Sunday, 26 July 2009

Prehistoric crochet...

The last of the baby gifts is done. It's a herbivore...

...something a bit more unusual for baby boy #3, methinks. I have just discovered PlanetJune. June has some amazing amigurumi patterns and I just couldn't resist this little dinosaur collection. I have been converted to the magic ring and as June says, I will never go back to the usual methods of working in the round, be it in amigurumi or granny squares. Try it - it's brilliant.

I down-sized him a little bit by using Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino on a 3mm hook and he measures about 6" long from nose to tail - just right for little hands. All boys love dinosaurs, right? Stegosaurus is my personal favourite and there have been some pretty major dinosaur obsessions in this household over the years...

I need to get him out of my garden!

Friday, 24 July 2009

The Beginning of Babette...

Following on from this post, here's a quick update on Babette.

This blanket is constructed like a log-cabin quilt, so working outwards from the main big square, next comes panel #2 which is 2 6-round squares joined together and then sewn onto the 12-round square.

I'm sewing them altogether with the purple yarn (that was a decision that took some time!) and it is one of those little jobs that I find nice and relaxing, similar to the hand-sewing of a quilt.

Next up comes panel #3, which is a mixture of 2- and 4-round squares.

It all looks a bit wonky and maybe I should have blocked each square, but to be honest I've tried blocking cotton before and it wasn't very successful, plus took ages to dry! I'm hoping that it will add to the homespun charm in the end and that the border edging will straighten it out.

Can you see that the middle of the 12-round square is really wonky? I adjusted the pattern slightly to try and straighten things up, which seems to have worked on each individual square. Perhaps as each square gets joined together on every side it may look better. I'm fussy, I know!

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Typical Brit...

I'm bored, bored, bored of this constant grey, wet and windy weather. Last night I watched the weather forecast just to see if they could get it right... they couldn't.

No2 wanted to go to HMV at Piccadilly Circus today to go in the gaming zone with a couple of his friends. I still think he's too young to be let loose in the West End on his own so I travelled up with them and gave them 2 hours to themselves in the Trocadero while I had a quick walk up to Liberty and a sandwich and coffee on the steps below Eros - with my umbrella up for most of the time. It was dry when I sat down and rather than lose a dry seat, up went my brolly and I sat there for over an hour watching the world go by.

When we got home, wet, chilly and a bit miserable, I got straight under my quilt and carried on with the hand-quilting. I love this bit. I find it so relaxing, working with a bit of a plan about where to start and what order to do it in. (I'll post about the making of this quilt soon). And who'd have thought I'd have wanted to be snuggled up under a quilt in mid-July?

I'm sure it's not allowed, considering this quilt is brand new, not even finished, but Pip obviously couldn't resist its charms and to be honest, he is a lovely hot water bottle! I think he was lonely, having been left home alone all day.

As the end is in sight for this quilt, I have been choosing fabrics for the next one. My two sisters have asked me to make a quilt for each of my nieces (3 altogether) and so my mind is buzzing with colourways and patterns.

I have just discovered Saints and Pinners and ordered 4 fabrics late on Sunday night. They came today! Now that's what I call service. They have a blog too.

Almost too nice to open... and with a friendly note enclosed!

These fabrics are actually for quilt #1 and #2... I think! I've ordered some more from eQuilter and they should be here soon - mostly sale fabrics too!

At least the weather keeps me indoors a-sewing and a-crocheting...

Friday, 17 July 2009

Our first baby...! He's a bit shy and hangs out in the plants. Not very original, I know, but I have called him Nemo! He's about 15mm long.

We have had an aquarium for oh, 10 years now and yesterday morning I spotted our first surviving baby fish! I can't remember what kind of fish it is, but it is sooo cute. I feel very proud!

I think this is mum. She's not a very good mum as she seems quite oblivious. She would have given birth to live young instead of laying eggs and it's a case of survival of the fittest as Nemo is the only one remaining.

The angel fish have sometimes laid eggs, but as soon as the female lays them, the male comes along and eats them! Makes you wonder how they ever survive! This pair rule the tank. They are the alpha fish! They must be both the same sex because since the other two have died, no eggs have been laid.

Nemo needs to keep out of the way of these silver sharks because I'm sure they wouldn't think twice about gobbling him up.

Lurking on the bottom of the tank is this monster. I'm not sure you can tell from the photo, but he's a least 6" long and his fin is very impressive. He cleans the tank up by eating the algae.

The aquarium is in the kitchen and provides me with a constant source of entertainment and seems to have a soothing influence too. Every morning before school, Tom would sit in his wheelchair in front of the tank and the angel fish would come and have a nose in the hope of getting more food. The notion that fish have a memory of mere seconds is rubbish! My fish are shameless beggars and think that every time I go near the tank they might get another sprinkle of food.

The other female yellow fish is behaving strangely and so I'm watching like a hawk to see if we get some more babies...

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

From one extreme to the other...

For some time I have been deliberating about starting a big crochet project. Big as in blanket size. In this post, I was still undecided, but now the decision has been made and the winner is a Babette Blanket.

I knew that I wanted to use Debbie Bliss Eco Yarn, as I loved the colour palette and I love working with cotton. It's a fairly heavyweight yarn and I'm using a 3.5mm hook, so it's quite compact and will be heavy but cosy, I hope.

The Babette looks like a patchwork quilt and that is exactly how it is made. You make panels of squares then put them together, logcabin-like. I'm only using 10 colours, whereas the pattern really uses 17, so I substituted my colours on the key, repeating all of them except 3 (red/green/brown) and it is such good fun seeing how the squares work out by just following the key instead of fussily deciding which colour to use next. I've mentioned before that I struggle with random so this is the perfect way out of what I know would be hours wasted faffing about thinking about the colours and whether they were balanced and equal.

I started off by making the 2 big 12-round squares to see how the colours worked together.

Then I got cracking on the panels in order so that I can join them together and watch it grow. It's addictive, let me tell you.

I wanted a project like this to keep on the back burner to come back to between smaller projects, but I've made a good start at it and my wrist is actually sore from hooking! I will post Babette's progress through the summer...


At the other end of the crochet spectrum is this:

When I was in the Cotton Patch a while back looking for fabrics for my red/turquoise quilt, I spotted a drawer full of these lovely embroidery threads. When I see colour en masse, the temptation is too much and I came home wondering what I could use it for.

Then I had the brainwave of trying to downsize some of my amigurumi by substituting this thread for the usual dk yarn that I use.

So, I placed an order for a selection of colours and played around to find the right size hook - 1.5mm - to get the crochet tight enough not to let any stuffing escape. I chose one of my favourite patterns... And look! A tiny head is made!

Fiddly but fun! I can only work on this in daylight (maybe I need to get an eyetest...) as the stitches are impossibly small and in black it's even harder to see them. But isn't he cute? I can't show you how much smaller he is than the original as he doesn't live here anymore, but he's about an inch and a half tall (or small?!).

Now there's something you don't see often - a penguin amongst succulents!

I think I may have OCD. Obsessive Crochet Disorder. I've now got a bee in my bonnet over this yarn - it's gorgeous, take my word for it, and the colours? Delicious.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Henri Elephant #2...

Following on from this project, here we are at number 2. Still meeting the funky criteria that was asked for! My long forgotten colour theory screams out at me with the secondary colours of purple, green and orange.

He is sitting patiently in my study waiting for his new owner to be born. Number One Baby Boy is now overdue so hopefully, he'll put in an appearance this week!

Still love all the details on this little project and coincidentally, both Henri's have been made while sitting out in the sun.

Back soon with some extreme crochet...

PS. No rats trapped yet!

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Not in my back yard...

Yesterday I went to the Hampton Court Flower Show - the first time I'd ever been to any of the RHS's big shows.

To get there, I took a bus, a tube, a train and a boat! From Hampton Court station, there were 'ferries' laid on to take you to the show, so why not arrive in style?

Can you see that glimpse of blue sky reflected in these lovely stainless steel balls? That just about summed up the day - we dodged showers and one torrential downpour as we went round the show. There weren't as many show gardens as I'd expected but I loved this tongue-in-cheek display of 'hanging bra-skets and pants plants'!

The y-fronts looked decidely grubby!

I also loved this sunken garden and the clever use of mirrors. It looked like the plants ran to infinity.

I resisted the urge to buy plants - my garden needs a bit of a rethink at the moment, but I am inspired as to how I want my border to look. A bit more planning needed, I think first...

I have a more pressing problem in my garden at the moment: Rats! I think they have been lured in by the presence of the chickens and the scraps I give them. I noticed one scuttling away from the eglu a few weeks ago and on closer inspection, it seems they have burrowed underneath it! So tonight, I have set 2 traps (yikes!) with peanut butter (recommended!). Goodness knows how badly I am going to freak out if I have to dispose of some mutilated vermin tomorrow. On my last inspection before locking up tonight, there was a slug on one!

Do any of you other chicken-keepers have a problem with them? Any advice greatly appreciated...

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

From me to you...

Thank you for all your lovely comments.

The support and encouragement I find here is priceless.

:: from my garden ::

Monday, 6 July 2009

Decision time...

I've not talked about my course at university here for some time, so I'm going to come clean. The last 6 months have been difficult at home. Regular readers may remember. The balls I have been trying to juggle have had to be rethought and decisions made.

There have been several things that have influenced my decision to fill in my withdrawal form.

I have loved every minute of my studying but when things were going astray, I found I was unable to do my second placement because I was needed at home. If I'm honest, I was a bit relieved. My first placement before Christmas was ok, but I felt that maybe teaching wasn't going to be me.

During my humanities module this year, huge emphasis was put on the benefits of field trips as part of the enquiry process to learning subjects such as geography, history and RE. I'm not sure if I have referred to the fact that Tom's brain injury (when he was 4 and at nursery) that left him so profoundly disabled, was a result of a school trip. For that reason alone, I just don't think I could get behind the core of the module. Of course, I'm not saying that school trips are unnecessary, it's just that personally, I'm struggling with it. No2 has always gone on trips , apart from the particular one that Tom went on, and at primary school, I always tried to join him as a parent helper. At secondary school now, he participates too - he's even been ski-ing for a week, but it's hard for me.

Having missed a fair amount of the second half of this term when No2 was out of school, I came to the conclusion that I was glad I'd tried it but no, it wasn't for me. If I'm truly honest, I also know that I don't want a full-on, full-time job and teaching (especially to start with) would be just that. I found it hard not having time to do the things that feed my creative soul.

So, here I am back at home, with time on my hands, hence the copious amounts of crochet going on here.

I'm a firm believer in things finding you when you're not really looking for them and in May I was invited for an interview at Helen House to take part in a training course to help support other bereaved parents. I got on and have just completed the training. I now have to wait over the summer, to be allocated my first family. I will visit them in their home to listen and support them through, what I know, is the worst time. I can share my own experiences and hope that they will find the benefits I have found in talking to people who share the same scar.

Also in May, I was fortunate enough to meet the Children's Commissioner for England, Sir Al Aynsley-Green. We discussed the difficulties I'd been having with No2 and school and he was extremely interested. He is starting a research project on bereaved children and would like my story to be part of that research. I really hope he contacts me to help.

So, this is the thing: maybe I need to embrace the things that I cannot get away from and work with them to make something positive happen. I'm happy to do that. It's something that I can dip in and out of and it leaves time for me to be creative, which heals me.

If all else fails...