Thursday, 17 March 2016

3 happy things #happyandhome

Sometimes something happens that makes you pull up short, makes you look at things differently or gives you a wake up call. This week it was when I came upon this post from 
A Residence (via the lovely Amanda at City Girl Gone Coastal) which totally struck a chord with me.

Penny points out that the many magazine articles, blogs and facebook posts that we are exposed to these days showing us amazing room makeovers and oh-so-beautiful homes can impact negatively on how we view our own homes if we let them.

In the real world most of us are never actually going to live in anything like these picture-perfect settings that we sometimes dream of. All I hope is that beneath the veneer and stunning photography that they are messy, noisy and chaotic family homes too, because that's about as 'normal' as it gets.

I don't have anything like a 'perfect' house but when I have had a particularly long or difficult time at the day job I have the luxury of being able to come home to a warm, dry home. Yes, it's usually a bit untidy and most rooms need a lick of paint and a bit of TLC, but it's safe and secure and it's where some people live who are pretty darn important to me.

I have plenty of things I am grateful for every day that make me happy at home.

1. Family and friends (messy fridge door)
The paraphernalia and the clutter of a busy household can reach the point of overflowing on occasions, and at these times I have been known to throw a bit of a wobbly and spend a day having a mega de-clutter. It serves to clear the head as well as the living space, and the local charity shops usually benefit as well. 

2. Time to make and create
My favourite way in the whole world to spend any spare time I have. My absolute favourite craft is knitting but there are many other things I like to make and I'm always experimenting and trying out new ideas. When I'm not actually making something, I'm usually planning what to make next. I like to get together with friends for crafting evenings and a chit chat when I can.

3. Plenty of good food to eat
I have to admit that cooking is not something I do because I love it. I do it because everyone needs feeding. However, we do our best to eat as healthily as we can and I love having everyone together around the dinner table and having a natter and a catch up whenever we can. The more the merrier.

Family and friends, plentiful food, time to make and create
Lucky me

Happy and Home at A Residence blog

Sunday, 21 February 2016

What a Hoot

Knitted Owl Hat and Fingerless Gloves

So a friend of mine (she knows who she is) sent me a link to a knitted hat that she had taken a shine to. (A not very subtle hint). I was very happy to discover that there was a free pattern available to download from 'Julie is Coco and Cocoa'. No one can resist an owl or two so how could I say no?

Picture of girl wearing hat and fingerless mittens

LInk to free pattern available here

... and then to my delight I discovered there was also a free pattern to download for a pair of Owl fingerless gloves. How fabulous!

Link to free pattern available here

I felt the need to make a few tweaks to the original glove pattern as I wasn't keen on the thumb design and the OCD in me wasn't happy that the owls came out of the wrist rib in different ways so I adjusted these. 

Didn't take very long to knit up as made with aran weight wool on 5mm needles. I was very happy with the result. Tu-whit tu-whoo!

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Shawl Pins trending this Autumn

Westpoint, Exeter once again held the Stitching, Sewing & Hobbycrafts show this weekend complete with workshops, demonstrations and over 180 stands full of creative inspiration and crafting products.

Among the stands selling this Autumn's knitting yarns there appeared to be a common item popping up again and again.

Used for thousands of years as fastenings and/or decoration for cloaks, shawls and hats; these clever, functional ornaments are definitely trending this season. Take a look at the lovely new range of wooden shawl pins from KnitPro. 

Made from many different materials, the designs out there range from simple and functional to some that are amazingly delicate and intricate.

These beautiful examples from: NicholasandFelice, South 4th and Beadmask on Etsy and are fashioned from aluminium, wood, silver and leather.

The lovely Jean from Kaeravel Crafts has been ahead of the game for a long while. This is her own pattern for a Dragonback shawl fastened with a wooden shawl pin.

These shawl pins from West Country Creative are made from polymer clay. You can learn how to make them yourself by going along to a course. "The pins make gorgeous and unusual gifts with which to fasten a woolly wrap, decorate a knitted hat or scarf, or embellish a chunky knit."

So this Autumn be sure to check out a few shawl pins. Use one to keep your shawl or scarf in place or to add that designer touch. Wear one in your hair or give one as a gift. Or use them to increase sales of handmade or knitted shawls or scarves.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

1st Place.

My new favourite thing to make

With just a few materials and my trusty glue gun I am able to hold my head high after my first attempt at rosette making today.

It took just a few lengths of pleated ribbon and a few lengths of flat ribbon, a circular board back, a brooch pin and a printed centre disc to create this little beauty.

I've already got lots of ideas for rosettes I could create for different occasions, and there are just so many beautiful ribbons out there to try.

After a little more practice I will share my simple method for rosette making with you, so if you fancy giving it a go check back here again soon.

In the mean time it's back to the glue gun for me.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Summer 2015 Handmade Gift Exchange.

So what exactly is a Gift Exchange?

It is an event run by the lovely Linda over at Craftaholics Anonymous. Go and check it out (after you've finished reading this!)

The idea is that you sign up and are then assigned an exchange partner. It's a great opportunity to make a friend as well as a gift.

I was paired up with a lovely lady who lives in Berlin. We messaged each other and chatted to get to know each other's tastes and interests. Then, knowing a little bit about my partner, came the challenge of making a gift for her that I thought she would like. 

I knew that she was in to bright colours and modern patterns as opposed to anything shabby chic, so I made her a silk fusion piece using a wet felting technique and framed it in a simple wooden frame

This was the first time I had ever taken part in an event like this and I have to say I found it very exciting. Packaging up the parcel and posting it off to her was like having an extra Christmas in the year.

Silk fusion piece in simple wooden frame

A little while later a very exciting package arrived at my house. It had come all the way from Berlin! I tore it open and was delighted to find my gift inside.

My exchange partner had crafted 2 very funky bookmarks and 2 little felt cats with the cutest faces. Needless to say I was thrilled with them. It was a very lovely thought that someone had taken the time to make this gift and that it had been made especially for me!

Bookmarks and felt cats

If you like the sound of the Handmade Gift Exchange and fancy getting involved in the fun then check out the following link and sign up to join in the next one in December. You'll be glad you did.

Hand Made Gift Exchange logo
Click here to find out more
 With many thanks to Linda for hosting and to Mirjam my exchange partner.

Thursday, 30 April 2015

How to create a beautiful felted ombre effect.

Ombre felted bag
Knitted and felted ombre design bag

One of the loveliest current trends that is making an appearance almost everywhere at the moment is ombre. (pronounced ombray)

There is something I find very pleasing about ombre design. Whether it is a combination of muted, earthy tones or bright primary splashes of colour, it doesn't seem to matter to my eyes. My little brain appreciates them all.

It really is a trend that has permeated many different aspects of art and design and has inspired many people. There are now many thousands of search results for 'ombre hair', 'ombre cakes', 'ombre home decor' or 'ombre painting techniques'.

Collage of colourful ombre effects

The Oxford English Dictionary gives the definition of ombre as: A fabric woven, dyed or printed in colour tones graduating from light to dark, usually giving a striped effect. Also: such a design or effect.

I have been keen for a while now to take this idea and combine it with my love of knitting to come up with an ombre design of my own. There are many so-called ombre (or space-dyed) yarns out there that are dyed in sections and create a random striped pattern when knitted up, but this wasn't quite the effect I was looking to achieve.

So I began to explore the possibilities of creating my piece using felted knitting. Now I absolutely love felted knitting. I love the element of surprise in that you're never quite sure what you're going to get when you pull your lovingly created knitted piece out of the washing machine, and I adore the soft-focus fluffiness of the work once it is dry. I also have a bit of a thing about knitted bags, and so a felted market bag seemed like the obvious solution.

If you are going to felt your knitting make sure you use pure untreated wool, not the shrink-resist kind that is fabulous for everything else except when you intend to intentionally 'ruin' your work in a washing machine.

I knitted the bag using two strands of yarn together. In this way I was able to change just one strand at a time to the next colour which created graduated bands up the length of the work. This is the ugly duckling before washing, just to give you some idea of how much it shrank.

knitted bag before felting

I then put it through a full 40 degree washing cycle together with a pair of jeans to rough it up a bit...and Ta dah! Good work washing machine. 

bag after felting

I was so pleased with the colour choices of chocolate brown through grey to cream with a pop of pink in there to catch the eye, and it felted back to a very usable sized bag.

Is it just me or does the soft blend of scrummy colours make you think of slightly melted Neapolitan ice-cream? Mmmmm.

neapolitan ice cream

This post is my submission to the Deramores Craft Blog Competition 2015. 
Deramores is the UK's number one online retailer of knitting and crochet supplies. 
Visit for more details.

Friday, 24 April 2015

The Ultimate Recycling

Rag Rug Making

Not so very many years ago most floor coverings were made by hand. Not a scrap of fabric was wasted or thrown out and most textiles were eventually cut up and incorporated into a rug of some kind. I read somewhere that the reason there are so few early rag rugs left to see is because as the rugs wore out they were moved through the house, eventually being used as a dog bed before ending their days on the compost heap.

Various techniques for creating these rugs developed in different regions and in different countries but the basic idea of looping, sewing or poking lengths of textile through a backing fabric remains the same. Very often rug making was a group or family activity, the youngest being tasked with cutting up the textiles and the older family members pegging the rug, sometimes a person on each corner. Before burlap or hessian was widely available the rugs were often made using a flour or potato sack as backing.

As the availability of machine-made carpeting increased these hand-made rugs tended to become more decorative and artistic. Sometimes they were used in places of high wear or in front of a fireplace to protect the expensive carpet.

More recently, and especially as recycling has once again risen higher on our agenda, the creation of rag rugs has become a very appropriate and popular craft and art form. Be warned though, when you start making rag rugs it becomes impossible to walk past a charity shop ever again just in case there might be a fantastic item lurking inside which is just the one you're looking for to cut up and create with.

There are many ways to make rag rugs including prodding, hooking, progging and braiding, and although I have experimented with most of these techniques to create Christmas garlands (Click here for tutorial video) and flower brooches among other things I hadn't, until recently, actually made a rug. Then I was very kindly given some lovely bright and colourful fleece remnants which lent themselves beautifully to this project and so that is how my first rag rug came into being.

Fleece fabric remnants and wooden tools

These are the prodders that I used to work the rug. The one with the rounded handle is available commercially, while the other one is made from a piece of dowel that we had lying around at home. In years gone by people often used home-made prodding tools. One of the most common being half a wooden clothes peg sharpened to a point.

I have found that people have different opinions on whether or not rag rugs should be backed or lined. Mostly it appears that prodded rugs were not backed for the practical reason that the dirt would fall through them and not get trapped within the rug. There are several different methods for hemming and/or backing rugs using fabric or hessian.

To make my rug I began with a piece of hessian that measured approximately 25 x 21 inches and drew a border 3 inches inside the outside edge. This is the back of the rug because you peg or prod your rug from the back. (Any design or border you want to put on your work should also be drawn onto the hessian at this point). I then folded and ironed the 3 inch hem onto the right side and stitched it in place. This stops the rug from fraying and gives a very neat finish with no need to hem or bind your work later. It means that you will be pegging through two or more layers of hessian at the edges and on the corners.

I cut my fleece fabric into strips (or tabs) about 2 inches x ½ inch. If using fabric that is thinner than fleece your strips will probably need to be a little wider than this. 

Reverse of rag rug

Working from left to right I began pegging in the bottom left hand corner by making a hole in the hessian with the prodder and pushing one end of a fleece strip through. I then made a second hole about ½ inch to the right of the first and pushed the other end of the strip through with the prodder. With my left hand underneath the hessian I pulled the ends of the strip until they were roughly equal. 

I next made another hole in the backing fabric ½ inch to the right of the second hole and poked one end of a second fleece strip through. The other end of this strip was prodded through the same hole as the first fleece strip. In this way two pieces of fabric are prodded through each hole in the hessian. This is known as double prodding and makes a very thick, firm rug.

I continued working rows in this way until the whole of the backing fabric was filled. Very often I think the reverse of a rag rug can look just as lovely as the right side.

I used strips of the two different colours of fleece fabric alternately when working along a row, but different combinations would produce a very different end result. It goes without saying that I am already planning my next recycling project otherwise known as rag rugging.