Sunday, 18 December 2011

2011 Review

I didn't make as much as in previous years. Mainly due to moving back to Europe and starting back at work... both of which were good things in themselves.  In fact, looking at the photo mosaic above, I'm surprised just how much I did get done!

Last year I made a couple of craft resolutions.  I was going to do some quilting and I'm well on the way to achieving that with the quilting group I've joined, but the idea of felting fell by the wayside.  A little bit of research made me realize that I needed to work with real wool and it's one of the things I've been very allergic to since birth, so that didn't seem like such a great idea!

Resolutions for 2012?  

Well, I want to do some more kumihimo (dependent on finding some better suppliers over here), learn some more tunisian crochet stitches (so far I've done a small swatch using the basic stitch only), maybe some more broomstick crochet and then the new things I want to try are sashiko and smocking.  And ... despite having vowed quite recently never to make another crochet blanket ... I have decided to join the Ravelry 2012 crochet along.  I figure I can make one or two squares a month without it seeming like a huge task and improve my crochet skills at the same time... so I've just ordered the yarn with some money I got for Christmas.

Hmmm ... wonder if I'll find time for all that!  What about you?  Any resolutions for 2012?

Handmade Christmas

Note to self: crocheting an alpaca/wool blanket in the summer is a bad idea ... it is very hot work!

This was my 3rd year of making Christmas presents.  However I decided not to make all the presents this year (work gets in the way!) and opted for just 3 crochet projects.

The blanket above was for one of my sisters-in-law and it may be the one and only blanket I ever make ...!   According to my project file on Ravelry this took just over a month to finish working on it for several hours each day.  Generally I prefer much quicker projects than this!!

I really didn't plan well as the other 2 crochet projects also took a long time:

I made this shawl in a lace weight alpaca / silk mix for my mother-in-law.  The pattern is Brise d'Été (summer breeze) by Éclat du Soleil.  This was a big project and my first attempt at lace crochet.  I really wasn't very happy with it until I blocked it and then suddenly the pattern came to life.  

For my other sister-in-law I made this scarf in the softest alpaca / cashmere / silk yarn from The Natural Dye Studio ... the pattern is also from them and is called Gigi.  This was the most complicated crochet pattern I've attempted so far (even though it says suitable for beginners!) not least because I had to translate it from UK into US crochet terms, but also because of the wide variety of stitches used.  

Thinking about it, there was one other present I made - or rather compiled - but I don't have a photo of it.  I put together a book of old family photos for my father-in-law which seemed to go down very well.

Next year I'm going to try to remember to plan my presents a little better - sewing is definitely much quicker!!

Thursday, 1 December 2011

My Creative Space: WIP

Cut out last week, part sewn yesterday, but when it'll be finished is anyone's guess!  It's the city shopper bag pattern from You Sew, Girl!  I made the smaller version, the wristlet earlier in the year and had been promising myself that I'd find time to make the larger size.

It's been a while since I've made a large bag and I had totally forgotten how long it takes to prep ... so the spare time I had last week disappeared just getting it cut out and all the interfacing fused.  This week hasn't been a great one for sewing - the light has been abysmal; foggy, dark, depressing days and even with my daylight lamp I just couldn't settle to sewing.  Besides, an impending visit from my mother-in-law and sister-in-law means I really should be doing other things.  

Visit Our Creative Spaces to see what everyone else is making.

Monday, 28 November 2011

This and That

Finishing up a few things .... I made my strips of orange fabric into another zip purse.  I know, I know ... but they're very easy to make and make perfect little gifts (this one may be for me though!).

And another little crochet project .... thanks to Laura for pointing me at this Doris Chan pattern (edit: little Christmas stocking decorations to hang on a tree filled with sweeties!).  Very cute and easy to whip up!

I also made a quick lavender bag using off cuts from last week's project and finishing up my dried lavender.  Pattern from You Sew Girl!

And then there's this bag that's been cut out waiting for me to get some sewing time since last week ... my excuse is that I have visitors arriving next week and have a few jobs still to tick off the list before I can start sewing!  Or maybe I'll just blame the fog for my lack of focus!

But mysteriously I've found time to start yet another crochet project ....

Doesn't look much right now but when it has been blocked, it will ... promise! 

Hmmm .... must get my priorities straight!!!

Thursday, 24 November 2011

My Creative Space

Christmas presents - finished & wrapped!!  

So very happy about that!

Now I can turn my attention to some of the things that have been on my desk / in my head for the last three months while I've been beavering away on secret projects.  

Made this make-up bag yesterday out of some lovely Japanese material for a friend of mine.  I've got some off-cuts on my table that I'm going to make into a little lavender bag just like these ones.  

To see what everyone else is up to, take a look at Our Creative Spaces.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Messing About

A crochet motif that I haven't quite got right yet ....

Tunisian crochet  ... teaching myself from online tutorials using left-over yarn.  Love the thick fabric this makes!  Apologies for the blurry photo!

And another diamond made from hexagons for the quilting group.  We're making quite a lot of progress on the quilt now and I've just started my third diamond.

I seem to be doing everything but making Christmas presents!  I finished the one I'd been working on for the last 3 weeks last Sunday and haven't quite got round to starting the final one.  

But I will ... soon!!

Instead I've been messing about with odds and ends ... I even considered knitting myself a poppy as you can't get them here, but lack of the right colour yarns put a stop to that brainstorm!!  

To see what everyone else is making this week, visit Our Creative Spaces.

Friday, 4 November 2011

A little bit late ...

I'm a little bit late to the party this week - that's happening over at Our Creative Spaces and I should have posted this there yesterday, but then there would have been nothing to show as I've been beavering away on all those secret Christmas projects!

My Friday student had cancelled his lesson and we can survive with the groceries we have in, so I told Andy to take the car into work today, forcing me to stay at home and do all those little projects that have been lying around for a while.

I've printed the photos of Venice to go on the wall - I have a few picture frames from Ikea hanging in the office / craft area and every year or so I like a change of scene, so New Zealand and the Lake District have given way to 2 photos from our recent trip to Venice!

And I finished these gadget pouches which, I'm ashamed to say, I cut out way back in .... August!!  They've moved up my priority list ahead of Christmas presents as Andy's due to take them to some friends in Brazil at the end of this month (Carol / Renata ... these are for you!).

I've even got the next secret project cut out and ready to go - hopefully that won't be hanging round on my cutting board for quite so long!!  But I can't tell you about it ... shhh!

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Paying it Forward

Look what the postman brought me!!

All the way from Naturally Carol in Queensland ... a fantastic drawstring bag and apron.  The bag is already home to the bits and pieces I take to my quilting group ... the perfect size for some hexagons, thread, needle case etc...  Thank you, Carol - your work is beautiful and that vibrant apron is going to cheer me up in the kitchen throughout the winter!

At the beginning of September Carol blogged about a 'paying it forward' scheme that she had taken part in.  She had just received a handmade bag from another blogger and it was her turn to offer to make something for three more bloggers. I jumped at the chance.

So now it's my turn!

If you would like me to make something for you and you're prepared then to make something for three more bloggers, just leave a comment on this post.  The first three people who ask me to make them something will receive a parcel from me within the next year (yes - you have a whole year to pay it forward which is a relief with Christmas on the horizon!).

Sound like fun?

Thursday, 27 October 2011

My Creative Space

Christmas present making is vaguely under control ... 

  • 3 completed (1 posted!!) 
  • 1 underway 
  • 1 planned and waiting for me to find time to get started!  

I should just about get everything done in time.  And this year it won't be a completely handmade Christmas unlike the last two years (that's what being back at work does for you!) ... I'm easing the pressure by buying for a few people on my list instead.

So I'm playing about with some decorations.  I made a few last-minute crochet snowflakes last year, but this year I wanted to try some different patterns.  More to follow as I'm not really in love with the one above, although it does still need to be blocked and starched.

I'm not playing about too much because this yarn arrived in the post this week direct from The Natural Dye Studio in Suffolk.  This is their "Angel' DK - a lovely blend of alpaca, cashmere and silk - it's so incredibly soft.  I discovered them via Pinterest ... I possibly spend a bit too much time on there, but it has been a useful source of ideas!

More crafty goodness at Our Creative Spaces

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Just playing about ....

Taking a break from making Christmas presents to play around a bit with some patchwork and trying to work out how / if to do some machine quilting on these two pieces before making something out of them.  

Haven't quite decided what to do yet.....

What a presentable ironing board cover! It's even being used to take photos now I'm not so ashamed of its appearance!!

Thursday, 20 October 2011

My Creative Space ... Swatching

In a rare moment of caution I'm making a swatch!  

Not for gauge but to ensure I've understood the pattern before I dive in with the expensive alpaca / silk lace yarn which uses an unfeasibly small hook. I don't want to be trying to decide if I've got the instructions right when I can barely see the individual stitches.   If I were being honest here I might admit that I did start with the expensive yarn and couldn't work out if I was doing it correctly which is when it occurred to me to make the swatch!!

I'm also trying to decide what to do with an unexpected gift ... tenugui are supposed to be hand towels, but frankly I think that would be a waste for such lovely woodpeckers.  All suggestions welcome!

And while we're on the subject of trying to make up my mind I have some more gorgeous Japanese fabric bought on my last trip to the UK which is destined to be a skirt ... but I can't quite decide whether to go A-line or try to make my own pattern from a skirt I already own and love (vaguely A-line but not as much as the green one I made a few months ago).  

Decisions, decisions!  Maybe I'll just go back to my crochet and mull it over!

Lots of fabulous crafty people are joining in today at Our Creative Spaces.

Monday, 17 October 2011

A Quick Makeover

My new ironing board cover!

I've been thinking about making an ironing board cover for quite some time (probably about the last 2 years!).  I can't buy a cover large enough anywhere and the brown stains on the old cover (at least 10 years old) were getting on my nerves.  So today I finally decided to make one - how hard could it be?

It was actually ridiculously easy and took about an hour to make.  I've had 2 yards of this brown cotton from JoAnn's in my stash for a couple of years and I've long forgotten what I was going to make with it originally. Perfect fit for the ironing board!  I salvaged the cord, toggle and velcro fastenings from the old cover, used it for a template and ran up the new cover.  I was lazy - I overlocked the raw edges and then turned them over once with the cord inside to make a channel (no need to fiddle around with a bodkin feeding the cord through the channel), sewed round attached the velcro and voila!  

Fits way better than the old one did and hopefully any brown stains won't be so noticeable on this brown fabric!!

Yesterday I turned my pile of 16 hexagons into this:

Not bad for a first attempt at hand-piecing, I think.  It took all afternoon and I probably wouldn't do a whole diamond in one go again (it got a bit tedious) but I wanted to see how it all went together.  

I think I'm going to have a crafty week.  Andy left on business early yesterday and won't be home till the weekend plus I have very few classes because many of my students are on holiday.  I've got lots of ideas ... another skirt (this time with overlocked seams!), some crochet projects and maybe some Christmas decorations!!!  

What have you got planned?

Friday, 14 October 2011

My Creative Space

Lots going on round here, but some of it is secret squirrel stuff ... what with Christmas just round the corner (eek!).  There's the blanket that I've just finished crocheting that you can't see till after Christmas and the next project on the hook that I'm going to really enjoy working on that I also can't tell you about!  I can tell you that blankets don't satisfy my need to create something quickly and I nearly went mad the last few evenings trying to get it finished so that I could move onto the next project.

That really doesn't augur well for my quilting project!!  I've joined a local quilting group and we're working on a big quilt that will be raffled for charity whenever we finish it ... at the rate we eat biscuits and drink coffee during the quilting meetings, that'll be a few years off (at least).  I've been to two meetings so far and haven't picked up needle and thread yet except to show another new member how to do slip stitch!

Yep - these hexagons are going to be hand-pieced!  Am I right to be worried that whoever cut out and basted the hexagons obviously didn't start by ironing the fabric?  So glad I wasn't around for that stage though!!  We have hundreds of prepared hexagons and we'll be piecing 16 together at a time to form diamonds in different colours and then joining those together to make the quilt top.  I was given the pink hexagons to make my first diamond .... it remains to be seen how long that takes me and whether I can stand all that hand stitching!

On a completely different note, this gorgeous yarn arrived last week ... baby alpaca and mulberry silk....


Love it!!

To see what everyone else is making, head on over to Our Creative Spaces.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Postcard from Venice II

Murano ... the glass-making island (above and below).  The blue sculpture in front of the clock tower above is glass!

And the very colourful island of Burano where lace was traditionally made:

Hard to believe that just over a week ago we were enjoying such wonderful weather in Italy ... and when we got back to Germany it was still pretty good.  Now autumn has set in with a vengeance ... just 2.6 degrees centigrade this morning!!!

Thursday, 6 October 2011

My Creative Space

Some yarn that I'm using for my next project.  Nobody warned me how warm crocheting a blanket can be!!

Linking up with Our Creative Spaces.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Postcard from Venice

Piazza San Marco from the water ... the blue advertising on the right is disguising the restoration work to the Bridge of Sighs.

The Basilica is very ornate even on the outside.  Sadly photos weren't permitted inside!

There were gondolas everywhere ... but early in the morning they're moored up around town.  We didn't do the gondola ride - one cliché
 too many!

But plenty of people do.

Stunning architecture - this is Casa d'Oro.

Splendid views down the canals - this is looking from the Accademia bridge down towards Salute.  That huge church isn't the Basilica .. Piazza San Marco is round the corner in the distance to the left!  And you can just see one of the many huge cruise ships heading out of the lagoon in the distance!

San Giorgio Maggiore ... one of the many islands in the lagoon; this one is opposite Piazza San Marco.  Photo taken from the top of the Campanile.

Just a taster of Venice from the 500 photos I took in just a few days last week!!  We had a great time - fantastic food, wine and sight-seeing.  Very relaxing indeed!!  

It was even relatively easy to eat gluten-free there which surprised me - all the waiters I spoke to (in English) understood the demands of a gluten-free diet and several restaurants provided gluten-free pasta on request (clearly stated on the menu), plus you could take your own for them to cook if you fancy carting bags of pasta around when you're sight-seeing!  It made a refreshing change and I never needed the Italian travel card that I printed out from

Thursday, 22 September 2011

My Creative Space ... Patchwork Cushion




I haven't done any patchwork since home economics classes at school a very long time ago!!  I think I made a cushion then too - 6 very large squares cobbled together into a rectangle.  

Not too bad for my first attempt at patchwork in 30+ years!!!   I'll add some buttonholes too if I can find any snazzy hot pink buttons!!  I'm sure the recipient would like that.

The sewing machine is back from being repaired and seems as good as new.  Luckily no spare parts were required (in which case I'd have had to have lived with the fact that my machine only sewed straight or zig zag lines for the rest of its life, as you can't get Riccar parts anymore!) and it seems it just got well and truly shaken up somewhere en route from Canada.  I can now do machine embroidery if I ever feel the urge to ... not that it has so far, but it's nice to know that I could do it, if I wanted!!

Joining in today with Our Creative Spaces.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Friday, 16 September 2011

My Creative Space ... One Finished Jumper!!

Knitted, sewn up and blocked!  Done!

The pattern is D'Azur by Sarah Hatton.  I started it once back in 2009, gave up and used the yarn for something else .... but I liked the design and, when the only yarn I could find that I half-way liked once we moved here just happened to be the right gauge for this pattern, I decided to give it another go.  It hasn't been plain sailing and I doubt I'll ever make the pattern again although I quite like the end product (albeit it would look better in one solid colour!).

The sewing machine is still at the repairers, but I might be able to collect it this weekend, so the huge stack of sewing projects is still on hold.  I've got my marudai set up for some braiding and a new crochet project to tackle while I wait.

Friday, 9 September 2011

My Creative Space ... Still in Progress!

You may remember that way back in July I started knitting a summer top.  I wasn't 100% in love with the yarn and I think I can say I'm less than thrilled with the pattern.  This jumper has been knitted and unravelled more times than I can count - it's definitely been a case of three steps forward and two back.

Of course, every time I had to unravel a section the whole project got parked in a cupboard for a week or two while I decided whether to give the project up completely which is probably why it's taking so long!  However this week I've made a concerted effort to make some progress (full disclosure: the sewing hasn't been going well and I felt it was time for a change!) and amazingly the back and front of the jumper are now complete.

Just got the sleeves to finish, sew it all up (I hate that part) and the neckline to finish off.  Sounds easy, right?  Wonder if I'll finish it this month?  Either way - autumn is here and it's a bit cool now for a short sleeved, lacy knit.  Oh well!!

On the sewing front I have another project parked by the sewing machine that isn't going well at all ... and I joined a patchwork / quilting group, so I might at least fulfil one of my resolutions for this year.  But all sewing is on hold for a while as tomorrow the sewing machine is going in for some repairs (or to see if repair is possible at least!).

I've also been making the Christmas list - deciding how many presents (and what) I can realistically make before Christmas.  Last year was a completely handmade Christmas, but I don't think that's achievable this year, not least because I haven't started yet!!  Help!

To see what everyone else is making, head over to our creative spaces.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Some clothes

This is my new skirt made using Nicole Mallalieu's A-line skirt pattern.

This is my muslin and I think it worked quite well - it's wearable even if the cotton is almost transparent!! I had a scant 2 yards in quite a narrow fabric, so was only just able to squeeze out a knee-length skirt.  The fabric was from my stash, bought in Cape Cod 2 years ago and I haven't the faintest idea what I was originally going to make with it.

I'll be making some winter weight (and length!) skirts soon now that I have tested out the pattern.

And some more lime .....

And this is another Nicole Mallalieu design from her book, "You Sew, Girl!".  I bought this cheap jersey fabric on a recent trip to the UK and then proceeded to try and wreck my sewing machine with it.  Not sure my poor old machine likes knits.  You can't see in the photo but the stitch tension is completely out.  This is the pattern-free cowl top but it really doesn't suit me with a cowl neck, so I've made it into more of a boat-neck.

BTW - it's really hard taking a photo of a top that you're actually wearing!!

Sunday, 4 September 2011


I made gluten-free ginger bread this weekend - delicious slathered with butter!  Good job I snapped the photo when the first slice was cut, as it didn't last long!  It's paler than a normal ginger bread because you can't buy treacle in the shops here (but I've now ordered some online) ... so I subbed maple syrup and it works very well.

And I've been making some other stuff recently.... bacon jam, anyone?  I'd post a photo but it really doesn't look like much, however it is fantastic with eggs and cheese and I'll be trying it as a pizza topping very soon.  The recipe is available over at Foodie with Family's blog. It is really, really, really tasty and worth the 3-4 hours cooking time!  Highly recommended!

Friday, 2 September 2011

My Creative Space ... My New Toy!

The nearly-finished bag and the production line of iPhone pouches will have to wait until I've sussed out my new toy.  Cute, isn't it?  Personally I could happily dispense with the pink flowers, but this anniversary edition overlocker came with a bonus pack of goodies (extra feet mainly) that made it the obvious choice.

Now, how does it work?  I'll know more when I've located an instruction manual I can read - thank goodness for internet downloads!  I could try the German, French or Dutch instructions that accompanied the machine, but I think somehow it'll go faster in English (and I do want to be able to thread it correctly - not guess!).

Click here to see some other fantastic creative spaces.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Getting Back to Normal

So the sleepy-headed teenager went home at the weekend and Andy managed to persuade my sewing machine that it really does want to sew normal stitches again.  All the fancy stitches that my machine can do seem to be a little bit dicey now, so I'm going to stick to the basics - straight stitch, zig zag and buttonholes. Frankly this is no big hardship and I really, really didn't want to have to get used to a new machine.

I quickly sewed up the skirt that I had already and waiting to go whilst the teenager played violent computer games in the background!!  Photos will follow at some point soon.  And the jersey top that I made that started all the sewing machine problems will also make an appearance when I get round to the photos.

In the meantime I'm lining up some more projects. A little bag above from a book I've had on the shelf for a while and never before used in a terracotta upholstery fabric (it's taken a lot of steam to get the interfacing to stick to that one!).  I'm still debating which lining fabric to use, but I'm leaning towards the polka dots even though I know it's a slippy, horrid fabric to work with!

And I've got a production line going for iPhone cases ... they're proving very popular gifts!