Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Project Progress: Granny Square Blanket

Wow crocheting a blanket is hard work!
When I started way back in March 2012 I knew it would be a challenge to create a blanket. Usually when knitting or crocheting I have tended to stick to small items, a hat, a headband, gloves… so the size of a blanket is huge in comparison!

However crocheting the granny squares has not been a problem for me. I have my woven basket carrying all my yarns, I select two colour combinations and in 40/50mins I have hooked up five, 3 round squares: 2 rounds of contrasting colours with 1 round of white.

I decided to aim for a 14 row x 14 rows blanket, this meant I would need 196 granny squares.
On Sunday the day came where I counted out my squares and was very proud to realise I had 200!…
I stacked up all the same colours into piles, then lined them up into rows so i could see all the coulours avaiable to me when laying out the 14 x 14 row blanket. I then set about creating a 'random' blanket layout.

Turns out I am not a random kind of person, my idea of random has quite a few rules and limitations:
  • Same 1st round colours cannot go next to each other
  • Same 2nd round colours cannot go next to each other
    Opposit colour combinations, like orange 1st round and blue 2nd round, and blue 1st round and orange 2nd round cannot go next to each other.
So after 3 hours of laying out my squares in multiple combinations I just was not happy with the random look, I didnt have enough squares that were different enough for my liking to be combined in a suitable random fashion - that I found acceptable. There was always a square sticking out at me like a sore thumb!
Months of crochetting and I couldn't find a design I was happy with - however i thought struck me... I love rainbow colour combinations and I used rainbow colours to make my squares with, so why not go for a more organised layout...

I started laying out the squares in rows: Pink, orange, lime green, dark green, light blue, dark blue and purple. I started to really love how it was turning out, but i didnt have enough granny sqauares to complete this layout, so I spent 6 hours watching twilight films hooking away to fill my quota. It was like being on a production line, plaining the right colour, hooking up 5 squares, laying out and rearranging the combinations, seldcting another colour.
This is where I finished on Sunday night:

I found the process of planning the layout really difficult, it all seems so final and permanent deciding on the right layout for the blanket. But i did manage to sort it after a whole days graft!

Next i realised my biggest error, not sewing in any of the ends as I went along, so aswell as having to sew every square together I have to sew in 6 threads on every square,
20 rows x 13 rows = 260 squares x 6 threads = 1560 threads to sew in and snip, oh no!!!!!

Thank you xx

The Knitting and Stitching Show 2012

I visited the Knitting and Stitching show at Alexandra Palace in London on Sunday 14th October 2012.
This is the third year I have visited the show and it didn't disappoint.
The exhibition is organised by The Twisted Thread. Through their website I found details of a coach travel package; for £27 I was picked up from my city centre and dropped off at Ally Pally, then dropped home again. Great value for money.

Being new to blogging I didn’t take any photos!!! (must improve next year)

I did visit some lovely booths:
Janie Crow - Wow this ladies crochet creations are so colourful. I’m aspiring to improve my skills enough to join the 2014 crochet club. I think the 2013 crochet club is ambitious, plus 2014 gives me time to save!
Toft Alpaca - I purchased the beehive hat kit, so i can knit up a toasty hat for winter, I have been resisting the super soft alpaca pom poms for too many knitting shows now.
Empress Mills - I bought a roll of Egyptian cotton fabric from here which was super soft. I have the intention of stashing it away to use in a possible patchwork project. You may be able to guess what i have in mind when you see that else I mention in this post...
Fyberspates - I got a little carried away at this booth and bought a purple skein of scrumptious lace to make a lace top, Tirrold pattern,  which was displayed on the stand.
Many many more beautiful yarns, patterns and accessories which I can't quite remember in detail...

However I have my partly finished project from a workshop I attended which I wanted to blog about.

At 11:45am I attended a Hexagon Patchwork workshop, run by Make Do and Mend. The workshop was only £9 for the hour long tuition and materials. I booked months in advance thinking all the workshops would quickly by sold out, however there were only 5 people in total on the workshop, which I found surprising considering how packed the exhibition was.

Patchwork is a completely new craft to me, I saw it on the list of workshops and though why not. I love the look of hexagonal patchwork so thought for £9 it would be good to see if it was a craft I would enjoy.
Also The Liberty Book of Home Sewing has a beautiful traditional Cot Quilt project...
I really enjoyed the workshop. It is surprising how quickly an hour can fly by and how little I managed to finish during th workshop. Fabric selection is where my focus seemed to linger for quite a while.
So this is what i achieved at the end of the workshop:

Now I understand how effective this method can look and how easy it is to complete, this is a craft I will come back to in the future. Like many crafts its the time you take to complete the finished item and the dedication to stick to the project and see it through to completion that is the real skill.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Review: Geek Chic Crochet

After seeing this book mentioned in Mollie Makes, I pre-ordered straight away on Amazon, so I was lucky enough for Geek Chic Crochet to be posted through my door as soon as it was released!
Nicki Trench has filled this book with 35 really inspiring patterns. Many of the garments would not look out of place in a boutique store; desirable vintage style gaments and accesories.

I'm new to crochet so appreciated the 'Crochet Know How' section at the back of the book to refresh my memory of stitches and techniques.
Each pattern has a skill level: Beginner, Improver or Experianced, so I can gradually work my way towards some of the more challenging patterns.

The first project - which is my first ever crochet garment/accesory - I decided to attempt from the book was the 'Turban Headband'. I had some DK yarn and the right size hook next to me, so it seemed a shame not to give the pattern a try...
The pattern states "A really quick and easy project" im always very sceptical of these statements, as generally im not quick at finishing anything! I'm not sure if thats my slow hook skills, short attention span, or ability to start multiple projects in the space of one hour. However...This really was quick!!
I crocheted and finished (the part I hate with knitting, but found finishing crochet very intuative and neat) this headband in less than 2 hours whilst watching the X-Factor an a Saturday night.

I excitiedly tried on my first crochet accessory as soon as it was finished, at around 10pm at night!
I am very pleased with the outcome, im looking forward to sporting this on a cold day to keep my ears toasty.
The yarn isnt anything fancy, it is a ball of Top Value acrylic from my local market for £1.15 a ball. Using this pattern though it crochets up to something which looks alot more expensive.
Im already planning to use the remaining yarn with the same stitch to crochet 2 matching rectangles, so I can sew them up to be quick matching fingerless gloves.

I found this book easy to follow and full of patterns that were cleary explained. Best part is I liked all 35 patterns in the book!
My next project...
'Chunky Patchwork Scarf' to brighten up my dull black winter coat and keep my stylishly toasty.

Thank you xx

Geek Chic Crocket - Nicki Trench
  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: CICO Books (1 Oct 2012)
  • ISBN-13: 978-1908170873
  • Sunday, 30 September 2012

    The Great Wall of China 2012

    I trekked The Great Wall of China!
    Looking back at the photographs it still seems unreal that I was in such an incredible place.

    I trekked the wall with an amazing group of 22 people for 5 days and each day presented a different challenge.

    I organised the trip through Action Challenge as a self funded, open challenge. Rather than having to commit to raising thousands of pounds for a specific charity, you pay the cost of the trip yourself and can then choose to raise money for the charity of your choice. I decided not to fundraise, however it was such a challenge to compete the trek I wished I had made the effort to gain some sponsorship.

    I cannot praise Action Challenge enough, the trip was so well organised and really good value for money. We had a UK trek leader and UK doctor from Action Challenge who both met us at Heathrow Airport. On arrival to Beijing we were greeted by two Chinese guides, both stayed with the group 24/7 for our entire 10day trip. Their knowledge of the route, Chinese history and culture was fascinating.

    I will post a few of the beautiful photos in a round-up post next week. Here's a taster...

    Thank you xx

    Thursday, 6 September 2012

    Trekking snack: Dark Chocolate Bark!

    So tomorrow I fly off to trek The Great Wall of China for 10days!
    I'm very nervous at the moment, but my rucksack and day sack have been packed with trekking clothes and equipment. I've also managed to pack quite a lot of snacks to keep me fuelled during the day long climbs along the wall.

    My new cookbook: Practical Paleo has inspired me to make a snack, rather than rely completly on packs of nuts:
    So I have made dark chocolate bark, inspired by the pepita goji berry bark on pg400 (yes it's a super long book stuffed full of recipes)

    Dark chocolate bark:
    1 pack of dark chocolate (I use Aldi moser roth 125g 70% dark)
    1 knob of butter
    1 handful of chopped walnuts
    1 handful of pumpkin seeds
    1 handful of cranberrys
    Sprinkle of salt

    1. Melt the chocolate and butter. I used a bowl over a pan of hot water, stirring little and often until all the chocolate melted.
    2. Stir in the nuts, seeds and cranberrys. Grinding some salt over the top.
    3. Pour onto a lined baking tray and leave to cool in the fridge.
    4. Enjoy this tasty treat!!!

    I will be taking lots of pictures with my new Panasonic Lumix SZ1 camera, hopefully will share the great photos and all my experiences with you on my return!!

    Thank you xxx

    Monday, 3 September 2012

    Project Progress: Granny square decisions

    Blogging gives a completly new perspective to my crafting!

    The process of creating my granny square blanket post made me consider what I was creating. Seeing all the colourful squares laid out, I started to really love how it looked. After photographing the progress of my blanket and decisions I was taking, I started to question how it was going to look.
    So I have scraped the decision to add more white to the borders and have been busy crochetting more granny squares!

    I have over 160 squares completed now... sewing these together is going to be a challenge!!!

    Thank you xxx

    Sunday, 2 September 2012

    How to: Handmade ribbon blankie!

    A friend of mine has recently had a little baby girl, so I was able to make another ribbon tag blankie. I thought it would be lovely to share the process with you, as its a quick gift that isn't boy or girl specific and different to all the babygrows new parents usually recieve.

    I first made a tag blankie when my niece M was born. Now she is 8 months old it has provided endless hours of fascination for her; either rubbing the soft blankie on her face or 'tasting' all the different ribbon textures.

    I followed a pattern from Lotta Jansdotter's simple sewing for baby book, adapting the instructions as I go, as reading every instruction carefully is not one of my talents, I much prefer to jump in and see how it turns out!

    I like to use minky for the blankie material rather than cotton, plain minky for one side and a dimple minky for the opposite side, to give baby some lovely textures to enjoy touching.

    I know white is probably not the practical choice for a new born baby, but I love the contrast of colours. It’s machine washable, so any mess can quickly be cleaned.

    I selected lots of colourful ribbons in a variety of textures; velvet, grosgrain, satin, woven stripes and polka dot. I also found a use for a free gift from Mollie Makes magazine; cotton twill tape stamped with 'Handmade with love'.

    I use inches as this is a very simple guide for me to use on my cutting mat, making gliding through with the rotary cutter a simple task.

    Tag Blankie
    ·    0.5m of plain minky
    ·    0.5m of dimple minky
    ·    0.5m Lengths of different ribbons
    ·    coordinating cotton

    1. Cut your minky to 13" squares (~33cm) using a cutting mat, rotary cutter and ruler.

    2. Cut your ribbons into a range of lengths between 3" and 5.5", making sure you have 4 lengths of each colour. Any larger than 6" and I have found baby can get their hands caught in the loops.

    3. Lay one square of minky right side up, take a length of ribbon and fold in half wrong sides together. Starting at the top left corner begin pinning the lengths of ribbon along the edge of the minky, matching the raw edges of minky and ribbons. I decided to follow a rainbow sequence when pinning my ribbons in an order, however you can be totally random. Try to select contrasting lengths of ribbons next to each other to create interest.

    4. After pinning all the ribbons along all edges of the minky, sew 1/4" along all sides to secure the ribbons into position. Then remove all pins.

    5. Lay the remaining minky square on top of the ribbons and minky you have just sewn, right sides together creating a ribbon sandwich. Ensure all ribbons are enclosed in the sandwich.

    6. Sew a 1/2" along all 4 edges, leaving a gap of 3" on the centre of one side to allow you to pull all the fabric through.

    7. Trim all edges so there is 1/4" hem to reduce the bulk. Leave the 3" gap will full seam allowance.

    8. Turn the blankie the inside out through the 3" gap, so the right sides of the minky are on the outside, with the ribbons popping up along all the edges.

    9. Press the ribbons and edges of minky, folding the seam allowance of the 3" gap inwards and pinning into position.

    10. Sew along each edge, as close to the edge as possible so that you secure all the ribbon ends in the seam.

    11. You can then sew an additional row of stitching 1/4" from the edge to add some interest and secure the minky layers together… Extra reinforcement.
    12. Done!!!

    Here is my finished tag blankie along with a soft rattle toy I made using another pattern from Lotta Jansdotter's book, Simple Sewing for baby.

    This is a great book for any crafty mum to be, or if you are looking for some new ideas for handmade baby gifts. It contains instructions and patterns for 24 simple projects, so you do not need to be a very experienced sewer. The simplicity of the patterns allows you to be creative with your fabric selections to create something baby, and hopefully the new parents, will love for years to come.

    Let me know if you try to make a tag blankie, I would love to see your creations. If you have any questions along the way then get in touch and I’d like to try and help you.

    Thank you xxx

    Saturday, 25 August 2012

    Project: Granny Square Blanket

    My very first crochet project is a Granny Square Blanket.

    The inspiration came from Mollie Makes Issue 13; a pattern by IlariaChiaratti for a basic granny square. I really loved the use of white with all the colourful centres of each square.

    On a trip to my local market I stocked up on some Top Value DK, an acrylic yarn I had never used before. However at £1.15 a ball I thought it was a colourful easy care yarn, which seems good value, for my first project.

    So far I have found the squares very satisfying and quick to crochet.
    I have tried to be logical with the colour sequences, making 5 of each combination, so I do not have 20+ squares my favourite colour combination ruining the random colour sequence I would like to achieve.
    All was going well until I decided to empty my carrier bag of completed squares onto the dining table so I could work out how many squares I needed to finish the project.
    Laying them out randomly, so no to colours were next to each other, my 135 completed squares started to look like a blanket rather than a pile of yarn...success!

    However I found the dark purple, dark green and grey colour combinations too dark. I was imagining a bright playful blanket and looking at what was in front of me I was slightly disappointed.
    After taking a step back and thinking clearly about what my expectations were I realised I needed a slight re-jigg. My plan of attack:
    ·         Remove the dark-dark colour combinations
    ·         Add more white

    I ended up removing 20 completed squares from my project bag and have started adding an extra round of white to every completed square, so now each square is 4 rounds.

    This blanket has been work in progress since around March. I started to crochet it after I reserved my flat!! I currently live with my parents, but after saving I finally put a deposit down on my first home, alone! So since March I have been slowly working away on this blanket, so it will be ready for my new flat.
    I have lots of works in progress for my new home. Hopefully I will be able to post about them over the next few months, so I can share some of my first home preparation.

    Wednesday, 22 August 2012

    The very first post: Coral's Room.

    I have enjoyed reading blogs for many years, they have provided hours of reading and endless sources of inspiration to me. I have learnt so many skills from bloggers who continuously take the time to share their knowledge and experiences for everyone to benefit from. After lurking for so long, I hope to be able to contribute in any tiny way to this lovely online community of crafters.

    Being a 'Professional Starter' I have many works in progress, hopefully this blog will provide an incentive to finish and share my Works In Progress 'WIPs' which are currently stashed away in a number of places in my room, Hannah Coral's Room!

    ...and it’s also an opportunity to experience the happiness of starting even more crafty projects!