Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Jealousy within the crafting community

It seems jealousy is back as a major issue within the online crafting community. I'm seeing signs of distress and of a backlash against Instagram. It's sad because usually I love to see people chatting to each other about handmade and what they've achieved that day. Instead I'm seeing online bullying and I think that stems, partially at least, from jealousy.

Hestercombe House, Taunton

Jealousy is a feeling of wanting what someone else has. Within the crafting community online it is accepted by most people that they will experience these emotions and, for most people, the emotions stay on the surface and actually feed into their creativity and drive.

But for some, a small percentage of people, the emotions bury deep inside, particularly if they also suffer from feelings of low self-worth, anxiety or depression. It festers within them and it becomes dark. Their own creativity is neglected, sometimes completely. After all, why bother if other people crochet better, knit nicer things and make more sales on Etsy? What's the point of being mediocre?

I have experienced these emotions myself and have also been the subject of jealousy. Both have been intensely painful. I have felt the panic rise as someone seems to direct their irrational feelings towards a random skill I may have or something I have done. The irony is often that I've felt really sorry for them as I know how it feels to want someone else's job or intelligence or talent. Often people have no interest in hearing about the struggle the object of their jealousy may have suffered. Poverty, distress and illness are not written in a list on the front of your clothes as you walk around in life.

Recently I've realised taking action can solve some of these negative feelings. If you stumble across a blog where someone has had five books published, is seemingly rich and looks fantastic all at the age of sixteen, and you feel sick with envy perhaps you should start writing and networking. If a seller on Etsy is selling fantastically well see if they have done any interviews anywhere on the web and study their daily routine, where they go for inspiration and where they studied, then see if you can be inspired by them instead of feeling down.

Perhaps if it really annoys you so much take a break from whatever social media you use the most and go somewhere else instead? Pinterest is less overwhelming and jealousy-inducing than Instagram and can be a great source of creative inspiration.

Perhaps just switch the internet off completely and remind yourself other things are way more important.

Monday, 31 March 2014

Book Review: My Crochet Doll by Isabelle Kessedjian

I found a great book a few weeks ago in the 'Inspirations' craft shop in Exeter just a minute away from Exeter Central train station. Usually when I pick up knitting or crochet books to purchase for myself I think 'well, I won't crochet that, or that, maybe that' and then put it back. This book was sold the minute I picked it up. I have been looking for a pattern for a 'neat' amigurumi doll for ages and now here was the perfect book.

'My Crochet Doll' by Isabelle Kessedjian is a truly gorgeous and cute book. The book contains the pattern to crochet a basic doll and a wide array of clothes to crochet for her (I say 'her' but you could easily make the doll male). The book contains patterns for everything from a onesie for the doll to pyjamas. She is pictured with a range of hair and 'facial decorations' (masks, glasses, etc). She really looks so different in each photo shoot. There are patterns for a tiny blanket for her and even a suitcase. What a dream book for a child just getting into crochet or a young mum!

I chose to make the Red Riding Hood doll to begin with. I've nearly finished the actual doll but there was a short hiatus after I started as I needed two 50g balls of cotton and I had only picked up one in Inspirations, so I had to order on eBay. (This was my fault, I didn't read through the book properly in the shop). If you follow the patterns to the letter Isabelle recommends 'Begere de France' yarns for the doll and the clothes and provides a list for each photo shoot. The only mistake I've discovered so far is on page 72 - to make the boots it has a symbol to crochet from and to in the shoe pattern but hasn't been included so I don't know how to make them. I bet I could figure it out if I really tried. Everything else has worked out fine so far.

I've finished the legs, body and head. I have nearly finished the left arm and have crocheted the hood. I know you shouldn't start the clothes before the doll but I couldn't wait to crochet a ball of cherry King Cole DK I had bought. I don't know why I don't just crochet little dolls - they always get finished and aren't too taxing to have out while watching TV.

'My Crochet Doll' is available with £5.50 off at Play if you are in the UK. Or you can find it in your local book shop or library.

If you are in the US please take a look at this UK and US conversion chart for crochet - we use different terms here in the UK.

If you are in the US here is the link for Amazon.

This sounds like a sponsored post but it's not - I bought this book and I love it so much!

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Mother's Day on UK Etsy

I've taken a break from my busy schedule of watching House of Cards and Sherlock on Netflix and drinking tea working full-time and generally trying to improve my life even further to bring you a selection of four beautiful handmade items from Etsy from UK sellers so you can order them and give Mum a lovely present on Sunday week.

Big Button Coasters by 'WoodpaperscissorsUK' from Kettering, UK on Etsy £17.85

Silver Bird Pendant by 'AliBaliJewellery' from Edinburgh, Scotland on Etsy £64.79

'So loved' print by 'JenRoffePrint' from St Albans, UK £10

'Mum Hessian tote bag' by 'jillgrantxx' from Glasgow, Scotland on Etsy £20

Have a wonderful look on Etsy for yourself by searching 'UK Mum' or 'UK Mother's Day'.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Book review: 'Baby booties and socks - 50 Knits for Tiny Toes' by Frederique Alexandre

'Baby booties and socks' is a pretty book crammed full of beautifully designed yet simple to knit baby booties and socks.

There are 50 designs and they are wide-ranging in their styles and colours. Most of the designs include sizing for six month old babies and one year olds. A good amount (though not all) contain sizing for newborns and three month old babies and sizing for two year olds.

Most of the designs are knitted with two needles with a seam but there are approx a third which can be knitted in the round with double pointed needles.

The book also contains a few crocheted booties and socks. There are five pages of instructions in total - with clear diagrams on how to crochet with seven stitches including how to increase and decrease. Also there are knitting instructions with detailed guidance on how to make a left and right slanting increase and how to graft and sew invisible seams.

The yarn picked is always Bergere De France which is easy to get hold of in the UK and very affordable. If you are like me and don't mind sewing seams after knitting socks or booties flat then this is the book for you. If you can knit in the round with multiple needles and can convert a flat pattern then you could practice doing that with this book.

I think if you are new or relatively new to knitting and are thinking about knitting a present for a family member or friend with a baby then this could be a safer bet than a garment tension-wise. I've found socks to be quite simple once you master putting stitches onto a holder to shape the heel.

You can buy 'Baby Booties and socks - 50 Knits for Tiny Toes' from the Search Press website.

Thanks to Search Press for sending me this lovely little book.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Book review: Cuddly Knitted Animals by Caprice Birker

'Cuddly Knitted Animals' by Caprice Birker is a fun and entertaining book for all knitters who love toys.

All the animals are knitted in the round with double pointed needles and a couple of the animals need very basic crochet skills. There are charts but the charted sections are also written.

There are 22 animal patterns in total and they all use the same torso pattern at the beginning of the book. There are extensive 'basic' patterns in the first section so you could even experiment and branch out with your own design if you wanted to.

The first section is quite exhaustive with a total of 24 pages introducing you to toy knitting such as which yarns to use and making the face, etc. Caprice has been adventurous with her choice of yarn and I particularly love the sock yarn used for the dragon, but the exact yarns she's used are not specified and you would have to try and find your own 'green and blue sock yarn 75 per cent wool' to use.

The animals range from an elephant and monkey to a unicorn and a dragon! This is a really fun book which should be accessible for the intermediate knitter or the advanced beginner.

You can buy 'Cuddly Knitted Animals' by Caprice Birker from the Search Press website.

Thanks to Search Press for sending me this book to review at my request.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

The joy of Wollmeise

Have you ever noticed the two scales of stress and knitting? When one goes up the other goes down? It's a vicious circle. Sometimes, when you feel stressed you don't want to pick up the needles and it's difficult to plug into your crafting mojo. So a couple of weeks ago I had to force myself to knit. I picked up my knitting and gradually I felt better. It wasn't much but I immediately felt the benefit the next day. (Although reading my new Neil Gaiman novel helped too!)

It also helped to be able to order some Wollmeise! It arrived a couple of weeks ago, and having lost my crafting mojo at that point, I put it away and didn't really look at it (I know - how did I do that?!). But last week I wound it into five balls and started to knit a tension swatch as I couldn't wait to find a pattern. It's amazing. There are two things I've tried in the last few months which haven't disappointed me after being highly recommended by bloggers or podcasters, one is Craftsy* and the other is Wollmeise.

It doesn't always follow that if you spend more on wool you'll get a better result but I'm pleased to say I feel this is well worth the extra money. At about £5.25 per 50 grams it's only like buying Rowan but in a 200 gram hank.

I am planning to knit 'Naiada' by Martina Behm which is a paid-for pattern on Ravelry. I have some 150 cm circular knitting needles on order from Love Knitting who kindly gave me free shipping on my first order as I subscribed by email. I'm sure I will need to consider investing in some interchangeable circulars soon otherwise the cost is quickly going to rack up.

I hope you are in a position to treat yourself to Wollmeise - it's well worth the postage, trust me.

*This is an affiliated link - I will gain a percentage fee from Craftsy if you click this and then buy something.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

A trip down memory lane

I've been recently looking through my childhood photos and putting them all into a Paperchase photo album I bought a few months ago. I'm getting there, although some of the mediocre ones look awful next to the ones my father took as he had a passion for photography. If there's one thing this blog is lacking it's baby/children photos so here are mine instead!

This is me at around the age of six or seven and my older sister Louise at the age of ten or eleven. I may look like I want to kill her, but as you'll see if you hover over the photo and find out what I've labelled it, nothing happened after the photo was taken.

This is one of my favourite photos of all time from the album. There are many, but this is in the top ten. I always wonder why I love tulips so much, and this is probably why.

Gosh, I loved the paddling pool. I remember this being a very very hot summer and I was constantly being slathered in sun lotion everywhere I went. It had to be positioned underneath our apple tree as the rest of the garden was just too hot. And before you ask, yes I was born a blonde. Suddenly I became a brunette a couple of years after this photo was taken.

By this time you're probably wondering did I forget the camera when I turned into a teenager? The answer is yes, I threw it into the lavatory. I can't believe how awful I looked as a teenager but then, I suppose everyone does, and maybe one day I'll pluck up the courage to create a post based on my teen photos.

And, finally, here is a photo of me and my sister during a tour around Granada studios in Manchester while we stayed with my Nan in Lancashire during the school holidays. I absolutely loved this tour and I had a great day. I was totally addicted to Coronation Street as a child. I think The Darling Buds of May, Poirot and Corrie were on quite a lot and we rarely watched the BBC if at all.

Well, I hope you enjoyed my photos. Have you found an interesting way to display yours?

Saturday, 18 January 2014

New Year No Fear!

If you're anything like me you'll love a good sale in January. There are endless bargains to be had and right now there is 10 per cent off everything at The Bead & Button Company.

These crochet hooks are a lot of fun. Made from aluminium they are really colourful and bold and will pop out when crocheting so you can see them really well. They would also make a great present for a child to get them into crochet.

The lace I received for review from them was also of very good quality. These are just long enough to sew along a pillow edge and are really thick.

These poppy wooden buttons are just awesome. I've seen these in a few different places, as background for magazine shoots and on knitting on the wonderful knitting blogs I follow. They really are gorgeous. They come in two different sizes - 25mm and 30mm.

These buttons have butterflies on them and are equally gorgeous. They would all look so brilliant on baby or adult clothes. I'm sure everyone would be asking you where you had got them!

So why not give them a try? They do free delivery on all orders over £30 so if you have been holding back on supplies before Christmas now's your time to do a bulk order with 10 per cent off.

I received these goods for free from The Bead & Button Company to review them and this is therefore a sponsored blog post.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Book Review: The Magic of Shetland Lace Knitting by Elizabeth Lovick

'The Magic of Shetland Lace Knitting' by Elizabeth Lovick is one of those rare books which make you feel as if you are at a serious workshop while retaining a friendliness and accessibility which is essential for nervous knitters and newbies.

The first section of this book is quite exhaustive. She covers the history of Shetland lace and story of the sheep breeds on the islands, complete with stunning photos and a description of arriving on the plane - 'We bank sharply and lose more height, the runway comes into view, jutting out into the sea, the rolling waves breaking on to the tarmac. We land safely.'

All the basics are covered, yarn, needles, knots, reading a chart (a whole page), joining in colours, picking up stitches, dealing with mistakes and dressing lace (blocking). Then she starts advancing a little more and branching out into designing, constructing shapes, charting and putting motifs together. At this point you're thinking 'this is quite awesome, a whole page or two on how to chart my pattern, wow'. But then there are pages on designing with frames, designing a stole, a scarf and a christening gown. Pretty satisfying. I would definitely say all my questions about lace were answered in this section.

Next comes the stitch directory which contains around 70 edgings and traditional Shetland motifs displayed very clearly and knitted in beautiful yarn in delicious colours. At the end of the book you get seven patterns to practice your skills, which of course can be knitted in a different lace pattern to the one shown using the stitch directory.

Overall I would definitely say this is a fabulous buy if you are a beginner or an intermediate knitter looking for a new challenge. Lace isn't so difficult, and the only thing you may struggle with is reading charts but Elizabeth expected this and solved it with her page on reading charts. She also has full website details at the back of the book.

'The Magic of Shetland Lace Knitting' by Elizabeth Lovick is available from the Search Press website.

Thanks once again to Search Press for sending me this book to review at my request.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Christmas Holiday Crafting

I was rather too busy before Christmas to pop in and wish all my readers Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, so I am hoping that you all had a lovely break and were able to take time out to watch TV, get merry and munch a few chocs. I know I certainly did.

I also had lots of time to dream, meditate, escape, read, think and imagine while not worrying excessively about jobhunting or money, an experience I've not had at Christmas for quite a few years. It really was deeply pleasurable.

Before Christmas I got a bit carried away with shopping and treating myself, especially when I realised I was going to be safe in a job for a while. I joined the 'Into the Whirled' yarn club and received the rather beautiful hank of sock yarn above. I think I saw on Ravelry that the inspiration came from a Doctor Who picture, but I may have got mixed up as I was out of sync due to being an international customer!

Anyway, to cut a long story short I came out again as I got charged customs tax which almost came to the same amount as the monthly fee so I decided it very sadly wasn't going to work out due to me being international. But awesome yarn. Lovely. Very efficient communication too. If you live in the US they are highly recommended. If you don't mind slow post and possible customs tax and you are in the UK go for it too.

Another treat - two rather lovely tunics from White Stuff which I bought in the sale after getting up at 7.30am on Boxing Day. Competition was fierce in the shop. I felt several eyes follow me round the shop as I have to pick up two sizes for everything. I think a few women wanted to beat me severely during this shopping trip, but I did well under stressful conditions I feel.

Apologies for the quality of this picture - I'm mostly knitting in the evening now and have mostly been out when it has been sunny. This is my Buttermere shawl/scarf which I'm knitting with Eden Cottage Yarns. It has looked a bit scraggy at the start but it is looking a lot better. I had a doubtful beginning as I wasn't sure which size of needle produced the best tension but ended up using the size in the pattern. It's very addictive as it is good TV knitting as apart from about four stitches it's just stocking stitch. Although not for Sherlock, as this requires all your attention and concentration, and besides I'd definitely end up dropping stitches through sheer excitement.

Happy Knitting and Happy New Year!

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Handmade Sherlock Holmes on Etsy

The time is nearly upon us for the launch of the third series of Sherlock on BBC One. Those of you with elevated elite media status may have already seen it, but for us lesser mortals there are now just three sleeps left until we are happily re-united with Watson and Sherlock. Here are four international handmade items from Etsy to celebrate:

Sherlock Cross Stitch pattern

I believe in Sherlock tee

Sherlock silhouette

Sherlock print

If you don't know or you live under a rock or didn't buy the Radio Times it's on New Year's Day at 9pm on BBC One. Other countries please check your own channels or international iPlayer.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Book review: Natural Soap Making by Elizabeth Letcavage

'Natural Soap Making' by Elizabeth Letcavage is a wonderful introduction to soap making.

It includes 12 recipes to make soap and the instructions are very easy to understand. If you are new to soap making I expect it's a bit like taking up baking - you need a few moulds and cutters but once you get over the initial gathering of materials it could be lots of fun and save quite a bit of money.

The emphasis is on natural ingredients in this book - essential oils, medicinals such as coconut milk or vitamin E and natural colourings such as rose clay for pink or alkanet root powder for purple.

The soaps in this book are so pretty but look natural so would be nice to sell as natural vegan soap which is more durable and longer lasting than some vegan soaps which don't use caustic soda.

Elizabeth has included sections on how to use up soap scraps, how to make nugget soap, how to stamp and how to make swirled soap.

If you dream of making your own soap which is free from the heap of additives it's sold with in the shops then this is the perfect book.

'Natural soap making' by Elizabeth Letcavage is published by Stackpole Books and is available from the Search Press website.

Just an afterthought from me - If you use caustic soda as you are told to in this book to make the soap recipes make sure you wear a plastic apron, rubber gloves, eye protection and a dust mask as it is highly corrosive and an irritant. Please read about it here on Wiki. This is covered on page three of the book but I still wanted to highlight it - this activity is not suitable for children as a result. Caustic soda is not an animal product so this soap book will help you to make vegan soap if you avoid the minimal goat's milk recipes!

Thanks once again to Search Press for sending me this book to review.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

A finished Rowan knitted shawl by Stephen West

It's been a while since I had something nice to show you. I have a finished object and I'm very excited. I was so excited to take a picture on Saturday with the sun shining brightly and with a spare morning but my camera's batteries died. So apologies if these photos, taken on my iPod, aren't great.

This is the Stephen West pattern 'the Boneyard Shawl' - but I knitted it in Rowan Felted Tweed on 5.5 mm needles. It was my first shawl and I started it just after my birthday trip to Get Knitted in Bristol. It cost me £20 and I loved knitting it so much I feel bereft.

My next shawl is going to be 'Buttermere' - a free pattern from Tangled Yarn. I have purchased some beautiful teal 4 ply yarn from the Tangled Yarn site and have wound it using my new wool winder but I haven't got round to ordering some new knit pro needles from Get Knitted yet. I am starting a collection of knit pro circulars as I only had about four not-so-good-won't-mention-the-brand ones. I am very impressed with the join on the knit pro circulars - you really get what you pay for with the cable and the quality of the needles - they are a joy to knit with.

Here's to more lovely finished objects!
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