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I know, can you bear it – really? A few Christmas projects still in August. Well can you imagine how weird it was making Christmas stockings in June? I can remember last year in July making Santa Mittens on our summer holiday. It is a topsy turvy, design world. Well if you find it is too early, then don’t worry you can always buy issue 74 of Lets Get Crafting and stash it under your bed for a couple more weeks and wait for the evenings to draw in.

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I really did enjoy making these really simple flowers. What I need to do is to make a huge bunch and whittle away the ever increasing stash. Hope you have a lovely Bank Holiday what ever you are up to.

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britishknittingI might make a momentous change. I have been thinking about it for a while, but the time has come. I might swap from being a British knitter to a Continental knitter. Basically changing from doing all the hard work with my dominant right hand, to using a more equal both hand approach.continentalknitting1

I have a Danish friend who I have watched with envy. Just by looking at it, I can tell her knitting style is more efficient. Don’t get me wrong, I am a pretty fast knitter and unlike crochet, I can touch-knit (knitting without looking). When I meet Juliet Bernard in the Winter I asked her about her knitting style and she is a Continental knitter, plus she can knit backwards! Oh yes my friends, there were skillz in evidence.keyholescarf1

My stumbling block has been the purl stitch – knitting backwards did not come easily. However it was by chance that I stumbled on a tutorial on Pinterest about Norwegian Purl stitch which fits the bill perfectly.

I have tried it and I think I might convert. In essence continental knitting is far more akin to crochet and if I do a little practice I will indeed be much faster. So I will keep you posted and tell you which way I decide to go in a few weeks.

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I have been working on my new technique using the wonderful Alegria Yarn from Manos del Uruguay and some beautifully supple Addi Premium Needles.

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When I found the yarn it reminded me of a certain Disney film which little girls I know simply adore. So I have made a keyhole scarf and a slouchy beanie with just one 100g skein. I have to say that the needles are really rather good. No twisting or tangling and handily have the size and the length printed on the wire. What a good idea. Thank you to Rooster Yarns for sending them to me to try.

 

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This summer I have really been inspired by outdoor living. It is easy to make the odd cheeky accessory to brighten up the kitchen or the patio table and bring a little bit of zing into your life. The lovely people at Love Crochet asked me if I would design a summer project which was very much ‘on trend’. I try where-ever possible to I like to design things that I am keen to use myself.

fruitypotholdersI knew immediately what I would make – Fruity Potholders…obviously. In the shops and the magazines watermelon and tropical fruits are a key theme. Let’s follow suit with our oven-to-table accessories.

fruitypotholders3This design is so easy. A basic crochet in the round with slip-stitch embellishment and the odd bit of embroidery. There is a photo-tutorial of the process on the Love Crochet blog.

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If you also fancy reading the interview I did with the Love Crochet team you can read it here.

 

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yarnstoriescomp1Way back in May I told you about an exciting competition run by the yarn company Yarn Stories and the Knitting and Crochet Guild. They were looking for squares which were inspired by the Knitting and Crochet guild archive.

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Last week I got the terrific news that my square had been short-listed for the final. Exciting especially when you realise that  Debbie Abrahams, Jane Crowfoot and Angharad Thomas from the Knitting and Crochet Guild, were the judges

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Here are the finalists. Mine is a crochet hear design and originally I made it in monochrome, black and white.

The squares have been re-­‐knitted in Fine Merino DK in a palette of 8 delicious colours including Duck Egg, Cream, Primrose, Fuchsia, Raspberry, Leaf, Spring Green and two new shades, Blackberry and Iced Teal.

Now it’s your chance to vote for your favourite design. If you like my design I would be thrilled if you voted. You can do it on the facebook page linked here.

I can’t wait to see the finished blanket.

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gardenjuly1It has been far too long since I visited my little blog space. Lack of activity on the blog usually signifies busyness in life. Well we are in the throws of the summer holidays. Set before us, I wondered if we would fill the weeks with enough activity for Little B. Now the days seem to be romping by and the summer days seem to pass far too fast. In the other part of my working life I am the busiest I have ever been. I have never known a season like it. So days, evening and weeks run together and before I know it I have not carved out enough time to wash clothes, feed the family, let alone compose a few random thoughts here.

We have been enjoying the garden and I step out most early mornings to see what is growing, what is flourishing and dreaming dreams of little alterations at the weekend. I am fortunate that our little space of green is not too large. Just manageable. It is never big enough for both my boys, a frisbee would soon find its way into the neighbours plot, but it is a pretty haven.woolcake1

So let’s skip to the good bit. What is on the hook and needle? Well I have several WIP (work in progress). I have been trying out this lovely yarn sent to me by Rooster yarns, it is Manos del urguay Alegria. Alegria means joy – and the colour combinations certainly fit the bill. These tones reminded me of certain Disney film, popular with all the young girls in my life, (Frozen), so I decided to try and make a few accessories using the gorgeously soft yarn. It is work in progress, but when I have more to show you I will blog about the finished items.woolcake2

I have been working on two book projects, one very much in the development stage, and another where I have contributed a few items. Lots of fun, but certainly not for sharing yet.gardenroutereview1

The Garden Route Blanket which I made on our South African adventure has been popular with customers at Black Sheep Wools and it even got a lovely mention in Inside Crochet Magazine. I also had another blanket pattern published in the latest issue of Homemaker magazine, a lovely treat.homemaker1

My spring and summer challenge to myself has been to create crochet accessories which enhance outdoor living. I think by the end of the summer I should bring each part together in one blog post. Languishing by the side of the sofa, is a very slow progress tablecloth. This is for our table outside in the courtyard. I contemplated making a perfect circle.

tableclothjuly1For almost a year I have even idly cruised circular tablecloths on the web and then one day I woke up and thought. ‘What is your problem? Just make a square!’ So I have and I am in the process of giving it a pretty cotton edging. Quite slow work, but I must finish it before the summer is out. What have you been up to? If you finish sharing then please do. Some lovely people have begun sharing their projects on the facebook page and it is a delight to see. Happy summer.

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wavycowlpink1Hello my name is Emma and I have a cowl obsession…..I am so glad we got that out of the way. This relationship with a small sartorial crutch has been going on for a while and the collection of hand-made and shop bought is subtly growing. I keep thinking I need to find a new ‘favourite’ pattern, but really, why? What’s not to love. The cowl can be an accent accessory. A splash of bright colour in a sombre outfit. It can also act as a warm necklace. Like wearing a chic comfort blanket. (Perhaps not quite a good image). Well I love my cowls and they never fall off or untie like a pesky scarf. Put them on – and forget about them. Easy, lazy vanity.

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When I get asked to trial a new yarn, I often turn to my go-to accessory. The lovely Jenni at Love Crochet asked me to work up a pattern in Lang Silkmerino . I turned to my Wavy Cowl pattern in my book ‘How to Crochet’. It really is true that a good yarn needs a simple pattern to shine. This cowl in the softest pink is such a luxurious joy to wear.

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But be warned dear friends. The subtle softness and barely discernible sheen mean that you will attract a small amount of attention. Few people can resist having a quick feel of the texture. I had planned to give this cowl away…..but then over the weekend I wore it twice and my son was so taken by its cosy qualities that he wore it (in the house) for a couple of hours.

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I have already started my second cowl within a week using Rowan Alpaca Colour in Topaz. You see the obsession has not ended.

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The pattern for this cowl is in How to Crochet – Emma Varnam – published by GMC.

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We have chatted before about my ambition to develop our garden. We had the joy of making massive changes to the hard-landscaping last summer. In the autumn we begged, borrowed and stole plants from various gardens we knew, in the most part from my generous parents. This year has been an utter joy. Even though our plot is relatively small I can lose a few hours in the evening or at the weekend, just pottering around. Happy pootling moments. However I still lack confidence in my plant decisions, finding the right spot, knowing what works and what doesn’t. I need inspiration.

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A couple of weekends ago, we spent a glorious weekend visiting my folks in the West Country. If I needed inspiration, I didn’t need to pay any entry fee. I just popped outside after breakfast. If I had any request it would be to inherit their eye. In their garden they spend hours, thinking, planning, editing and doing basic hard graft. Beauty is not automatic, it is hard won.

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I think perhaps the real joy and indeed genius is that they have thought about the views. How arches, gates, trees can frame the scene. They have created curved paths and pretty journeys. An enchanted space.

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However they also think about the small details, the placing of an interesting pot, a pretty sculpture, the opportunity to sit and enjoy. All these things, the views, the plants and the details make a delightful garden. This year more than ever I have studied plant combinations. Our climate and soil are very different, but there are some shared varieties that look elegant and pleasing throughout England.

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Perhaps the clearest take-home message is that if you garden you never finish gardening. I was telling my Dad what a pleasure and a triumph their garden is. He shocked me with his surprise; ‘Do you think so? It isn’t exactly how we would want it. There is always something that you would change.’

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Well I think it is magical and I am always fortunate enough to be able to enjoy it. That is if they don’t charge me entry next time we visit for the weekend.

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© kirsten mavric © kirsten mavric

My designs are always inspired by people. Like my father, I do like to people-watch. Sometimes designs are a developed concept from a toy I enjoyed in my childhood. My latest design for Inside Crochet Magazine (issue 67) is dedicated to all the little girls we know as a family. Lots of our friends have the most delightful little girls. Fun-loving, joyful and brimming with imaginary play. I love sitting and watching how they play out little scenarios. How they enjoy positioning and repositioning toys and furniture. It makes me smile.

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For a while I have been looking at cloth dolls houses and had a crochet version on my to-do list. This year I was determined to design my own.  The Take-Away Dolls House and my Bonnie Bunny and Bed-Set were on my 2015 ambition list.

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This design is easy crochet – but fiddly construction. Patience is needed and you will need to do some sewing. But oh the delight of creating a little heirloom project. I like to use felt for my details, but crochet flowers and trees would work just as well. I have made some basic furniture. Other designers across the web have created crochet furniture for dolls houses, so you could mix and match.

© kirsten mavric © kirsten mavric

The little mouse looks rather content in her house! Well, my little friends, Betsy, Macy, Libby, Amelie, Eve, Esther and Evie – this design is dedicated to you and your imagination – come round and play!

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My last post featured my new blanket design for Black Sheep Wools. I hope you like the design – if you don’t crochet you might think, ‘ah, that looks pretty, I should get round to learning.’ If you are a crocheter, you might be thinking, ‘Should I start a new project?’, ‘I should finish the other 3 projects I have in my basket first?’, ‘I can see how many colours are used in that blanket, that is ALOT of sewing and weaving in ends.’

Let’s face it, some crochet projects are a breeze and others need dedication. What we need is a little psychological motivation and an eye on the prize. When I have a large project that I need to finish I have a couple of techniques I use to keep myself on track.

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1. When joining squares or hexagons for a blanket I always like to join as I crochet. It is not the easiest  method but certainly it ensures that you can see the blanket growing and the joins are robust and less likely to unravel. The Garden Route Blanket uses this technique and I have some photos in the pattern to help with this process.

2. Break the project up into sections. I either work in rows, or set myself a goal of how many motifs I will make in one sitting. Often when I am finished at the end of the day I might lay out my crochet on a chair and have a sneaky wee ‘admire’, before putting the project away in the basket.

3. Weave in ends as you go. For this latest blanket, when I got half way through joining the squares, I did all the weaving in of the ends. This ensured that it wasn’t a mammoth task at the end of the project.

4. Set yourself a fake deadline. My design work usually has a deadline. I really don’t like missing these dates, so I tend to set myself a fake deadline just so I can avoid missing crucial dates. Hopefully for you crochet and knitting is a relaxing hobby, where you can avoid the stress and time restraints of life. However we have all promised to make baby blankets that have been sat in the project basket way past the due date, and in some cases those babies have been toddlers before their blanket has arrived. Set yourself a realistic time-scale and a fake deadline.

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5. If you hate it – Frog it. (Frogging is ripping back a project). This is your hobby! If you are really hating a pattern, don’t get hung up about it, rip the wool back and make a pattern you do like. Life it too short to get hung up on a crochet pattern you are not enjoying and there are so many patterns you can get your teeth into.

6. Do a C.A.L. Lots of crocheters are loving the Crochet-A-Long projects. A new part of the pattern is released gradually as a surprise. By breaking the projects up into manageable sections many crocheters are finding this a better way of working. Why not try this kind of project to keep your interest alive.

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