Saturday, 16 November 2019

Mabel Bunny & Co. - a review

I have such a lovely book to share with you today. Mabel Bunny & Co. is a truly delightful collection of crochet animals that are just waiting to become your friend. If you have any little people in your life (or just fancy having an extremely huggable crochet pal yourself) then this book is perfect for you. They are designed by Claire Gelder, who has created her own business, Wool Couture, and also got investment from two of BBC TV's Dragons' Den investors in order to pass on her passion for all things crafty to future generations. Claire has her own range of chunky yarn which you can use to create the animals, but of course you don't have to use that. I like the idea of using yarn of different thicknesses and adjusting the hook size to make a whole family of creatures. Claire actually does this with three of the patterns but there's no reason why you can't do it with all of them! 

The book includes lots of information on tools and materials as well as a comprehensive guide to techniques with some excellent photo tutorials. So even if you are a beginner crocheter, there's no reason why you can't have a go. There's also some really helpful advice on how to bring the animals to life. If you've made a soft toy before, you'll know how important it is to get the features looking 'just right'. Claire holds your hand through the making up process so you're guaranteed to be happy with the results. 

There are 15 different animals in the book, all designed to be soft and floppy, perfect for hugs and cuddles. There are three levels of difficulty in the book, indicated in a fun way with bunny symbols. 

It's very hard to pick a favourite, they are all so adorable and tactile. I just want to reach into the pages of the book and give them a hug. But here are a few that have caught my eye in particular...

Mabel Bunny (and her baby)

Squee! Just look at those pompom tails!

Teetee Dragon (designed to celebrate the two Dragons' Den investors, but also pretty perfect if you happen to have seen this year's John Lewis Christmas advert!)

Lilly Polar Bear - I think this one is my favourite!

Once I get all my Christmas gift making out of the way, I'm going to be stash diving to make my own polar bear, she is just too irresistible! You are never too old for a hug in my view! 

Mabel Bunny & Co. is a really lovely book that would make the perfect gift for a crocheting friend, or for you to make your own collection of cuddly creatures. The book is written in US crochet terms (with UK terms in brackets) and is available at bookshops as well as all the usual online sellers. You can even buy kits to make some of the animals from the Wool Couture website.

Mabel Bunny & Co. by Claire Gelder is published by Search Press and is available now.

ISBN: 978-1-78221-733-6

RRP: £12.99

Sunday, 20 October 2019

A week when you learn about the importance of tension!

So my week has looked a lot like this, with every day spent at the hospital getting daily infusions of immunoglobulin. It's a gold star treatment, costing around £10,000, so I feel very fortunate to be given it. Fingers crossed it will get things under control. Having a cannula made it challenging to knit, but I did manage to do a little. It created much interest amongst the nurses and other patients and they were all intrigued in what I was doing.

At the start of the week, my plain vanilla sock (using one of Stylecraft's Head over Heels sock yarns) looked like this ...

And by Friday it looked like this ...

And then on Saturday, it looked like this ...

I'd had to change the way I knit whilst I had the cannula in, and that affected the tension of my knitting. Having already knit the first sock, the second was for a person with a much smaller foot! So with much cursing, I had to frog the second sock back to the cuff. It's all ready for my trip down to King's College Hospital in London this week - perfect train knitting whilst listening to an audio book. Tension hasn't really been an issue for me until now, so I'm glad it was discovered on something relatively small! Have you had any tension disasters? xxx

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

Inverse Striations socks

Hot on the heels of my Good Striations blanket, I'm thrilled to be releasing 'Inverse Striations' today. It's a fun and quirky sock pattern, based on the same stitch pattern as the blanket, and I have to say that I'm just a little bit in love with it! You use one solid colour yarn and one colourful yarn. In the first pair I have used West Yorkshire Spinners Signature 4 ply in Licourice and Rum Paradise and in the second pair, I've used Opal Uni 4ply in Black and Stylecraft Yarns Head over Heels Allstars yarn in Woldgate

I reversed the colour order in the two socks, creating an inverse pair, and that's how the pattern got its name. They are addictive and quick to knit, and easy too as you only ever use one colour of yarn in a round. I'm already planning my third pair. 

You can buy the pattern from my Ravelry designer pager here. It costs £4.20 but there's a 25% discount until the end of October and I'm donating £1 from each pattern sale to Myositis UK to fund research  into this incurable muscle disease. I'd love it if you decided to knit a pair too. Please share and tag me in on Instagram or Facebook as I'd love to see your socks! Thank you for your support and happy knitting! xxx

Friday, 4 October 2019

Good Striations

Copyright Stylecraft Yarns

You know what it's like when you've got something that you want to share with others, but you're not allowed to? I've been like a child counting down the days until Christmas over the past month; crossing off each day, fit to burst, impatiently waiting for this day to come! And now it's finally here, picture me jumping up and down and turning cartwheels, giddy with excitement!

I am so delighted to be sharing my latest design with you today. Just feast your eyes on all those delicious ripply waves! Believe it or not, 'Good Striations' was inspired by photos of muscle fibres. I've been diagnosed with a rare muscle disease and have spent a lot of time surfing the net to find out as much information as possible about the disease. In this design, the bundles of striated muscle fibres are represented in waves of knitting to create a stylish and contemporary blanket and cushion. I've used Stylecraft Bellissima and Bambino yarns, which are completely interchangeable. The DK yarn is 100% premium acrylic, spun like merino, with beautiful drape and stitch definition. It's soft and cosy, making it perfect for snugly blankets as well as jumpers and accessories. 

The blanket is framed by a moss stitch border in cream, with the waves of colour interspersed with cream throughout, while the cushion has vibrant bands of colour and a striped envelope back. To make both the blanket and cushion, you will need 17 balls of yarn in total, and there is plenty of yarn to make both the blanket and at  least one cushion. The design uses slipped stitches, and knits up quickly. Although it looks complicated, it's actually dead easy, I promise you! It's a relaxing knit. It took me under 6 weeks to make, so if you start now, you'll definitely be finished by Christmas! I wanted to show off the new season's colours in the Bellissima range, and chose others to complement them. There are some absolutely beautiful colours across the Bellissima and Bambino ranges.

I was lucky enough to get the blanket finished in time to be included in the Stylecraft photo shoot and make no apologies for bombarding you with photos!  I keep pinching myself that that this is my blanket! I feel incredibly fortunate to have been asked to become one of the Stylecraft Blogstars. I really like how they styled it. I'm in love with this blanket and it's going to be mine, all mine (and probably Flo's too!)

Copyright Stylecraft Yarns

Copyright Stylecraft Yarns

Copyright Stylecraft Yarns

Copyright Stylecraft Yarns

Copyright Stylecraft Yarns

I decided to make a rectangular cushion and to have the waves of colour going the opposite direction to the blanket. I love how the colours inter-play and make different parts of the pattern stand out. The striped envelope back opening makes it easy to insert the cushion pad and remove it for washing. You can follow my colour order or have fun creating your own colour combinations.

If you haven't yet joined the new Stylecraft Makealong Group over on Facebook, why not pop over there now. There's a friendly bunch of people hanging out there who love to knit and crochet using Stylecraft yarns. The group has been set up to offer friendship and support whilst working on projects using Stylecraft yarn. Hopefully some of you will be inspired to make my blanket and I'll definitely be there to cheer you on and perhaps cast on another blanket myself.

I originally tried out my design using Stylecraft Special DK while I was waiting for the new colours of Bellissima to be released. I chose a rainbow of colours and decided to back it with some soft minky fabric and stitch on a binding. This baby blanket is going to live with little Dottie very soon. 

The pattern is available from my Ravelry page here. It costs £4.20, but you can get 25% off during the whole of October. I'm donating £1 from each pattern sale to the charity Myositis UK to help fund research into muscle disease. I've set up a Just Giving page (there's a link to it at the top of my blog) where I'll be able to add the money I raise.  I would love it if you bought my pattern to help raise some much-needed money for the charity. I hope you like it and have fun knitting it! I'm really proud of it! xxx

PS The blanket will be on the Stylecraft stand at the Knitting and Stitching Show in Ally Pally next week for you to squish and fondle, and I believe that there will also be yarn packs including the pattern available for you to buy. Squee! Sooooo exciting! Did I say I'm excited?!

Sunday, 29 September 2019

Another catch up

Hello! Welcome on this miserably damp Sunday. Pour yourself a cuppa, the kettle's just boiled and there's some banana cake if you fancy a slice? Things have been pretty hectic here for the last couple of weeks. I had to go down to King's College Hospital in London for a couple of days of tests and also up to the Salford Royal Hospital to take part in a research project. I've got a sensor, about the size of a £1 coin, attached to my leg, recording my muscle contractions, and feeding back in real time to the research team at Salford, via an app on my phone. The hope is that this technology will detect inflammation in the muscles before it starts to become a big problem, causing permanent damage. Isn't technology amazing? It feels good to be involved in something  that may have a really positive effect for sufferers. I did manage to get some knitting done while I was away, although much of it is secret. But there are a few snippets that I can share with you.

You can find me in the current edition of Crochet Now magazine, as part of the Stylecraft Blogstars Crochet 101 page, giving you a few hints on how to plan your Christmas (yes, I said it!) crochet. If you're a knitter rather than a crocheter, you can still follow my advice. After all, it's less than 100 days now until the Big Day. What a scary thought that is!

An Instagram friend, @florahoneypot, sent me a 'Flora Hug' in the post. Flora was taking her flock of sheep to Yarndale to give out this weekend and she contacted me as she wanted to send me one too. I love our woolly community.

A sneaky peek at something currently on my needles - beautiful rainbow stripes. What could it be?! Shhhh!

My 'Strictly Sockalong 2019' sock is coming along, helped with the glitter ball stitch marker from Ironbridge Yarns. If you would like to add some sparkle to your knitting, Felicity still has some of these in stock. The pattern is my own design and I'm happy with how it looks so far.

Flo was very happy when I returned home. People say that cats are aloof, but that's definitely not true of Flo. She loves company and has kept me pinned to the sofa pretty much since I got back! 

I'll be back on Friday when I will be sharing a new design with you. To say I'm excited is an understatement! xxx

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

A bit of a backlog

That, my dear readers, is a pile of socks waiting to be photographed so that I can publish the patterns. It doesn't include 3 pairs that I've already gifted; I gave the recipient strict instructions not to get them too worn before photos. The only trouble is, that was back in April! Oops! It's really hard to take good photos of socks on your own feet. Or at least it is for me. I'm not able to get into strange, contorted positions to get the best angle. Mr JK was my sock photographer, and would patiently take photos, and with a wry smile, take more photos, until I felt like I had the perfect shots! One of my friends (she who has already received the 3 pairs) has offered to be a sock model, but it's proving incredibly hard to find a time to get them taken. Fingers crossed that in the next couple of weeks I can get some photos taken so that I can start to share my designs with you. Otherwise I might be on the lookout for some plastic feet! xxx

Sunday, 8 September 2019

New beginnings

I always liked the preparations for going back to school, even as a child (except for buying school shoes, don't get me started on that!) and that hasn't changed since becoming a teacher. I like to buy a couple of new folders to keep planning in, perhaps a new set of pens or occasionally a pencil case. So seeing all the 'back to school' things in the shops and knowing that I have no need of them currently left me feeling a bit like a fish out of water. So I decided to buy myself a couple of 'not going back to school' things, to bring a bit of cheer to the first week of (not) going back to school!

On Instagram I spotted someone knitting socks in a 'new to me' yarn. A little bit of detective work took me to the Etsy shop Burrow & Soar, and there I treated myself to a couple of beautiful skeins of sock yarn. The colours are just so pretty, I can't wait to start knitting with them. 

I had also read on Instagram about a 'Strictly Sockalong' starting during the launch show of this year's 'Strictly Come Dancing'. Another 'new to me' dyer, Lay Family Yarn, had created two different sock sets especially for the KAL, and I just couldn't resist 'Gorjus Darling'! I have a rough idea of the pattern I'm going to knit and hopefully if it all works out ok, I will write the pattern up if you like it. I wound the yarn, found the perfect matching project bag from ThreeBagsFull and had candles and fairly lights twinkling away in readiness. 

I also bought myself a new, bigger notebook for writing down my pattern notes. I've been using small notebooks but there isn't enough room to keep ball bands, yarn samples etc in those very easily. I'm really pleased with the book that I found on Amazon - the paper inside is a good quality as is the cover. The pens aren't new, but I really like using these along with the Waterman fountain pen that my Dad bought me many years ago. It's my absolute favourite to write with. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to make a start on my next pattern. xxx