Friday, 30 May 2014

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Hearts and Flowers Mandala for Yarndale

Yarndale mandala: hearts and flowers crochet mandala
 A few months ago, on a bit of a whim, I started crocheting some colourful mandalas to brighten up a spare few hours in my day, and as a result I very willingly joined a couple of mand-a-long groups. Four mandalas later and I'm pleasantly surprised, nay shocked, at just how keen I am to make more of these colourful pretties to adorn walls, tables, and to gift to family and friends. You can see what I've made recently here, here, and here. The timing was perfect when Lucy put the call out for those of us willing to make and donate a mandala for keen was I to jump on board!
There are some fabulous designs out there but I knew I wanted to create my own mandala that had some personal meaning within the design. I had a hearts and flowers mandala design in mind and it seemed quite a fitting contribution to produce for Lucy and the Yarndale team as a way of saying thank you for organising this fine event....I loved it last year and I'm really looking forward to Yarndale 2014.
I also wanted it to be a solid circle with no frilly border to represent the bicycle wheels of the Tour de France which will be passing through Skipton this year.
This was my first mandala to come off the hook...
Yarndale mandala: image of hearts and flowers crochet mandala
As you can see I wholeheartedly embraced the 'bright and colourful' request! I'm thinking it shouldn't be too difficult to spot on the day! My stash of Drops Paris cotton took care of that perfectly as the colours are very bright and very vibrant. This yarn however is quite thick but thankfully I was able to include all the rounds I initially had in mind and each mandala measured just under 8 inches...phew!!
Yarndale mandala: hearts and flowers crochet mandala for Yarndale
Yarndale mandala: hearts and flowers crochet mandala for Yarndale
This mandala design is a mish mash of some of my favourite bits of other mandalas which are already out there. My personal addition was in the form of a scaled down version of the Lancashire Red Rose which is at the centre of the mandala (I'm now settled here in lovely Lancashire with my family). You can see the larger version of the Lancashire Rose on my Yarndale bunting triangles from last year on this post. Surrounding the Lancashire Rose is the sun - it was sunny and warm during the weekend of Yarndale 2013 so fingers crossed it's the same this year. I couldn't decide which colours to use on the Maybelle flower petals so I ended up creating three...
Yarndale Mandala: Hearts and Flowers Crochet Mandala
You can find a particularly beautiful specimen called the Maybelle Flower Mandala here, and there is a well written photo tutorial accompanying it if you haven't made one yet. The hearts round had to be red of course, and the main colour for the border had to be turquoise to contrast nicely with the red (one of my favourite colour combo's). The navy coloured yarn gives the circle a good solid edge, and is also a nice contrast too, me thinks.
So which one have I chosen for Yarndale?  Can you guess?
Yarndale Mandala: hearts and flowers crochet mandala
 It's the orange one - well this is the one which stood out the most for me.
Besides my own two little Lancashire lasses have their eyes on the pink ones so I'll be putting them in a box frame for their bedrooms.
I've thoroughly enjoyed making my mandalas and I'm really looking forward to seeing my orange blossom one displayed with all the others.
Yarndale 2014 - bring it on!!

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Crochet Spring Wreath

image of crochet spring wreath
I really love decorating my home with seasonal crochet items like wreaths and bunting. To me it's such a lovely way to welcome in each new season. I've already had requests from family and friends to make them a wreath for their birthday and for Christmas, which is a tad daunting time-wise, but it's such the perfect compliment - how could I refuse! 
I crocheted my Spring wreath over the Easter holidays and have been itching to share the details of it with you since then.
This is the same willow ring I used for my Autumn wreath. I just simply untied all the bits and bobs, and have tied the new ones on. This way I get to add to or change the wreath each new season to make it different each year.
image of crochet Spring wreath
 image of crochet Spring wreath; crochet daffodils and roses
The crochet daffodils are designed by myself, and you can find the free pattern on this post. The two larger daffodils are some of my early attempts whilst working out a pattern so they look a little different to the smaller ones. The flowers with the beads and the green edged one are also my own design.
image of a Camelia rose
 Isn't this a beauty! I had the most wonderful abundant display of these Camelia roses in my garden earlier on this Spring, so just had to have some of them on my wreath.
There a lot of free rose patterns out there but this is the one that really caught my eye, not only does it look like my Camelias but even when viewed from the side the detail is very pretty.
 Designed by Megan Mills it comes with easy to follow straightforward instructions - you can find the pattern here. It is made by crocheting three rows in a strip and then is finished off by rolling it in on itself and sewing it together to secure... it really is that easy! I'll be making lots more of these for my Summer wreath.
Thank you Megan!
image of crochet butterfly on crochet Spring wreath
After attempting and giving up on a number of butterfly patterns available I eventually found this one which is so simple and quick to make. This is made in three rounds, so you have the option to change the colours resulting in a pretty multicoloured butterfly. Then it's folded in half, and the body is sewn on using chain stitch which holds the whole thing together. You can find the fab photo-tutorial here.
Thank you Morgan!
 The small white blossoms are my own design, but the lovely pink blossoms written pattern can be found here. 
I love these, and would look sweet on a pretty crochet hat or bag.
Thank you Neko!

The curlicues are such a great way to add interest and to fill in gaps like the green one is doing behind the daff's - can you see it?
To make them you need to crochet a chain of your desired length and then (starting in 4th chain from hook) work 3 trebles (U.S. dc) into each chain...simple!
image of crochet Spring wreath
 The leaves pattern can be found here, and there is also a Youtube video to accompany it. You can't see much of the leaves as they're hidden behind the flowers, but this pattern produces a neat and pretty shaped leaf. It'll definitely be my go-to leaf pattern for the future.
Thank you Jenn!

I thoroughly enjoyed making this and had to stop myself from producing more bits and bobs to go on there as I wanted some of the beautiful willow left bare...maybe add tulips next year?

I'm off to finish my last FOUR (!) grannies and then it's time to add the finishing touches, so wishing you all a very happy, hopefully sunny, weekend.

Friday, 9 May 2014

How to Make and Join Granny Squares

granny square pattern tutorial image of granny squares
Love them or loathe them, granny squares have been and still are the popular choice for most people when learning the basics of crochet. This is how I started to crochet many years ago as a young girl. They're so very easy to make, fun to produce and so versatile in creating a colourful variety of items, such as, blankets, cushion covers, clothing, bags and accessories, etc. In my case it was my dolls who benefited from my crochet creations ranging from ponchos, shawls, hats and blankets. When my love for crochet was rekindled a few years ago I really wasn't that keen on going back to producing them, however, I was amazed to see the variety of the granny square projects which were out there in such colourful abundance. I knew it wouldn't be long before I would be sucked back in to the wonderful world of the crochet granny square again...and I'm now on my fourth granny project - you can see my most bonkers recent project on this post - addicted again...I think so!!

Even though these squares look very similar to those I produced many years ago, I now make them using different techniques which I think give a more aesthetically pleasing result, and the skills involved are invaluable for the beginner to learn. It is these techniques which I am very excited about and would love to share and pass on to you today.

If you are changing to a different colour on every round I will show you how to begin with a chainless start. This is really easy to do and enhances the uniformity and continuity of your granny no chain 3 starts on every row - which are really easy to pick out especially if you're using cotton yarn. This is a great technique to learn especially if you're wanting to produce a circular piece of crochet work like mandalas for example. If you are making a one coloured square you will have to use the ch 3 method at the beginning of every round.
First I will show you how to make the basic three treble cluster/shell granny square followed by the join-as-you-go-technique of crocheting the squares together on the final round. I'll share my handy hints and tips with you throughout the pattern.
(Hints and tips shown in red italics) 

Keep those Yarn Bands!
It's essential that if you're using a lot of colours for your granny squares then you must keep a record of the yarn information just in case you need more of the same colour in the future. I know that feeling when you're so eager to start crocheting that you rip the yarn band off to get straight to work, only to find that you need more of it and haven't a clue what shade it is when it comes to re-order. Very frustrating!

I've found the simplest and quickest way to document your yarn is to snip a little bit of yarn off and tie it around the yarn band and pop it in a plastic wallet. The yarn band has all the information on there from hook size, colour name or number, dye lot number to the wash and care instructions. Believe me you'll be thankful you took that small amount of time to do this!
Granny square pattern tutorial image of yarn bands with yarn attached This pattern is written in U.K. crochet terms. I'll be using four different colours in the first four rounds then I'll be joining them on the fifth round using the same grey colour for the border. You can use any type of yarn so there is no gauge for this pattern.

Basic Crochet Granny Square Pattern
(written in U.K. crochet terms).
ch - chain.
st - stitch
sl st - slip stitch
tr - treble crochet (U.S. terms dc - double crochet)
(yarn over hook, insert hook into st or space and pull up a loop, yarn over pull through two loops on hook, yarn over pull through last two loops on hook)
tr stan st - treble standing stitch
(attach yarn to hook with a slip knot, yarn over hook, insert hook into st or space pull up a loop, yarn over pull through two loops, yarn over pull through last two loops on hook)

 Round 1
Attach yarn to hook with a slip knot. Ch 4
Granny square pattern tutorial: image of chain 4 start

Right side - V shape
Turn the ch over so the wrong side is facing you and sl st into the 4th bump from hook to form a ring. This will make it easier for you, especially for beginners, to find the centre of the ring without the need to pull the chains apart - handy for when you are using finer yarn which makes finding the centre of the ring  just that bit more difficult.
Granny square pattern tutorial: image of making a slip stitch to form a ring
Granny square pattern tutorial: image of crochet ring
You can see by the photo above just how clear it is to see the centre of the ring.
Ch 3 (counts as 1 tr), (make sure you crochet over the tail end as you work the round) and make 2 tr's into the centre of the ring (first shell cluster made), ch 2 - these make the corners spaces.

Granny square pattern tutorial: image of crochet cluster made
 *Make 3 tr's then ch 2*. Work *to* another 2 times until you have 4 shell clusters. 

The picture below shows how the tail end of yarn has been crocheted over, so that when pulled at the end of the round it will close up the centre hole.
Granny square pattern tutorial: image of working over tail end of yarn
(The wrong side)
Sl st into the top of the 3rd ch (put hook under the two loops of the ch - see photo below) to close round. If you are continuing on with the same colour you will need to sl st into the next 2 sts until you get to the next corner space, then ch 3 to start your next corner cluster.
 Always check your round to make sure you have the correct number of stitches and chain spaces before snipping your yarn.
If you using a different colour then fasten off by snipping the yarn to leave just a short tail end of about two inches/5 cms, and pull the tail end to tighten the centre hole. 

Granny square pattern tutorial: image of slip stitch to close round

Round 2
Choose a different corner to the one you finished on the previous round, and always start on a corner space when starting a new round. This will give you room to crochet over the tail ends from the previous round. 
Granny square pattern tutorial: image of treble crochet standing stitch
Work a tr stan st (make sure you keep a firm grip on the yarn on your hook which will want to loosen itself and spin around).You can pull on the tail end to tighten the loop on your hook if it's a little loose.

Granny square pattern tutorial: image of treble crochet standing stitch complete
You'll find your slip knot now sits at the top of the st. 
Work another 2 tr's, ch 1 (always ch 1 along the sides of your square), *in the next ch 2 space work 3 tr, ch2, 3 tr, ch 1.* Work *to* two more times then work one more treble shell/cluster, ch 2, to complete the last corner. Sl st into the top of the tr stan st. (Remember to crochet over those tail ends from the previous round)
Granny square pattern tutorial: image of round 2 complete

Round 3
Starting in a ch 2 corner space (not the one you finished on in Round 2) make a tr stan st, 2 tr's, *ch 1. 3 tr in ch 1 space, ch 1, in next corner space 3 tr, ch 2, 3 tr, .* Work * to * two more times, ch 1, 3 tr, ch 1, then work the last 3 tr into corner space, ch 2, sl st into top of  tr stan st. Fasten off.
Granny square pattern tutorial: image of round 3 complete

Round 4
Work this round in exactly the same way for Round 3, but you will have an extra ch 1, tr shell/cluster, ch 1 to make on the side or your square.
Granny square pattern tutorial: image of round 4 complete

Round 5 - the join-as-you-go-technique
The very first square you make you will need to crochet Round 5 on all four sides using the same method as in Round 4, but with an extra ch 1, 3 tr shell/cluster, ch 1 on each side of the square. I'm using the same grey colour for the border.
 If you would like a little more space between squares then just make a double crochet (dc) (U.S. single crochet (sc) instead of the sl sts into the ch 1 spaces, and ch 2 corner spaces. 
You can see an example of this on the photo below of my cushion cover which I crocheted a while back. Over time the yarn has stretched and the gaps have become a little too wide which I really don't want to happen with my new granny project as I want my squares to lie very close to one another....
Granny square pattern tutorial: image of double crochet joined squares
Granny square pattern tutorial: image of slip stitch joined squares

Work the first two sides first before attaching the remaining two sides to the adjacent squares.
Granny square pattern tutorial: image of attaching squares
If you are right handed it's a good idea to work your squares in rows from right to left, and to keep the main body of your work to the right when attaching the next square. You'll obviously be working in the opposite direction if you're left handed. This will ensure you will always be attaching no more than two sides in one go.
 Make the first cluster of 3 tr's on the corner you are about to join, then sl st into the corner space of the adjacent square you are attaching to, ch 1, continue to make the 2nd 3tr cluster into the attaching square to finish off that corner...
Granny square pattern tutorial: image of first corner attachedAttaching square (left), adjacent square (right) 

Sl st into the ch 1 space of adjacent square, make 3 tr cluster into your attaching square. Carry on in this way till you get to the next corner space.
Granny square pattern tutorial: image of joining squares
Work with reverse sides facing each other, and place hook under ch 1 space.
Work the 1st corner 3 tr cluster in your attaching square, then work a sl st, ch 1 into the ch 2 corner space of the adjacent square like you did for the 1st corner. You will be doing the same into the next adjacent square lying on the other side - sl st, ch 1...
Granny square pattern tutorial: image of joining squares

Granny square pattern tutorial: image of joining squares
Make a 3 tr cluster into the attaching square to complete that corner. Carry on working along the row till you get to the last corner. Make a 3 tr cluster into attaching square corner ch 2 space, sl st into adjacent square corner ch 2 space, ch 1, sl st into top of tr stan st. Fasten off.
Granny square pattern tutorial: image of squares joined together

I've had to stretch the squares a little to open up the work so you can see the joins a little clearer...
Granny square pattern tutorial: image of 4 squares joined together
 You can use a tapestry needle to weave in the ends, but I prefer to use a small hook (1.5mm) to do this - don't forget you have crocheted over them on each round so you don't need to snip 6-8 inches off and waste all that precious yarn. Make sure you weave the tail end both horizontally and vertically, and then back on itself to secure it well.

 I have made lots of different granny squares in the past, and I will be definitely sticking to this method, and I hope that you will too! Even if you never make a granny square again I'm sure you will use this method of making your chain ring, and will want to use the treble standing stitch chainless start in your future projects.

Like I've mentioned before in my previous posts this granny square project of mine is not a blanket or cushion cover, so I'm really looking forward to having a Ta-Dah! moment with you very soon to reveal what it is. I'll also be doing a follow up tutorial on how to add the finishing touches.

Yes! - I think it's fair to say I have rekindled my LOVE of granny squares
Enjoy your weekend.

Edit to add: You can see the finished item in all it's 'Fab' glory on this post. This blog entry is my submission to the Deramores Blog Awards 2014. Deramores is the UK’s number one online retailer of knitting and crochet supplies.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Slowly catching up

Image of camper van tent
 A special place to make a den (lots of whispering, giggling, and secret snack eating was enjoyed in here).
image of inside camper van tent
The usual daily routine has only just resumed around here as my girls went back to school on Monday and my husband went back to work after a ten day break. We had the most happy and blissful family staycation this Easter. Lazy mornings, followed by picnics in local parks, visiting family, lots of playtime and time to do nothing but snuggle up and watch a film together was so, so lovely and we all benefited from this go-slow-go-with-the-flow type routine after such a hectic few months. It seemed to last longer than just two weeks, but how could it when it seems like April was over in a flash...just like that - whoosh, gone!

Of course I managed to pack in some crochet time during the copious amount of coffee and snack breaks we enjoyed. My autumn wreath had a more appropriate seasonal change...
image of crochet spring wreath
I love this a lot, but more on that later as I need to spend more time to give credit to the designers of these wonderful flowers and leaf patterns. I know the daffodils here have now sadly faded away but if you want to recreate and keep them around and about for a little longer then you can find my free photo-tutorial for them on my last post.

I've also been loving the grannies I am currently working on...
image of crochet granny squares
I first mentioned them on this mandala post, way back at the beginning of March. I couldn't wait to get stuck into this project but I had to stop once I'd realised the yarn wasn't suitable for this. So it has taken a lot longer than I had predicted to get to this stage, but I'm really enjoying the whole process anyway. I won't say what it's going to be...let's just say it's a vintage project and leave it at that for now.

Now it's time for me to catch up with my very much neglected house and garden, and also to catch up with you lovely people to see what you've all been up to - can't wait! Ttfn xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx