29 April 2012

KCBW2012: Crafting balance

 Last day already! Before we begin, I would like to say that I really enjoyed this week. A great thanks to Blog Week organiser Eskimimi for putting together such a great event! I hope everyone enjoyed the posts, I certainly enjoyed writing them. Hopefully you'll stick around on the blog, but if not, I hope to see you again next year for Blog Week 2013!

Now, onwards we go, to the final topic.

"Crafting Balance 
Are you a knitter or a crocheter, or are you a bit of both? If you are monogamous in your yarn-based crafting, is it because you do not enjoy the other craft or have you simply never given yourself the push to learn it? Is it because the items that you best enjoy crafting are more suited to the needles or the hook? Do you plan on ever trying to take up and fully learn the other craft? If you are equally comfortable knitting as you are crocheting, how do you balance both crafts? Do you always have projects of each on the go, or do you go through periods of favouring one over the other? How did you come to learn and love your craft(s)?"

I've already touched upon this a little yesterday, haven't I? It's an interesting topic nonetheless. I'm mostly a crocheter. I'm much more confident in my skills as a crocheter and know what to do with that hook and that string in order to produce something pretty or good. I know what stitches should look like, even though I sometimes use unorthodox methods to achieve the same result (I found out recently that I hold my hook differently than many people, for instance. I hold my hook like you would a pen, while I understand that a lot of people hold it like they would a spoon. I've tried holding it that way. I couldn't even pick up a loop!), I've grown so accustomed to the way crochet patterns are built up that I don't even have to think about the abbreviations, and I have even started to work from scratch instead of from a pattern, because I know how to create basic shapes in toys and amigurumi and like the freedom of creating something that's exactly what I want to make.

The only thing I am not that confident in is reading charts. I know what certain stripes and bars mean, but it always takes me a while to understand what exactly I'm supposed to do.

Knitting is still not my forte. As I said yesterday, I may be doing it all wrong to begin with! With crochet, I sat down in front of the computer and taught myself by watching Youtube-videos. I have tried the same with knitting, but so far, I have only been able to produce two knitted items, both essentially a knitted square that I sewed up.

(left: Simple cowl. right: Little green bag)

 Impressive, isn't it? Now, don't get me wrong: I have started so many knitting projects, I've lost count. But I always gave up after a few rows because my hands would hurt, or because it took me 3 hours to knit 5 rows, or because I wanted to actually finish a project and switched back to crochet. I'm very much a process crafter, but at one point, I like having something to show for my effort, you know?

Crochet is, simply put, a quicker craft. I can zoom through a project like lightning, design and create a whole toy in an hour and a half if I have to. But there's limits to crochet that knitting can overcome, so I am not giving up on mastering the two sticks just yet. In fact, I am very much looking forward to putting some effort into really learning how to knit this year, and actually producing something worth wearing or using. I'll keep you guys posted on the progress!

28 April 2012

KCBW2012: Improving your skillset


It's day six of Blog Week, and we're slowly going back to the more serious topics. Today, we'll talk about my skillset in crochet and knitting.

"Improving Your Skillset
How far down the road to learning your craft do you believe yourself to be? Are you comfortable with what you know or are you always striving to learn new skills and add to your knowledge base? Take a look at a few knitting or crochet books and have a look at some of the skills mentioned in the patterns. Can you start your amigurumi pieces with a magic circle, have you ever tried double knitting, how's your intarsia? If you are feeling brave, make a list of some of the skills which you have not yet tried but would like to have a go at, and perhaps even set yourself a deadline of when you'd like to have tried them by."

My skillset is really still in its infancy state. Simply put, I have only recently began taking my crochet more seriously and have started working on more ambitious projects. My most recent FO is an example of this, of course:

The blue monster was one of the more ambitious projects I have taken on so far: it was lacy, the pattern was more than simply doing some DC's here and there, and counting became much more important because of the repeats. I learned so much from this project alone! Moreover, I've decided to put this knowledge to the test by taking on another lacy project: The Spring Ripple Scarf.

(Recognise the yarn? The weather outside is awful and there's hardly any light, but that's a lace pattern, trust me)

Despite its simple look, I decided to purchase the pattern and follow it to the dot instead of trying to figure it out myself. Trust me, I tried, because it looked so simple! But there's little tricks here and there in this pattern that I would not have been able to figure out myself. Plus, there's a graph. That helped me a lot!

Lace projects, more creative crochet projects.. I would even love to attempt a garment of some sort, but I have not been successful in finding a crocheted sweater or something that I really like. So until then, I'll stick with accessories.

But not just that. I have also been finetuning my skills in making ami's and toys. My most recent FO in that aspect was Mini-Grimbull:

The recipient was very pleased with this, as was I, since it had taught me new tricks: I decided to not worry about attaching the head to the body but just make head and body one piece. It provided so much more stability! In previous doll-projects, like Mini-me and Mini-Mike, I fiddled with attaching the head in such a way that it would still look somewhat okay, but this is so much easier and looks more polished. Apart from that, I also made the props out of felt this time. It allowed for more tiny detail, since crochet can get a bit wonky when you're working with tiny details on tiny items, but the felt worked like a treat! I glued and sewed everything together, to make them as sturdy as possible.

There's still a plethora of problems with this toy that I would like to smooth out in my next mini-someone, but there's no question that there will be a new mini-someone because they're so enjoyable to make!

But the one skill that I would like to actually work on most this year is my knitting. Knitting in general, not even a certain type of knitting. I have not picked up the double needles for at least half a year (unless you count using a 7mm plastic needle to scratch that one itchy spot on my back that I just can not reach). If we take a look at last year's Blog Week post on day 6, I was very optimistic about my knitting skills and was already talking about trying colourwork, intarsia and lace knitting. I need to tone it down just a teensy bit this year. I will attempt to knit an item that I will feel comfortable about, like gloves, or mitts, or a cowl, and then see how I do. A cowl, like the Jaymie, or The Dr. Horrible Sing-a-long Wristers (because Dr. Horrible. Nuff said). You know, something simple.

But let's take it slow, shall we? And maybe I should start with learning how to purl properly, since I never was able to do it as effortlessly as this!

27 April 2012

KCBW2012: Something a bit different!


 Today is already day 5 of Blog Week! Amazing, isn't it, how time flies! I have been enjoying all your blogposts a lot so far, and we've still got two days of blogging to go! Today's topic is always my favourite, because it gives so much space to create something fun and unexpected. Let's see today's description:

"This is an experimental blogging day to try and push your creativity in blogging to the same level that you perhaps push your creativity in the items you create.There are no rules of a topic to blog about but this post should look at a different way to present content on your blog."

I've decided to push my creativity to a new high, Photoshop-wise. I taught myself how to make an animated gif, just for you guys! Oh, the ordeals I go through just for this blog.  It was fun to do, and surprisingly simple! Here it is. Enjoy!

(tiny edit: oh my gosh, thanks for all the wonderful comments! My mailbox hasn't been this busy in ages! If you really like my post, you can always nominate me for.. eh, I don't think there's a title involved. Just goodies. So this is a really selfish edit, really. But thanks anyway!)

26 April 2012

KCBW2012: A knitter or crocheter for all seasons?

 Day four already! We're really zooming through this week, aren't we?! If you're interested in what others are writing for today's or earlier topics, simply copy the codes that are at the top of each blogpost (they look like this:  (3KCBWDAY4) ) into google!

Let's get on with today's topic, shall we?

"A Knitter or Crocheter For All Seasons?
As spring is in the air in the northern hemisphere and those in the southern hemisphere start setting their sights for the arrival of winter, a lot of crocheters and knitters find that their crafting changes along with their wardrobe. Have a look through your finished projects and explain the seasonality of your craft to your readers. Do you make warm woollens the whole year through in preparation for the colder months, or do you live somewhere that never feels the chill and so invest your time in beautiful homewares and delicate lace items. How does your local seasonal weather affect your craft?"

Easy question, really. I crochet for the cold seasons. I've mostly made hats, scarves, shawls, mitts and mittens. Here's what my current collection of handmade wintergear looks like.

Shawls and a scarf (see that, by the way? There's the blue again, like I talked about on day 1!)...

All my hats...

My cowls...

And my mittens and mitts! Some never worn, some so worn out that I think it's time for a new pair... (the yarn I used for the mittens was a cotton blend, and now there's small individual threads poking out all over the place!)

I think it's safe to say that I have a lot of winter gear. It's all very basic, and I've only started venturing out into the more creative patterns like lace patterns in the past half year, the result of which is the blue monster, but it's all there and, apart from the awkward orange-yellow mitts in the bottom picture, all used at least twice!

I've never made garments or anything, and I think that's why my crafting habits don't change along with the seasons. The only switch I see is that I make a lot more toys during the warmer months, because I don't feel the need to make something to keep me warm during those times! I do make a lot of use of shawls and scarves during the summer, especially when I go to a festival. I never bring a jacket (apart from my raincoat) but I always manage to stuff at least one sweater and one shawl or scarf in my backpack before I leave the campsite because that's warm enough when you're huddled together on well-lit festival grounds with 60.000 people.

I hope that this year, I will muster up the courage to make something wearable, like a sweater or a cardigan, or something more summer-appropriate (although, with our summers, a sweater or a cardigan is summer-appropriate...) So who knows, maybe I'll be able to show you a different seasonal pattern in my crafting next year!

25 April 2012

KCBW2012: Your knitting or crochet hero


Today's topic is about the people behind the hook or needles, people who inspire me and make me want to crochet and knit.

"Your Knitting Or Crochet Hero
Blog about someone in the fibre crafts who truly inspires you. There are not too many guidelines for this, it's really about introducing your readers to someone who they might not know who is an inspiration to you. It might be a family member or friend, a specific designer or writer, indie dyer or another blogger. If you are writing about a knitting designer and you have knitted some of their designs, don't forget to show them off. Remember to get permission from the owner if you wish to use another person's pictures."

Now, I must say, that for this topic, I immediately knew I wanted to write about my grandmother, because she's been a driving force behind my crafty hobbies these past few years and even though she couldn't do much crocheting or knitting in her final few years, we bonded over our shared hobby. But the thing is... I don't have much to show. My grandmother, even though technically we're not related, must have somehow passed down her way of yarn-crafting to me because we don't use a lot of patterns! When she passed away last year, we helped clean out her house and I was expecting to find a treasure-trove of old patterns, books on knitting and crocheting, maybe some hand-written patterns... After all, she had worked in the yarn industry for over 40 years and she had knitted and crocheted all her life!

Strangely enough, though, all we found were these two pattern-books:

 They appear to be published by a magazine publisher in the seventies, and even though the one on the right (800 stitches and notes) seems well-used, the one on the left is almost in pristine shape!

They're full of pages like these, with a short description of a stitch pattern or a graph, or how-to's on all sorts of topics:

(clockwise, starting top-left: crochet stitch-patterns, increases and decreases, knitted patterns and graphs, knitted button-holes)

(A section on knitted necklines)

(and an advertisement for a magazine! Love the seventies look there. And the occasional odd spelling!)

It is telling that my grandmother did not have any patterns or books at all: it tells me that she really did it all from the top of her head. She was so comfortable with her knitting and crocheting that she would whip up a sweater without even taking measurements! Her work was impeccable, her stitches always neat and even, and I cannot remember my parents' kitchen without at least 2 pairs of her handmade pot holders. When we were younger, she tried to teach us kids to knit and any time I pick up the needles, I can hear her voice in my head going over the steps like she did when we were kids. She lived and breathed yarn and crafting, and I was very proud whenever she would tell me that the stitches of one of my handmades were all so nice and even, and that the fabric was looking sturdy, or that the pattern was so pretty. Even though she couldn't see well enough in her last few years to do some crocheting herself, she managed to pass on the love for yarn and crafting and some good pointers to me. I would love to one day be as good as her, and she'll always be a crocheting and knitting hero for me.

24 April 2012

KCBW2012: Photography challenge day!


 Today's topic should have been a doddle for me. A doddle! Why you ask? Well, let's start with Eskimimi's explanation of the topic, shall we?

"Photography Challenge Day!
Today challenges you to be creative with your photography, and get yourself in with the chance to win the photography prize. Taking interesting photographs in this instance isn't about flashy cameras or a great deal of technical know-how, it's about setting up a story or scene in a photograph and capturing something imaginative. Your photograph(s) should feature something related to your craft, so that might be either a knitted or crocheted item, yarn, or one of your craft tools. One example of setting a scene would be to photograph a girl in a knitted red cape walking through the woodlands with a basket of goodies, as in the Red Riding Hood tale, or you might photograph a knitted gnome hiding among the flowers in your garden. Photo editing is permitted for competition photos. Here are a few examples of my own photographs to illustrate an imaginative use of photography, but you can do much better than these..."

So, photography! I enjoy photography so this should be right up my alley. But I wanted to challenge myself, make a truly creative picture, a funny and thought-provoking picture, or even just a beautiful one. My plan was simple. I am in the process of starting a new project, and part of that is picking the right pattern for the yarn. I know, normally, it's the other way around, but I had the yarn already. I thought of the phrase 'picking my brain', and had an idea that I wanted to try out. It involved some posing, some crocheting, some sketches... But it was foiled by a problem that most creative bloggers will have encountered in one way or another. I suffered, once again, from an issue that seems almost impossible to solve. An issue that deserves national, if not international attention, so that awareness of this terrible problem can be raised in the hope that maybe, one day, a solution can be found and bloggers all over the world can breathe a little easier.

I am talking, of course, about the photo-bomber.

Without further ado, I give you my picture of the day, titled: "This is why we can't have nice pictures!"

23 April 2012

KCBW2012: Colour lovers

It's already time for the 3rd annual Knitting and Crochet Blog Week, ladies and gentlemen! Holy crap, did the time fly. I was going to really prepare for this one, then I guess I got distracted by a picture of a monkey on the internet and before I knew it, it was the 23rd of April and Blog Week was a fact.

Oh well. It's a good thing I like winging it. Brings out the inspiration.

Today's topic is 'Colour lovers'. Here's the explanation as given by the lovely host of the Blog Week, Eskimimi:

"Colour Lovers
Colour is one of our greatest expressions of ourselves when we choose to knit or crochet, so how do you choose what colours you buy and crochet or knit with. Have a look through your stash and see if there is a predominance of one colour. Do the same with your finished projects - do they match? Do you love a rainbow of bright hues, or more subdued tones. How much attention do you pay to the original colour that a garment is knit in when you see a pattern? Tell readers about your love or confusion over colour."

Let's start this week off with a confession. I don't have an actual 'stash' as most fiber-y crafters will have. It's shocking, isn't it? I don't buy yarn that often, and when I do, I buy enough for the project I'm working on and nothing more. The truth is, I don't have the space! We've been meaning to do some heavy remodelling of the closet in the study so we do have more shelf space, but until then, my stash is crammed in a tiny space. Most of my stash is the leftovers I inherited from my grandmother, the rest is mostly odd balls from a tiny euro-shop around the corner that sells discontinued yarns for 50 cents a ball. Now, mind you, I did pick up the occasional lovely ball of yarn there. And most of the yarn I have bought... Well, there was a very distinct similarity.

Let me show you some of my handmades that have seen a lot of use in the past year.

Nah, that must be a coincide...


Yes, my favourite colour is blue. How did you guess?! I love combining it with grey, but that's because I love stripes and any bright colour goes well with grey. I'm a process crocheter more than an object-crocheter, so I pay little attention to things like colours in patterns. Most of the time, I simply grab something from my stash and start hooking, sometimes even without a pattern. The gloves and hat were made without a pattern. The shawl was an Elise-shawl and, let's be honest, the faded, whispy purple-y pink of the shawl as pictured in the pattern doesn't exactly look appealing. But I had the blue cotton in my stash, and this looked like a pretty pattern, and the rest is history.

My blue-crush has gotten so bad that I was packing my bag for a week's holiday and only noticed that all my shirts were either blue or a blue-ish green when I had to unpack and re-pack because it didn't fit in my backpack. I didn't even notice!

I try using more colours than just the blues from my stash, but it's hard. I'm currently working on a stash-busting pillowcase in red, salmon, mint and two hues of blue and I am already lamenting the fact that I'm running out of one of the blues, while the mint, red and pink skeins don't seem to get smaller at all. If I had to set myself a goal this year, and trust me, there's numerous goals to choose from, it would be to work with more colours than just the blues. I have some really nice yarn in my stash: a skein of chunky mustard yellow yarn and a skein of purple and lavender yarn and some weird red yarns...

Or I could just go yarn-shopping. Yeah. I should go yarn-shopping. See, Blog Week, what you're doing to me? One day in and already I've got yarn-shopping on the brain! This is going to be one hell of a week, ladies and gents.

17 April 2012

Blogs I'm enjoying: the food edition!

It's been a while, and since last time I made a Blogs I'm enjoying-post it only contained crafty blogs, it seems time to make a food-related one!
(screenshot taken from justataste)

Just a Taste looks gorgeous, and so does the food! I am very partial to blogs looking crisp and clean so that all the attention can go to the actual content, and this one hits the spot with the bright green font on white background. The photography makes me hungry, the recipes want to make me run to the kitchen immediately. Lovely blog!


Zoom Yummy

(screenshot taken from zoom yummy)

I read Zoom Yummy for the laughs. No really, I do. Love the blog, tasty recipes (I used her recipe for Tea cookies to make the chocolate concoctions in this post and I used her post on Mini apple pies as inspiration for my farewell treat on my last day at the bookshop), but most of all, I love the light-hearted, funny way Petra blogs, whether it is about food, photography or crochet (see, there's more reasons to like her!)!


Honey & Jam

(screenshot taken from honey&jam)

Oh, food photography.. It's such an art, isn't it? Good food photography makes you want to plant your face in the computer screen to see if you can smell the food in front of you. Good food photography is difficult, and to get a good shot of your food you need to go through a lot of effort. Trust me, I tried, and failed, many times. And I still suck! But Hannah from Honey&Jam knows how to work her camera and her plate to get those pictures looking delicious. Aren't they pretty?! It totally makes up for the fact that she doesn't blog too often.


I am Baker

(screenshot taken from I am baker)

Another one of those blogs where it all just comes together. Great blog design, great recipes, great photography, and a great blogger with a great sense of humour. Her recipes are mostly (if not all) of the sweet variety, and her cake and cookie decoration skills are absolutely enviable.

That's my list for this time! But I always love to see more blogs so if you are a food blogger, leave a comment! I love reading new blogs!

16 April 2012

Morning coffee

After a rough night, I like to take my time in making a coffee. It's the ritual that wakes you up more than the caffeine, wouldn't you agree?

8 April 2012

A holiday in March

We went on holiday the last week of March. It was a well-needed break from the daily grind, since I've been working non-stop since the beginning of this year to get my job as a freelance translator going, and we haven't had a real break from work since August last year! Together with 4 friends, we headed out to the Cotswolds to stay in a cottage for a week.

What a lovely week we had! We were so lucky with the weather, sun all week and only a few clouds here and there... We even barbecued twice! In March! Can you believe it? Well, just in case you can't, here's a brief overview of our week.

Naturally, you can't start the day in England without a proper English breakfast. Home-cooked, even. I normally eat a bowl of granola for breakfast, and if I'm really hungry, I throw in a chopped apple, so this whole plate for breakfast took some struggling. But I managed! And I'm glad I did, because it was delicious.

We were about an hour away from Stratford-Upon-Avon, the birthplace of one Mr. Shakespeare. To be precise, this birthplace. I enjoyed the city itself, which has a relatively small centre with a large pedestrian area surrounding the birthplace of William Shakespeare and the adjacent information centre. We took the tour, which was deceptively small, and enjoyed all the non-information they put out for the tourists. ("we found this ring that has 'SW' engraved on it, therefore, it is likely that this belonged to William Shakespeare!".. Yes, or to Wentworth Smith. Or Wendy Scott. Just sayin'.) It was impressive enough, though. If you kept in mind that you were walking in the same grounds as one of the most famous writers of all time.

Since you can't go to the UK without visiting at least one castle, we went to Warwick Castle, a gorgeous medieval castle-turned-themepark in Warwick.

There's even a Dungeon á la the London Dungeon. Naturally, we were out of luck, because it was closed for redecoration for the Easter event. Inside the castle, a whole host of rooms has been turned into the "Kingmaker"-event, which follows the preparations in the castle for the Battle of Barnet in 1471. All in all, not your average visit to a castle. The castle was gorgeous though, and we went on an impressive climb along the castle walls that offered views of the surroundings. It was amazing!

They also held a bird-show in the castle grounds, which was very cool. This gorgeous creature was one of three birds that came out for a few swoops around the grounds.

Our days were mostly filled with lounging around the house and enjoying the warmth of the sun, reading and playing games, and going out for ventures into nearby towns and places. We were staying just outside of Broadway, a small town with many hidden alleys and tucked-away shops. I can only imagine how crowded it must get in the summer, but we went there on Saturday and it was filled with people.

One of the other towns we visited was Bourton-on-the-water, "the Venice of the Cotswolds". We weren't sure they had ever been to Venice before deciding on that nickname, but it was a lovely town nonetheless, if not a bit dull. We sauntered around for a while, did some window- and actual shopping, until we came across a sign that holds up for March 2012 as well:

Then we stopped at a café for lunch and I had my first ever cream tea.

Even though much of our holiday was spent relaxing, I really enjoyed the Cotswolds. The yellow stone houses and towns are gorgeous and there's a ton of nature to enjoy and places to visit. It was definitely a trip worth repeating!

5 April 2012

I received a blogging award!

How about that, huh? I come back from my holiday and find this in my inbox!

My first real award! Aww, thank you Tanya of My Grandmotherly Ways! Love your blog as well, so it's great to receive it from you! (which, however, does mean that I can't give it to your blog now. Booh.)

What's a blogging award without some rules, right? It's very simple.
- Thank the person who gave you this award.
- Include a link to their blog.
- Next, select 15 bloggers that you follow regularly or have recently discovered.
- Nominate those bloggers for the Versatile blogger-award.
- Finally, tell the person who nominated you 7 things about yourself.

First two points: check.

Now, I need to tell you lot 7 things about myself... And since there was no explanation, it's going to be the randomest of random lists.

1. I used to collect rubber ducks. I had about 50 of them at one point, even a fair few 'designer' ones that came with a fancy box and everything.
2. My favourite flavour of crisps is salt and pepper. Crushed black, if you really want to know.
3. When I was young, my go-to film for when I was sick was Aladdin. We used to have it on video tape and I watched it so often, the tape sort of faded and broke in places.
4. The BF is my first real BF and we're celebrating our 10th anniversary this year.
5. I had my ears pierced when I was a little girl, let the holes close up, and got them pierced again when I was 15. I got the second set pierced when I was 19. I still want at least one more set of holes.
6. I also still want a tattoo. Of what, I don't know. Where, I don't know. And if I'll ever do it... I don't know.
7. I have an enormous stack of half-used notebooks and college blocks lying around the house because I never use one up before I feel the need to buy a new one.

And last, but certainly not least, here are my nominees for the Versatile blogger-award, in no particular order. These are blogs that I enjoy, that I love to read or look at, that make me laugh, or simply love to see get more viewers! Because you all deserve it. Yeah, you do, you modest blogger you, you really do!

- Bunnies and Bettas
- Clicky Needles
- Squirrels Knitting Conquests
- Just-Do
- Cherry Heart
- Good Enough
- The Adventures of the Gingerbread Lady
- Stitch, Brinn, stitch!
- A Playful Day
- Do you mind if I knit
- According to Matt
- Wires and yarns
- Buttons and Beeswax
- Crochet with Cris
- Theonlynikki

Enjoy your blogging award, ladies and gents! (and just so you know, I felt like a right spambot sending out all those earburns!)