health food store or online.
If you change the essential oils to peppermint or tea tree oil then you have created an indulgent smoothing spa treatment for your feet - ideal if your poor piggies are aching at the end of a long day.
image of home made hand scrub
Cute and thrifty Spa jars found at the local charity shop
I made two batches, one for downstairs and the other is upstairs in the bathroom...now there's no excuse for not taking care of my hands anymore!

I've also been dabbling in the art of Elderflower cordial making. This is the first year I've had a go at it and I couldn't believe how easy the whole process was. (I made Elderflower juice last year from the berries which you can read about on this post). I've made two separate batches over the last three weeks so that's 4 litres in total, and now it's all gone! Although I do still have some Elderflower lollies in the freezer which are so refreshingly perfect on a hot sunny day. The second batch I reduced the amount of sugar by half and it was still sweet and delicious.
image of homemade elderflower cordial
There are so many recipes and methods online that I ended up choosing the River Cottage one in the end mainly because of the small amount of citric acid they used but also because they advised not to wash the flowers but to pick any bugs off by hand - this is so crucial as it's the pollen which gives the cordial it's distinct aromatic flavour. There's also some good advice on there about when is the best time to pick the flowers. 
image of homemade Elderflower cordial
The taste of Summer in a bottle
Regrettably I wished I'd harvested more of the flower heads which grow in abundance throughout the local countryside here but the season is now coming to an end, and they are sadly on their way out. Mixed with sparkling spring water it really was the perfect summer drink, and feeling suitably confident, and just a tad smug with myself I may just dabble in a spot of Elderflower champagne or wine making next year.

This is my third attempt  in writing this post and each time I've deleted it. Do you ever get like this were the words just don't flow? I'm blaming it on my hay fever which is particularly bad this year due to the corker of a Summer we are experiencing at the moment. Even with tablets my brain is 'fuggy' and it feels like I've been clobbered between the eyes with a rubber mallet full of pepper. By 8pm I'm beat and my eyes and head have had enough, so if any of you kind folk out there have a homemade remedy/lotion/potion for hay fever which works for you then I'd be much obliged if you could share it with us.
Thank you muchly my yarn-loving friends.
Till next time X