Monday, 28 September 2015

Autumn sunshine

After a spot of zip shopping after lunch, I should have spent the afternoon sewing but the sunshine was so glorious again that I opted to sit in the sunshine for a good couple of hours before heading to Weston Shore for a breath of air and a quick stretch of the legs. It was so warm I didn't even need a cardigan.

Weston Shore is what is classed as "a beach" in these parts. It's not much but the parking is free, there's usually an ice cream van, you can watch the birds when the tide is out and the boats when it's in. This is as sandy as it gets -

I came across this huge jelly fish, left behind by the receding tide. It must have been at least a foot across - much more had it been submersed in the water I'm sure. Never seen one here before, although I hear they're quite common.

The sunlight looked lovely as it sparkled on the water and I couldn't resist trying to take a picture on my phone, although my camera would have done a much better job. Further along the beach there were lots of wading birds having a wale of a time fishing in the exposed mud. They made a lovley sound chattering away to each other.

There hasn't been much building along the shore line at all surprisingly. If you travel up river just a little there are lots of new blocks of flats on both sides of the river but not here. Not yet at least. Not even a row of beach huts... All there is really, is a row of tower blocks that stand like sentinels at the entrance to Southampton Water. They look quite imposing when seen from a ship - or the Isle of Wight ferry...
They had a makeover not so long ago and the sea-ward end of each block was painted blue, with each building being a paler shade. They've been here my whole life, yet with a new paint job they look quite new. The thing that gives away that they're not new is that they don't have balconies. All the new builds seem to have balconies these days!!

I should make more effort to make it down here. It's a nice walk along the shore - as long as you don't want sand!

And in case you're wondering, yes, of course I bought fabric as well as zips. I saw a lovely sewing machine/scissor/button print and a matching solid, so bought a piece of each... I might put together a little kit and take it into work, along with the fabric and start cutting everything to size ready to sit at the machine come the weekend and just sew. That will speed things up no end. But what to make first? Old fabric? New fabric? Knowing me it will be new!!

Hearts & purses

Tina's Allsorts, Lavender Heart

So what does a kilo of lavender look like?? Well, it's BIG, believe me! I tried taking a photo but it didn't really do it justice but imagine you have a 500g box of cornflakes and you fill it with lavender, from bottom to top, right into the corners - you'd still have some left over!! It's BIG...

I made a lavender heart straight away because I just couldn't wait. This is my favourite pink gingham fabric but it's a little thin, so you can see there's something darker inside. I don't want to line them obviously, so I'm letting ideas roll around in my head for the moment.

I also made a couple of zipped purses over the weekend to see how they went, decide on designs and sewing methods etc. I thought I'd do the first one for me with my favourite fabrics - that gingham again, and the dappled flower effect print that I used on Mara's needlecase. It's nearly all gone now...I wish I could get some more but I only bought a fat quarter probably 5+ years ago!!
I'm also using a narrow lace trim and a picot edged bias binding...

 I saw this picot trim in the craft shop and thought it would look lovely along the edges of a zip on a little purse. Shame I didn't "engage brain" first. It does indeed look lovely but I am NEVER DOING THIS AGAIN!! It meant using a completely different construction method and took far, far longer and to be honest, I could get a similar look using a second line of lace trim.
But it does look fab...

 I wanted to make a purse that had a flat base so it would stand up on it's own, so looked through several tutorials until I found one that told me how to do it - it was really easy and saved me a lot of time working it out. I'll give all the links next time.

In an effort to use as little of the precious patterned fabric as possible, the base is gingham. The lining is a pale striped fabric I picked up in a sale a couple of years ago. I think I was making a bag at the time, so bought a couple of metres intending to make more bags. I didn't. And I used some cheap calico to make an interlining to give it a bit more body - the gingham is really soft and floppy.

Tina's Allsorts, Zipped Purse

It's a little wider than I intended to make it. I used a 7" zip to which I added a tab at each end, which widened it to 8". It's approx 5 1/2" high and the depth at the base is 2".
But I really like it and I think I'm going to have to keep it - partly because it took just so long to make as I had to keep re-thinking, unpicking and re-stitching.The next one will be as good but quicker. Hopefully...

I also made a smaller purse but with the zip tab just at the "closed" end to see how it looked. This is also a pink gingham fabric but the pattern is printed on the diagonal, not woven. I bought enough fabric to make a fitted short sleeved, waistcoat style blouse. Eighteen months ago...I never made it, so thought I might as well use it. I might make some even smaller coin purses. And the lavender hearts would look good in this too.

 Tina's Allsorts, Zipped Purse

I need to get some more zips and having had a good look on the internet, it's actually cheaper to pop to my local fabric shop than buy them online! They only charge 45p for a 7" zip, so I think I'll get a few and see how it goes. I'll need to get some more narrow lace too. I'm supposed to be making things from my stash but I'm bound to buy more fabric while I'm there...
And before I settle down in front of the sewing machine again, I might squeeze in a walk along Weston Shore while the sun is shining. 

Friday, 25 September 2015

Weird Monday's

It's been a strange week again, often filled with bitter-sweet memories that make me think of these little bunnies.
It's Friday already and I feel as if the year is rushing past at an unbelievable speed. The week began with what I am now thinking of as my "Weird Monday's". That day when I'm not at work but feel as if I should be busy doing something...anything...
To be honest, it's actually the weekends that feel really weird, knowing that come Sunday night, I won't need to get up early the next day. I feel as if I can't settle and want to fill the days with as much as possible - hence last weekend's long walks! 

Well, Monday just gone I kept myself busy again finishing some curtains for a colleague (did I mention that before?). They're done now and as my creative juices have finally begun to flow again after a long absence, I've been wondering what to do next...

A relative had mentioned that she will be having a stall at a craft fair in December (she makes greeting cards and gift boxes) and I had wondered whether she'd mind if I made a few things for her to sell for me perhaps. Well, before I had chance to ask, she came and offered!! So I've been thinking about what I could make and going through some of the things I'd made in the past to sell at the Art & Design Market in Winchester and started drawing up a little list of the most popular items and some new things I could try. There were lots of things I'd made and thought would sell well that simply didn't, so I won't be revisiting them. But there were others that I just couldn't make enough of. Some of them I became heartily sick of, I made that many and whilst I may not really want to make them again, if they'll sell... When you've just taken a 20% pay cut at work, beggars can't be choosers!

So anyway. I've made a list. And it's very tempting to go out and buy loads of new craft staff to make things with but I mustn't! (Well, I have but not much, just things I needed to replace. On the whole...) I have a large stash of fabric quarters and lots of wool in a whole rainbow of colours and flavours. I even have a tin full of reels of sewing thread. I must be strong and stay away from the shops!! Unless it's charity shops... I did think I might make some little mice and thought how lovely they'd look made from tweed. That wouldn't be cheap to buy. Unless I can find a really cheap jacket in a charity shop and chop it up!!
I've also ordered a kilo of dried lavender - yes, a KILO! I can't wait to see how big the bag is. Lavender is so light, a kilo might take up a lot of space! So there will be lavender bags in an assortment of shapes. Maybe even lavender mice?...

I haven't been this excited about making things for such a long time and there are moments when I almost feel giddy and I can't wait to get cracking!!

I'm sure there will come a day when I will need to find a proper job for my Weird Monday's but for now, I think they're going to be Tina's Allsorts days...

Sunday, 20 September 2015

The Itchen Navigation & the Beach

The weather has been glorious again this weekend - far too good to stay home. I decided a bit of exercise was in order, so yesterday, I took a good long walk along part of the Itchen Navigation and today, I popped down to Lee on the Solent for some sea air.
The Itchen Navigation is a footpath that runs from Southampton to Winchester, following the River Itchen. As the name suggests.
I parked at Woodmill and walked up to Mansbridge where I joined the footpath. I've not done this walk before but knew I wouldn't have time to do it all. Or have the energy - it's 12 miles to Winchester!!
But I walked for about an hour and a half before heading back. Here are a few snaps along the way.

It was a lovely walk - even though part of it runs right next to the M27! You can see the traffic rushing past, never mind the noise! And the planes that come right overhead as they come in to land. But the footpath soon turned away and it was a very peaceful walk. And I saw hardly anyone, just a jogger or two. 

Today, I decided to head to the sea and a stroll along the beach at Lee-on-the-Solent. I often forget this little gem is so close to home. 
There's a small airstrip right by the sea and there were lots of gliders being towed up, although I was never in the right place to get a good shot.
Not many people were on the beach at all considering what a lovely day it was - I almost had it to myself! I tried to walk mostly on the beach rather than the prom and every so often would come across a little patch of sand with amazing ripple patterns left behind by the waves. It was very tempting to take my shoes and socks off and dig my toes in!! Had I been wearing sandles I probably would have!
It looked like there was a yacht  race going on out on the Solent - although the yachts look very small in my photo, they were a long way offshore, so must have actually been pretty large. Before heading home, I had to have a 99 - not had one of those for a long time and then wrote a bit of graffiti in the sand. Great fun!!

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Oooh, look what I found

I was just hunting through some folders of photos on the pc looking for something and came across this -

This is a little needle case that I made for a friend's birthday a couple of years ago. All my own design with the cover and sheep's body being crocheted, and I used a fancy Aida ribbon to make the pages inside. I popped in a few pretty heart pins to finish it off.

I made lots of these little sheep at one point. Most were made as brooches, with the few remaining used on mug hugs and this little fella on a needle case.
He's very easy to make - just a bit of a fiddle!! I don't know that I ever actually wrote the pattern down anywhere as I made him up as I went along. The body is made from boucle yarn in an oval shape, with "string" legs stitched to the back. I think I cut an oval from stiff interfacing and slip stitched the body to it, adding a little stuffing to make him plump before cutting out a simple head shape from black felt and gluing it on.
Maybe I should sit and write the pattern up and put it on my Ravelry page??
I got a bit carried away with the sheep at one point when I saw a bobbly crocheted drawstring bag that held a bar of soap. And I thought "baaaaa of soap"...

Thursday, 10 September 2015

The Stripey Blanket (finally)

I warn you, this post may be long and rambling…a bit like a conversation with me really!!

I've been meaning to talk about this blanket properly ever since I started my little blog but have never quite got there apart from a quick look (HERE- way back in February!) but not a proper show and tell about how it came about.

I made it around the time I was first getting back into crochet nearly 3 years ago. Originally I had taught myself to crochet from library books back in the early nineties and really enjoyed making lace doilies from spools of cotton threads but never made anything from wool. Back then I thought granny squares were hideous and old fashioned and couldn't even contemplate making a blanket from them! But things changed.

I had just come out of a 2 year spell of compulsive tea cosie designing and knitting.
Although I thoroughly enjoyed them at the time and constantly had one or more on the go (I think I made at least 55 altogether), in the end I was sick of them and they became a massive chore. So I stopped.
But I still had masses of wool and wanted to make things. My hands wanted to be busy. You know?...
So a new journey began…

Around about the same time I had come across a magazine article about a lady called Sue, who crocheted lap blankets for the elderly in care homes and had a blog where she shared not only what she had made but also the blankets made by others for her. She’s still going strong and has distributed around 1,100 blankets so far! Take a look at her blog SIBOL to see what she’s up to and join in.

Occasionally, to liven things up, she would make blankets on a theme and asked people to send in squares which she then joined to make the blanket.

I decided to join in with 2 or 3 of them and designed and sent in a square with a picture of the cathedral on it for one of them. A lot of poetic licence was used in the designing of it - there’s only so much detail you can get into a 6 square!! The background square was crocheted and the cathedral was knitted and stitched on. I crocheted some plain squares too and sent them off. (I've since used the photo on my profile page.) My little square was duly included in her blanket ( see it HERE )and having gotten into the swing of crochet, I started making allsorts of little things to sell. But I wanted to make something bigger…

It’s so long ago I don’t remember exactly how it came about but I ended up making a child’s poncho for the daughter of a lady at work.
I didn't have a pattern and decided to make it up as I went along. I was very pleased with how it turned out and so was the recipient - she didn't want to take it off and even wore it over her coat! There was a fair amount of wool left over, so I decided to make another for my friend’s little girl for Christmas. She was still only 3 at the time and was besotted with pink. Still is.

Again, I made it up as I went with alternating rows of different shades of pink from pale pink through to shocking fuchsia, with white. Without white it looked awful – just too pink somehow but white really lifted it. I thought it looked really nice and put it to one side for Christmas for her and wondered what to make next. I settled on a blanket for her 4th birthday which was coming up in early February. It was already Late November. I’d never made a blanket before and didn't realise just how much work was involved…

I started searching online for crochet blankets and kept seeing pictures of Julie of Little Woollie’s Stripey CAL blanket. I decided to try and follow hers and bought a selection of pastel shades along with ivory/cream. It was mid-December by the time I had settled on a design and bought the wool. I only had six weeks to make a whole blanket! Although I began by using Julie’s instructions, I quickly resorted to making it up myself as I needed to crack on!

Then Christmas arrived and the poncho was given.

And she hated it! Absolutely HATED it and refused point blank to wear it!!!! Her Mum managed to get her to try it on but she then ripped it off and threw it across the room! Apparently, the problem was that I had used white, not just pink. She kept saying “I don’t like white”…

I can’t tell you how glad I was that I had chosen ivory/cream to use in the blanket, not white!!! I had already worked about 10 inches by the time I knew about her aversion to white and it would have meant a lot of ripping out. I was still very nervous about my other colour choices though, as there wasn't much pink! I had gone for a rainbow of pastel shades for the blanket. I decided to keep going and just say to her Mum that if she didn't like the blanket, could I have it back please?...

It was quite an enjoyable project to work on, although I did have to be very disciplined and work on it every day! Around this same time, my Mum’s Alzheimer’s was becoming more apparent and she ended up in hospital in early January for what we thought would be a brief stay. It wasn't. The blanket went along with me on visits and the nurses and patients were very complimentary as it quickly grew.

However, eighteen inches in – yes, eighteen inches – I realised I had made a mistake on a much earlier row of shells and had managed to increase quite a few extra stitches across the row. There was no way to put it right other than to rip out a good 6 inches of work and put the mistake right. VERY frustrating!! My only consolation was that I hadn't at that point stitched in all the ends, so it was easier to unpick. Could have done without that though. Stitch count lesson learned.

The blanket grew very quickly thank goodness and before I knew it, it was time to decide on a border. After I had stitched in all the ends. There were a lot of ends… Oh, how I came to loath love stitching in ends. I now stitch them in as I go…

I settled on a very simple border to neaten the edges, followed by a row of shells. I was slightly restricted in my colour choice as I didn't want to have to go and buy more wool, especially as I knew the shop where I bought most of it had already changed their range. But I was happy with my choice and the border looked just right.

I just had time to get it washed and dried in time to wrap it for her birthday and joy of joys she LOVED it. Thank goodness!!! It went straight onto the bed that night I think and is still there 2 ½ years later.

I didn't take photos of it as I went along, just the finished blanket photos. And I never even considered trying to write up the pattern as it truly was a make-it-up-as-you-go-along-affair. Why would anyone else want to copy mine exactly? Surely you’d want yours to be a one-off too??

Would you like a proper look at it now??

Tina's Allsorts, Stripey Blanket

Tina's Allsorts, Stripey Blanket

Tina's Allsorts, Stripey Blanket

I even used one of the photos in my blog header!

And here's the link to my Ravelry Project page

I learned a lot about crochet along the way, and a variety of stitches and stitch combinations. And it did my working tension a world of good. I’d swear the width of the blanket changed along the way partly due to my getting the hang of the tension thing! But the biggest lesson had to be stitch your ends in as you go…

Thanks to the popularity of Julie's blanket, my version has had a lot of views on Ravelry. I've just had a look and it's reached 9448 views! But it could also be because another lady, Hannah of not your average crochet, has also made a stripey blanket and said she had been inspired not only by Julie but also by me!

I had also made my own crochet hook handle from Fimo clay – something I saw on Pinterest and it was so much more comfortable to work with than a regular hook. But that’s another story.

I have made a couple more blankets since then. Well, one and 2/3 if I'm completely honest!! I made a hexagon blanket, which is finished and on the bed. That one was also taken with me to work on once Mum was in a home and the staff would often stop by to see how it was coming along. I think one of them would have quite liked to buy it but how do you put a price on something that’s taken countless hours to make??

The WIP (work in progress - a technical term...) is a take on the ripple pattern but that’s also another story for another day.

I have Ravelry project pages for all of them if you want to take a look, just click on the pictures below. (I've found out how to turn pictures into links that open in a new window!!)

Do I still crochet you might ask?? Well, I still love to look online at what everyone else is making - especially the really colourful stuff - and eventually I will finish my WIP but at the moment, no.

Right now, I'm still in the clutches of sewing...

PS Having just re-read this "the morning after", I rambled a lot didn't I? Sorry...