Saturday, 10 September 2016

Edward's Crochet Imaginarium

I am very excited to have been asked by Pavilion Books to join in the blog tour for the latest in the Edward's Menagerie book series from Kerry Lord of Toft. Yesterday you heard from Sarah of Crafts from The Cwtch and tomorrow I hand over to Natasja from Crochetime. You can see the beginnings of her monster from the book over on her Instagram account and I for one can't wait to see how it turns out! 

The Menagerie's distinctive designs and aesthetic appeal to me and I always look forward to seeing what Kerry comes up with next. Once, when editing Inside Crochet magazine, I even had the chance to request an exclusive animal to be designed by Kerry for the publication - the result was an adorable Hedgehog called Francis.

Edward's Crochet Imaginarium is a diversion from the usual themes in the series as it is a collection of mythical animals - or rather monsters - as opposed to the usual critters which have generally been based on actual living (and extinct!) birds and mammals. It is also published in a rather unusual and extremely entertaining flipbook format. Kerry's books have always included an interactive element that was mainly aimed at children, allowing them to pick and choose their favourite characters, while the basic shapes of the animals remained fairly simple and similar and therefore easy for the maker to create. The Imaginarium takes things one step further by allowing you to create your own unique character from a myriad of different design elements - there are supposedly over a million variations, meaning practically limitless appeal! 
The spiral bound, flip book format is so gorgeous and engaging that my daughter read it for ages by herself, treating it like one of her picture books. The reader is actively encouraged to construct their own monster using the well-loved split-page layout familiar from a multitude of children's books, but something that I can't recall seeing in a craft book before. This is a great tool for those crafters who are a little scared to stray far from the design of the pattern they are making - it is very common for knitters and crocheters to want to make a pattern exactly as the one on the page, down to the yarn type and colour as they are unsure whether the finished result will be successful. This book doesn't give any single pattern for one creature at all, but simply the 'recipe' for a smattering of different body parts that can be used in different ways, actively encouraging you to play with body shape, limbs, hair, colours, embellishment and placement of the appendages to create a unique personality, suitable for the monster's new owner.
If you are still a little apprehensive at starting from scratch, there is a handy gallery of sample monsters, which is actually where my littlun started her design process. I was quite surprised that she loved Bella, as she isn't the 'pinkest' of little girls, but she liked Bella's long hair and horn mix (as did mummy!) and we tweaked her limbs and added in some other colours and design elements to make Bella just right for her new playmate.
Kerry suggests in the book drawing out the basic shape of the monster and then letting the child you are making for colour it in, which we loved the idea of. This resulted in the addition of a couple of other colours and a whole lot of stripes, which both of us are partial to...
When the yarn arrived, I was glad to find that the colours are bright and clean and the pink was a very pretty shade on the right side of coral - I think I have said before, I am not much of a pink lover to say the least! It is also really lovely to use. I have never used the coloured yarns before, only the naturals and it is a really nice experience to work in technicolour in such a lovely alpaca yarn.
There is only one point that I found a little clunky with this book. As one toy can be a mixture of many patterns, even though every effort has been made to make everything clear for the reader, it can get a little confusing skipping around the book, especially if you make the decision to add more elements to your design. I would suggest writing out your selected pattern mixture before you begin, so you don't have to keep flipping pages and referring to different sections of the book with your crochet in your hands.

Having said this, the project I am currently working on is really fun, and very simple once you have worked out the pattern. I have especially enjoyed the collaboration with my daughter on this - she really feels involved in the whole process as she often gets frustrated that she cannot yet crochet and help me out! She has also been hovering over my shoulder as I make Bella, getting more excited as each element becomes recognisable. 
Tune back in soon as I will be revealing the completed character as soon as she is finished.

Those kind folk over at Pavilion books have also given me one copy of this lovely book to give away, so if you are as excited about this new book as I am, please leave a comment below or on my Instagram feed under the relevant comp post to have a chance to win - comment on both for an extra entry! *

 * Competition closes at midnight on Wednesday 14th September. Entries from the UK only please, sorry! Prizes are as offered and are non-transferable, non-refundable, non-changeable. No cash alternatives are available. Only one entry for website and one for Instagram is permitted per person and the editor's decision is final. Entries received after the closing date of the promotion will not be considered. No responsibility is taken for entries lost or delayed, by way of technical errors including malfunctions via the website. The winner will be drawn at random. No correspondence will be entered into. The winner will be notified within 28 days of the closing date. Unless specified otherwise, if a prize remains unclaimed for six months it will not be awarded, provided reasonable attempts have been made to contact the winner using the contact details supplied.
Please note that the publisher provided the book for review and the competition prize and Toft provided the yarn to make Bella but I have received no other reimbursement for the review and all views are my own.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

The Cold Never Bothered Me Anyway

Probably some of the most common questions I am asked when people find out what I do for a living have something to do with how much knitting and crochet I do for my daughter. No doubt when asking, they have pictures of a poor little urchin bundled from head to toe in mismatching handmade items...if only!

Usually my poor little one has to make do with things I have made for books or magazines but luckily she usually loves them. It warms my heart to know that she still adores anything that mummy knits her. Her current favourite is this simple balaclava from my book Knitting for Children, which sat in the cupboard for about 7 years waiting for the day it would fit a child of my own. I knew that I had to make her something that was just hers, designed with her in mind and that she would love regardless of whether I had made it.

Finally, a couple of months before her third birthday, I decided that I would make her something for her gift, and settled on some toys inspired by a film that she loved. To try to illustrate just how little leisure craft time I have, I finally finished them in February of this year. Just one year and 5 months after her third birthday, so just a tad late! 

Luckily, it was worth the wait, because although she is less obsessed with the film these days, she still knows all the words to the songs and dresses up as the characters. Incase you haven't guessed, the film is a certain animated and very cold story of sister princesses! I have always thought that the little rag dolls the sisters own as children were very cute (if you haven't spotted them, keep an eye out in the Do You Want to Build A Snowman song!) These cuties are my crochet take on their dolls. 

Of course, the ridiculous length of time this project took wasn't helped by the fact I wanted to make the dolls underwear so they were decent, along with removable dresses, not to mention a full head of yarn hair to plait and style, which I painstakingly hooked into their heads one thread at a time – I used a whole ball of Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino for each doll!

Fortunately, the toys have passed muster with the littlun; she took them both to bed with her on the first night I gave them to her and enjoys dressing them and styling their hair as well as pushing them in her buggy. Huge sigh of relief!

I will get round to writing up a pattern for the basic doll and dress so that you can make your own versions and customise them. I find the finished toys so lovely, that I keep thinking of what other characters I could make. Littlun has started watching Brave again, to my delight, so I may have to find time to make a Merida, although I must admit that the thought of all that hair is making me have second thoughts....

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Patti Wrap

My Patti Wrap crochet pattern is now up on Love Crochet. A very simple beginner pattern that can be worn as either a scarf or a wrap and that can be whipped up in no time. Made originally in Rico Essentials Big and Rico Essentials 365 Aran, the Aran is now discontinued but any other Aran yarn will substitute. The pattern is written in both UK and US terminology so nobody need miss out!

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Happy Easter

I am aware that I was getting into a blogging swing but March has been so busy that I haven't had a chance to post much. It was this time last year that illness saw the beginning of my longest break from the site. In a strange coincidence, exactly a year to the week, at the beginning of this month I was again undergoing surgery, related to the ongoing problems from last year, and I am currently having a little time 'off' work to recuperate. (I use the inverted commas as part of my problem is that I am never fully 'off' and have been trying not to answer too many emails or do too much work related knit and crochet!)

Anyway, I have been spending my 'free' time quite constructively, by finishing off a lot of non-work related projects, mainly baby themed for the baby boom that seems to be occurring presently! (More on that in a later post).
So do not fear, I don't plan to disappear again for any length of time. For now, I just wanted to wish you all a Happy Easter and remind you of a cute, simple, free knitting pattern for chick and rabbit egg cosies that I posted at Easter a few years ago. The images come from an Easter knitting class I ran showing some beginners how to make them. As usual, I love the quirky interpretations of the simple design that create distinctive personalities with only a few stitches and notions.

I have plenty planned for after the Easter break, including a new set of how to crochet tutorials and a post about some dolly beauties - the feet you can see below belong to them - who I was crocheting for over a year on and off and recently finally finished (sound the triumphant trumpeters!!)
Keep an eye out for all of that and more coming soon and in the meantime have a very lovely, relaxing Easter - don't eat too much chocolate!

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

World Book Day

Today I sent off a little mini Alice in Wonderland to school for World Book Day. I am quite proud of the make do and mend style costume (inspired by the Mary Blair designs for the Disney film rather than the original book!) The 'Alice' band is crocheted and the apron was cut and sewn from a cheap cotton pillowcase. 

If you want to have a go at the hairband - simply use any DK weight yarn, make 5ch, then work 1dc in 2nd chain from hook and each chain to end. Carry on working straight in rows on these 4 double crochet until band is desired length around head, fasten two ends into a ring by working a slip stitch join.
Then work another strip in the same way of approximately 20cm long. Make two loops with this strip and sew or slip stitch join in place on top of head band. Weave in all ends and wear proudly!

Friday, 26 February 2016

Periwinkle Necklace

image by Britt Spring
Another new pattern up on the Love Crochet site - Periwinkle necklaces, simple and addictive! Easy to customise to your own desired length and they look fabulous in lots of different weights of yarn. This yarn is Wendy Supreme Cotton 4ply which is lovely for crocheting with - strong and smooth. 

image by Britt Spring
A little project for the weekend...?!

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Daisy Chain Necklace

Another pattern up on the Love Knitting and Love Crochet sites this week is this pretty Daisy Chain Necklace. It is a really versatile project - I have already made necklaces, garlands and some pretty flower clips for my littlun to wear in her hair using these flowers and each project (especially the hairclips!) receive plenty of admiring comments. The chain is so easily customisable to any desired length, and you can play with the yarn weights used to create differently sized daisies. 
It is very quick to hook and the pattern is written for both UK and US crocheters.
All images by Kirsten Mavric