28 May 2014

Back for Granny Square Wednesdays!

Now that my wrist is (sort of) ok(ish), I can indulge in taking part in Jijihook's Granny Love Challenge again. Yayyyy!

I have got back to my neglected Blanket and crocheted four sunbursts this week:

Aren't they sweet? The more I look at them, the more I want to do a project with just sunburst circles, rather than turn them into square. Possibly a shawl... Mmmh, there's an idea. But I digress.

So that's 4 new (almost) squares to complete my other 100. Want a look at the "crowd"?

Aaah, a cheerful riot of colours, the perfect antidote to these days' gloomy weather here in the UK ;)

Take care everyone, and do go have a look at what the other hooksters have hooked up at Jijihook's this week!


A quick one today, to share with you my latest make, most likely for the Yarndale display in September (that is, if I can bear to part with it!). The first mandala that I ever designed :) It started life as part of a shawl design found on Pinterest and later shared on my Facebook page here. Here's one of my first attempts:

But as I progressed, I didn't like what it was turning into, and so I ended up altering the pattern completely, and making a mandala out of it. And after a few trials and errors, here is the finished result:

As you can probably tell from the profusion of same-y photos, I am ridiculously pleased with it ;) Now all I have left to do is to stiffen it with craft glue on the back and post it to Lucy in Yorkshire. That means I get to see it displayed at Yarndale in September! :) Have you been crocheting mandalas lately?

Thanks for reading, guys :) xxx

26 May 2014

Picnicking in the Forest

Two weekends ago, an organisation I am a member of organised a big picnic event throughout the UK, where members and their family and friends could enjoy a relaxed afternoon together in the sunshine. We were lucky with the weather, and I could not pass up the opportunity of taking photos, which I would like to share with you now.

The colourful blankets on the grass...

Super-cute Pugsey...

This scenic struggle of man-made versus nature...

These ancestral, vaguely Tolkien-style knotted tree roots...

These fading blue bells...

This peaceful view...

This beautiful, towering tree...

And this solitary buttercup.

It was a good day, full of laughter, friendship, and natural beauty. Such days are so precious. :)

23 May 2014

You Say It's Your Birthday...

Yesterday was my birthday. We had the day off and went into town for a delicious coffee and a spot of lunch by the Thames. We got out of the restaurant in the middle of a sudden thunderstorm and a very heavy shower. We laughed like little children as we ran for shelter. I love this kind of weather. It reminds me of the summers in my native South of France, where the blue skies and oven-hot temperatures sometimes give way, and quite suddenly so, to roaring thunder, drumming rain and delicious coolness.

So, with our clothes soaked and our hair dripping, trying desperately to stay under my tiny umbrella - bearing in mind that I'm 5'1 and he's 6'3 - we finally took refuge in a lovely riverside café, where we had a hot drink and something sweet. I love the decor of that café, it is deliciously retro and deliberately over the top, as you can see:

I had fresh rose mint tea, and frozen yoghurt with orange blossom and pomegranate seeds. Mmmm, was it delicious! And it looked pretty, as well :)

After that, we headed home as the sunshine reappeared and the flowers sparkled with jewel-like droplets of water.

I spent some time crafting, as I had bought goods from the John Lewis haberdashery section in town.

Presents? Oh yes. This scrummy yarn...

...and a weekend in Bath! Yay!

A very happy birthday girl, I was! :)

22 May 2014

The Pesky Poncho, part 3

And so, back for another instalment of the Poncho Saga! 

In the previous related post, I left you with an unbearable cliffhanger... After hours and hours of feverishly trying to finish the back section, I finally realised that the two shoulder sections were not symmetrical. The photo below shows it, well that is if you know what you're looking for. Basically, the orange treillis on the right hand side of the neck opening has fewer rows than the beige one on the left hand side.

There was no way, absolutely no way, that I would be willing to undo the whole back section. If I did do it, I was pretty certain I would never touch the thing again. On top of that, the frogging might damage the yarn, and I had little to spare. So I thought I would try to do a little bit of what I consider haute voltige, that is, to undo just the problematic section and to redo it the correct way. A while before, I had come across a very interesting tutorial to repair a torn granny square, here. So I thought I would give it a go on the Poncho.

Before I did it on the main thing, though, I luckily remembered the swatch I'd crocheted when I'd first set out on the long Poncho journey.

After much pondering, I finally cut through one of the rows of treillis and pulled a string of black yarn through the stitches that had now become loose.

I then proceeded to redo the row of treillis. It didn't go too badly... 

...but the process was extremely fiddly, especially as the unravelled yarn kept tangling up, and the more I progressed, the more I dreaded what it would be like on the much larger scale Poncho.

Around the same time, a friend of mine came to visit me, and I showed her the Poncho, of which I had by then finished the main body, which meant there were only the fringes to attach - and of course the shoulder to redo. I showed the work to my friend, who said she was incapable of spotting where the mistake was, and her input helped me make up my mind once and for all. I would not risk ruining the whole garment to try and correct a mistake that was hardly visible, if at all. I might add a couple of rows around the neck to secure the opening, but nothing more.

And with that decision made, I was now free to proceed with the fringes. I have to say, the task of attaching the fringes had always seemed daunting to me ever since I had started the project. It did not help that the pattern said to "cut 960 strands of yarn of 30 cm". 960!!! That's almost 1,000!!! How on earth do you go about a business like that? The good news is, though, that they have to be attached in bunches of 8, so that makes it 120 groups of 8, 60 for each panel. So I came with a quick and easy way to cut the fringes. Wrap the yarn eight times around a magazine (roughly 30 cm long). It's best to wrap it loosely, otherwise the yarn gets stretched and the fringe ends up being shorter than it should. 

Then, cut at top and bottom, and attach with a slipknot at the bottom of one of the panels.

Because the yarn is variegated, I had to do a little bit of thinking as to where the fringes should go. I didn't want the gradual colour change to go uninterrupted around the whole garment, as I felt it might look unbalanced, so I spaced the first groups of fringes evenly and then filled the gaps as I went.

So far, I have done half of it all, and I have to say, it worked up much quicker than I expected. A very pleasant surprise.

I haven't been able to carry on with the rest, as I was unwell after that, but the return of the sunshine will be a great incentive to start again. I really want to be able to wear the Poncho this summer.

See you next time, hopefully for the big reveal :)

18 May 2014

Summer and a Birthday

Today was a gorgeous day. For the first time this year, it really felt like summer had arrived. With trepidation, I searched my wardrobe and was soon donning a favourite garment of mine: a sherbet blue macramé strapless dress. There are few things that mean summer to me more than that dress over a pair of white leggings. I added a pink wooden necklace for colour contrast and I was good to go, with my heart skipping each time I saw the lovely combination of colours.

Today, we went to a little girl's 1st birthday party. I wrapped her present in an adorable gift paper, full of cuteness and colours, garanteed to put a smile on everyone's face.

You see what I mean. Lovely, lovely. :)

The birthday party, with the sun out, was a feast for the eyes...

...and for the tastebuds!

Yes, it really was a lovely day. I hope yours was, too!

Thanks for reading and enjoy your weekend :) xxx

15 May 2014

Springtime Wanderings

The good thing about being ill is when you get better. I have had a very rough couple of weeks, but I am almost back to full health and boy does that feel good! I am finally able to enjoy life's little pleasures which I missed so dearly when I was unwell. Crochet is not unfortunately one of them for now, as my wrist is still playing up, but it seems that my neck muscles have finally "untwisted" themselves, allowing me to hold my head up without giving me searing migraines. Aaaaaah, such bliss!

One thing I've got back to is walking in the park. Spring is one lovely season to do that and with Richmond Park down the road, there is absolutely no excuse.

Last weekend, we both took our cameras and went on a photo spree in the park, bringing back interesting pictures of ancestral trees...

...and of the joyful evidence of spring...

There's nothing quite like seeing all those amazing colours to instantly feel better :) Well, there's crochet as well, but not for a little while yet...

Thanks for reading! xxx

11 May 2014

The Pesky Poncho, part 2

You may remember from an earlier post that sometime last year I embarked on a long-term WIP adventure involving a particularly gorgeous poncho. I left you at a thrilling cliffhanger whereupon I had finally found the yarn I wanted to use (in Bruges, no less) and was about to make a start.

The first step was to make a swatch to test the tension. Now, this is normally something I dispense with, as I am of an impatient nature and rarely crochet things where tension is critical anyway. But for this one, unless I wanted to risk ending up with a mini snood or a maxi skirt, I had to check my tension. So I did make a swatch, using the diagram provided in the magazine (which, I now realise, is sporting some fetching coffee rings).

And that was the result, a lacy swatch with exactly the measurements required. Woohoo, success!!!

With the assurance I was using an appropriate yarn and crochet hook, I set out for the next challenge... The foundation chain. Or should I write the "Foundation Chain". For that alone was one hell of a task. The Foundation Chain had to consist of... 667 stitches. Gulp. I proceeded, relying heavily on stitch markers every 100 stitches, as well as triple-counting my stitches. The result was almost as long as my front room! 

Crocheting the first row into that never-ending chain must have been even more unpleasant but thankfully my mind seems to have blanked out most of it. The rest was no picnic though, and I do have vivid memories of it. You see, it's not that the pattern is exceedingly difficult once you get the hang of it, it's just that it's rather fiddly, especially with a 2.5mm hook.

For example, one of the key stitches of the pattern is the sweetly named "qtr15tog", meaning "15 quadruple trebles together" (that's UK trebles). For this stitch, you start by casting the (*) yarn over your hook 4 times...

...you then put your hook in the next stich, yarn over again and pull through the stitch, (**) yarn over, pull through two loops, repeat from (*) 3 times. Then you repeat from (**) 15 times, until you have a very crowded hook indeed...

...and finally you yarn over one last time and pull through all 16 loops...

You then let out a few choice expletives when your *$@! yarn slips off your @£%*!? hook and half your carefully elaborated quadruple trebles unravel as if in slow motion before your horrified eyes. You start again from (*) a few times, and finally, a good 15 minutes later, with a sweaty brow and trembling fingers, you complete the stitch. Phew!

Well done. You win the privilege of moving on to the next bit and start all over again. And there is more. There's the treillis bit. The treillis stitch is by nature quite simple. It's literally chain, double crochet, chain, double crochet and so on. It gives a lovely, delicate, lacy look to the work. You can see three rows of treillis in the left upper section of the photo below, in beige, orange and purple.

Simple and pretty enough. Except when you miss one of the chains from the previous row, of course, as in the picture below.

Can you spot it ? Can you spot the offending, standalone chain I left out THREE loooooong rows before? Aaaaaaaaaaaargh!!!!!!!! There went three painstakingly crocheted rows so that I could correct the mistake. Sigh. And frog.

Still... despite those obstacles, by mid-summer last year I had finished the front section and took the project with me on holiday to my native South of France. That's when I tackled the neck opening and shoulders, and that's where everything went wrong. Said sections should have been straightforward enough, since they just consisted of treillis stitches. But try as I might, I simply could not get the right amount of chains. Worst of all, the first time I became aware of the mistake, I had already done a few rows of the back section, complete with the offending succession of 15qtrtog stitches (which are also interspersed with 3qtrtog stitches, because why make things simple, eh?). So I obviously had to frog it, frog the shoulder section and start again. And again. And again. At my third attempt, one of the shoulder sections was still not quite right. For the life of me, I could not see what was wrong, so self-righteously decided there must be something wrong with the pattern itself. 

I then carried on again with the beginning of the back section, but the constant frogging had stripped me of my crochet drive. Yes, reader, I had developed CPAS (Crochet Project Annoyance Syndrome). For the rest of the holiday, I did not touch the Poncho again. Neither did I once I got back home. I needed a good sulk. Winter then settled in and I suddenly felt like working with thicker, warmer yarn, and the Poncho fell to the bottom of my WIP basket.

But eventually, sun and (relative) warmth re-emerged, and with them returned my appeal for lighter, lacier things, and therefore for the Poncho. I once again pictured myself wearing it over the summer, so one day I took it out of its basket, dusted my 2.5mm hook and off I went, gradually getting closer to the final stitch. There were a couple of missed chains and stitches and some frogging needed but all in all I made good progress.

I was getting confident with the pattern as well, much more than I had been last year, when I was still quite new to crochet. So I actually came to enjoy those 15qtrtog stitches for the rythmic dancing they allowed my crochet hook to indulge in. I crocheted for hours on end, and with hindsight, I wonder whether this didn't actually trigger my wrist injury.

And then there was another snag. I had been trying on the Poncho ever since I had hooked up the neck opening. It never fitted properly, as in it kept sliding off my shoulder, but I thought it would eventually get balanced out once the back section was finished. At some point along the way though, I realised the neck opening was definitely too wide for me. So I started to think about ways to fix it as inconspicuously as impossible. I spent quite some time pouring over the stichwork and imagining small additions and bypasses to correct the problem. And it was during one of those sessions, when I was about three quarters of the way through the back section, that I realised with horror (OK, I'm going a bit overboard here, but it's for dramatic effect) that I had missed a row in one of the shoulder sections. Cue Luke-I-am-your-father-style screamed denial... and another thrilling cliffhanger!

Thanks for reading, guys, to be continued... :) xxx