Friday, 27 April 2012

Exam Time

I have been away from blogging for a while this week. I took two of my NCTJ (National Council for the Training of Journalists) Diploma exams down in Bournemouth in Dorset.

               Pleated Organic Pink Dress by SevenBlooms on Etsy

I was quite nervous as I haven't sat a written exam for eight years since finals at university. Luckily writing an essay on 19th century literature wasn't involved so I feel I did fairly well and am quietly confident.

The Monday exam was basically a test of pulling a story together from a page of quotes. It was a test of whether you could tease out a good eye-grabbing story and write it well. Also included was a test of social media which I feel was quite easy personally. It was also a test of who you would interview and what questions you would ask.

The Tuesday exam was much more challenging in my view. The public affairs section of the diploma is very wide-ranging, from the NHS to the EU, from parliament to the Freedom of Information Act. You could pick and choose which questions you answered quite a bit so I focussed my revision time on my stronger areas. This strategy worked well as the questions seemed to go my way.

I haven't done any crafting for a week now so I am looking forward to sitting down with a nice bit of crochet this evening.

Tomorrow looks sunny so I hope you are able to get out and enjoy it before the rain pelts down again on sunday.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Knitted Fairies & Photography book giveaway winners

Thanks to everyone who entered my giveaway for the Knitted Fairies & Photography book.

DivineChoice (Pearletta Wilson) was selected randomly for the photography book and hueisei for the Knitted Fairies book. I know you will both completely love these books and I look forward to sending them to you!

I will be in touch to collect your postal addresses and all being well, the books will be sent tomorrow.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Book Review: The Handknitter's Yarn Guide by Nikki Gabriel

The 'Handknitter's Yarn Guide' by Nikki Gabriel is such an essential reference book for knitters and crocheters everyone should be issued with a copy when they first purchase yarn.

The book is split into sections: Weights of yarn, animal fibres, vegetable fibres, synthetic fibres, textured yarns and finally rare and curious fibres. At the back is all the information you would expect, such as how to decipher yarn labels, needle sizes (and European and US conversions), and how to calculate yarn substitutes.

She starts each section with the pros and cons of each fibre, such as wool or angora, and outlines the general qualities. Useful facts are scattered amongst the colourful balls of yarn such as 'it takes one goat four years to yield enough fibre to make one jumper.'

You learn how good the stitch definition is for each fibre, how it drapes, its resilience, warmth, how expensive it is and sustainability. For example I learnt from the book that not only is hemp organic, grows freely without pesticides, is warm in winter and cool in summer, is cheap and is in plentiful supply but that it is only available up to a DK weight, can be stiff to knit with but gets softer the more you wash it. This would stop me looking around for a chunky hemp yarn which doesn't exist in the future and I would know to wash it much more than I would normally do after knitting or crocheting.

She then outlines the different fibres the primary fibre can be blended with and the general qualities of the mix. Also included is a table for each weight of each fibre so you could see at a glance how much DK hemp you would need for a 38 inch jumper, for example. It even tells you the wraps per inch and recommended needle size. It's fab.

The yarn swatches at the bottom of the pages are useful too as you can see exactly how it's knitted up in the picture.

I remember feeling so lost when choosing yarn a few years ago. I had no idea what DK or Aran was and kept buying strange balls as a result. In fact I was so ignorant I thought Aran was just meant for knitting fisherman's jumpers! It's no substitute for experimenting with yarn and seeing what you like and what suits your taste but it's certainly an essential yarn bible and one you will check time and time again. It's a great beginner's guide but you will also be challenged and pick up hints and tips if you are at an intermediate or advanced level.

Thanks to Search Press for sending me this book to review. You can buy 'The Handknitter's Yarn Guide' by Nikki Gabriel here from Search Press.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Finished: V-Neck Crocheted Top

I hope you had a productive and/or relaxing Easter bank holiday weekend. I finished my crocheted top on Easter Sunday.

I started this after christmas as I saw a very basic crochet pattern in a book I got as a present and decided to rip a shrug I was crocheting. The shrug looked ok but I wasn't sure I would get a lot of wear out of it and the Rowan cotton glace cost me £40 (bought a long time ago now!)

Apologies for the quality of photographs in this post. A lot of the pictures were taken with my blackberry camera which I never covered and therefore has become dusty over the year. Also it has been very dull here over the Easter weekend with not much light coming in for photographs. Also the photos weren't taken by me. Ahem *clears throat*

I started the 'Anna Shrug' in September last year. It was nice but wasn't very wearable. Before I started the Anna Shrug it was a knitted cream cardigan which looked beautiful but I got sick of wrestling with the 4 ply cotton and gave up, (ok being honest it was the picking up stitches at the end. I wasn't patient with it as I didn't want to finish it enough I think).

It's been frogged and knitted/crocheted so many times it's in desperate need of a gentle wash in the washing machine and a good press with the iron but I'm pleased with the way it turned out.

I was thinking I should slip stitch the seam a little more up to the neck but then I teamed it with a sleeveless top and thought it looked ok layered. I may change my mind again and crochet it up slightly more.

I think in retrospect I would have prefered a white summer top but cream is fine and I promise you I won't rip it again. Not yet anyway.

It was taken from a lovely book called Contemporary Crochet: 37 European Designs by Sys Fredens. It has lots of wearable tops, jumpers, stockings and skirts in neutral colours. You need to check at the back of the book what their version of double and treble crochet is as this pattern tells you to double crochet and it's treble crochet but they've left you to come up with your own choice of yarn which I liked.

I loved getting this as a present for christmas. I will try and blog about the other books I received soon before summer!!

Friday, 6 April 2012

Book Review: Teach Yourself LinkedIn in 10 minutes

Sams Teach Yourself LinkedIn in 10 Minutes (Sams Teach 10 Minutes) is such a fabulous book. I picked it up from the library and as the new edition is coming out this wednesday I thought I would review it so you know just how good it is.

Even though the website has moved so quickly that my 2011 edition is now out of date, I still learnt so many tips from it. It's a bit misleading in its title as you would need more than 10 minutes to write a proper profile but it's still a brilliant book. It's not just about how to create your online CV but how to participate in groups, customise your profile and add applications such as blogger to it. You can even choose which tweets from twitter will update your profile to stop personal or irrelevant tweets being read by potential employers. I picked up the following hint from it to customise my public profile url and to change it from a messy url of numbers to my name:

1. Go to the top right of the screen and hover over your name.

2. Click 'settings'.

3. At the bottom of the screen click 'edit your public profile'

4. Then at the top right of the next screen it will ask you to click if you want to customise your url. Click this then type in your name. If your name is already taken you could always use your second name like I did.

I have just made a connection with Hilary from Craft Blog UK over there who has set up a Craft Blog UK group.

You can see the LinkedIn button on the sidebar to the right of this post. Click it and make a connection!

Monday, 2 April 2012

Craft Book Review & Giveaway: Knitted Fairies by Fiona McDonald

I finally finished my fairy! I can now reveal she is from the book 'Knitted Fairies to cherish and charm' by Fiona McDonald.

I loved knitting Rose from the book. The pattern was so easy to follow and even though I had never painted eyes before Fiona has written so much advice and so many tips and instructions in her book I found it to be an easy challenge. It took me about five weeks and I spent about five hours a week on it. So she's a good 25 hour project. She engrossed me and was relaxing to knit.

'Knitted Fairies' is a magical book full of unusual knits. The book has such a fun feel to it. The fairies have their own distinct characters and beautiful hair and clothes. The yarns she's picked for her fairies are fantastic. Variegated yarn is fun to knit with and will appeal to younger knitters.

Fiona has included the basic fairy pattern separately at the beginning of the book which is brilliant as it allows you to make the basic body and head, then do whatever you want with it.

Fiona trained as an artist and this certainly comes through in the designs of the faries. Their faces are exquisitely painted and moulded.

There are ten fairies all together. Boy fairies, girl fairies, ice fairies, goth fairies and sweet fairies too.

The photography in the book is fab. The fact that there were a lot of photographs helped me a lot when knitting Rose. She was shown from all angles so I could see if I was going wrong.

If you have a stash these are brilliant projects to use it up on. I had over-ordered on my bear yarn so I had plenty for Rose. I undid a scarf I had knitted in garter stitch when learning to knit a few years ago for her wings. I used cheap acrylic stylecraft yarn for her dress. The only yarn I had to buy in was eyelash yarn but it was stylecraft too and only set me back a pound! I now have enough to make some more fairies!

Search Press have kindly sent me an extra copy of 'Knitted Fairies to cherish and charm' by Fiona and also an extra copy of 'Taking Great Photos' by Heidi Adnum which I reviewed last month here to giveaway to two lucky readers who will be picked at random. Please indicate:
  • which fairy from the book you like the most if you want the fairy book (from above) or
  • if you want the photography book tell me why you want to improve your photography
  • if you tweet about the giveaway on twitter and follow me let me know in your comment and it will count as an extra entry. I tweet here.
  • remember to leave an email address or log into blogger so I can get in touch if you win
The giveaway is open globally and will close at 11am GMT on Monday 16th April 2012.

You can buy a copy of 'Knitted Fairies to cherish and charm' by Fiona McDonald here.
You can buy a copy of 'Taking Great Photos' by Heidi Adnum here.
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