Thursday, 22 February 2018

Mid Season Crochet Top

This month I have a crocheted a tank top to share with you. Minerva sent me a pattern, hook and yarn to have a go. The yarn is King Cole riot which I have used before. The colour runs are nice and long so it makes super stripes which were easy to match up from ball to ball. 

The top is made from bottom to top with front and back alike. You sew in the little sleeves and then add the yoke to the whole garment. It is a slightly cropped shape so I used three balls instead of two to make it longer. All very simple but very effective. You need to be able to stitch count to keep the sizing. It comprises trebles, double crochet and chains.

I made a lot of it at the cabin over December looking at this winter view with my back against the fire. The colour runs were evocative of this landscape palette. Everything felt right in the world...until... came to the flower row to make the yoke. I thought I had gone as mad as a bucket of frogs. I did it six times but it wasn't right. Next I drew it as I read it to try and get the right shape in my head. In the end, I commandeered Andy to read out the pattern as I drew it. This obviously took lots of patience because he asked so many questions to gain some crochet understanding himself. We tried it out on a spare piece eventually I wrote out my own pattern loosely based on the instructions but seriously linked to the picture. (I have posted them on ravelry here if you ever need them)

The top works well with a long sleeved T-shirt; it is a welcome break from full on winter knits in a warm office.

Shame my ceramic pendant is the wrong way round, it goes so well, trust me. Are you crocheting at the moment? This is such a quick pattern to make for Spring.
Jo xx

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Released into the Craft Community


Once a year I am released into the craft community at the CHSI trade craft show at the NEC in Birmingham. It is a business show for craft product retailers to fill their order books with supplies for craft outlets. I am invited as a press blogger which means I get to mingle with other bloggers for lunch and then head out to look at the new craft trends for the year. I also get a day to myself in half term.

I collaborate with some of them already so it is nice to put faces to the people I talk to via email. Others I see year on year and we meet up to share new resources. Part of this set up is that there are a lot of free samples floating around which we are given to try out. I came away with some interesting products which I will have a play with and share with you over the coming months.

This post really is just a bit of eye candy but my waste-not mind has a creative craft outcome. Cutting sample images out of fabric catalogues makes for some beautiful card making opportunities.

Thanks for stopping by. Jo xxx

PS. Can I just say a huge thank you for your comments to my last post. Sometimes I am really surprised with what people engage with but food hits a lot of people's hearts. It felt good to know we had things in common :)

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Food for Thought

I have been thinking a lot about food. How do you sort out food? Who cooks? What do you like to eat? I find it really interesting. Whether you have a young family or you cook for one or two, we all need food and I find it a fascinating subject.
Butternut Squash muffins, cheese scones and vegetable soup
I would say I am a good cook. I like baking, making and I love recipes not just a collection of items on a plate. My mum has worked in pubs, restaurants and kitchens all of her life and taught me to cook really well. My paternal grandmother was a sustenance cook - feeding farmers hearty meals of basic food but her niche skill was preserving.
She would have made jam and crumble with this lot
My dad traveled extensively with his job: Germany, India, Pakistan and Switzerland. He brought back food ideas. We hosted his engineer clients at our house, sometimes with their families. 
Dahl, flat breads and pakoras
My girls love to cook. Ever since I could sit them on the counter top and hand them bits of food, they have cooked with me. Now they can bake when friends come over and I hardly have to do a thing! They are good eaters trying a huge variety of foods.
Early knife skills have been used well since

Baking with friends
On Sunday, we plan our food. Sometimes I choose the weeks evening meals and put them on the menu planner on the fridge but if dinners are not going down too well, straight away I open it up to everyone. We all pick a dinner from a cookbook and make a list of what we need ready for a Monday food shop. It creates an atmosphere of tolerance. It might not be your favourite meal but you eat it because you know yours will come up another day. I count myself in that - I tolerate macaroni cheese. 
Paperchase food planner
In terms of health, planning like this gives you an overview of the whole week. We try and have something with fish, something vegetarian or a Sunday dinner that provides meat for the following week. There is always cake of the week for lunchboxes - Lamingtons in this instance. It is a magnetic board and stays on the fridge. This one is from paperchase but has nearly run out of pages. My brother bought me a new one for Christmas.
Stuffed pepper and sausage tray bake
We have next to no waste food because we buy what we need for the meals we have chosen. We also make sure that on busy nights, with Brownies or me at work later, we have the easiest thing to cook. Conversely, on the days I am not at work the prep might be a little more time consuming which is fine because I like cooking. Our family have an allotment so planning is key at seasonal times when we need to use food as it arrives in gluts.
Courgette cake with lemon curd
I try to cook more than one meal at once and freeze one. Curries, casseroles, cakes and crumble mix come under this bracket.It means I have one in the bag for say an accidental afternoon of sewing instead of getting dinner ready!
My girls make batches of crumble mix ready to freeze
Finally, because we have a planned menu anyone can crack on and get started. So sometimes my mum might read it on a Tuesday and peel some potatoes for us or if bloke gets in first he can make pizza dough or flat breads which he is very good at. The world does not wait for me to start dinner. 
Every weekend we make a batch of cake for lunchboxes
It all works well for us. Bloke teases me sometimes about the control aspect of it but essentially everyone gets their dinner at five O'clock and nothing is frozen solid or unavailable at the time of need so I roll with it.
My favourite food is anything that fits in a flat bread!
I have been enjoying reading the cookery challenge blog posts this year and this post is inspired by those musings and celebrates wonderful home cooks all over the world. Eat, drink and be merry.
We are on half term this week so there will be lots of baking, foodie shopping and of course eating with family.
Jo xxxx

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Little Dresses for Africa

I love to sew but in the grand scheme of things we really don't need anymore clothes, neither do my girls. I set about looking to sew for charity and I found Little Dresses for Africa. It particularly resonated with me because I have young girls myself.

They were immense fun to make. There are a few pattern rules to help the organisation size the dresses but other than that you can really throw yourself into it. I used up bits of ribbon, ric rac, fat quarters for straps and added shoulder bows. There is a pattern here 


It was important to me that the girls took part so Big Sis made one and Little M did some sewing too. They read the website and felt very accomplished.

If you know someone with some free sewing time (or a bulging airing cupboard) please pass on the links to the website.

Thanks for looking. 
Jo xxxx

Friday, 9 February 2018

All Done #17 - Victoria Shawl

This is my 17th All Done post. These posts will hopefully inspire you to use up some kind of craft stash all the way to the very end - no saving a bit for later, hiding it under the bed or stuffing it in a cupboard.  With nearly four balls of Drops Alpaca in this beautiful shade Golden Rod, I have made two scarves. It was given to me by my good friend Christina. 

I seem to be linking Christina in many of my posts in 2018 but I am using her free sock patterns at the moment and she is often kind enough to lighten her own load by sending me spare materials as happy post. 

This is my second go at the the Victoria Shawl by Cherry Heart.I made the first one in a highly patterned sock yarn and you could not really see the little puff details or the spaces that create little butterfly shapes. I always said if I did this again, I would do it in a plain colour. 

I ran out before the border was complete so I used grey sock yarn to complete it. The border isn't quite as the pattern but it is similar and met my yarn requirements. I would have preferred a lighter grey but I didn't have any however, this alternative is actually quite striking.

As with many a crochet project, wet blocking is what makes this shawl special. The holes open up and the border becomes pinpoint perfect. This one is for my friends birthday in March.

Victoria uses up the rest of the yarn after my previous scarf, One and Done by Casapinka which I have kept for myself and worn quite a few times already.

What wonderful yarn but it is all done now and has made me very happy. Thanks for dropping by.

Jo xx

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Quilting with Brakes On

Our double quilt is going well. I have half of it cut out and a bit less than half of it sewn. I like it - I mean the process of it - because it has longevity but simplicity. A rhythm I can keep up with.
I hit a slight stumbling block in that I had no more pieces of fabric in my scraps box that were bigger than 20 x 14 cm. Which is a good thing but essentially I had ran out of random fabric. Andy bought me a fat quarter pack for my birthday in January on the left but I made short work of that in one weekend.
It was time to call in some help. My Auntie sews, makes quilts and crafts so I asked if she had any scraps. I was expecting a sandwich bag but got a carrier bag of lovely colourful fabrics with some light and dark colour values perfect for the dresden star block.
Then, while this post was half written on the ready-to-publish-soon pile, a stroke of unbelievable good luck came my way. I won a Giveaway from Helen Phillips for some scrap fabrics and other little delights. I mean, I was blown away to think that some of the fabric she makes her beautiful quilts from will now be in our quilt. It was just enough to get me to the end of my cutting marathon. I felt truly blessed. Thank you Helen.
My creative mind never stops so when I saw this post from Christina I suddenly wanted to start sewing all of the thin strips I had left in my stash together. My next gift quilt is for an 18 year old boy so I made a new skinny pile of fabric and had a little play around. This one is on the horizon and I must steal myself not to start it proper. Incredible fun though!

I put the brakes on and packed it all away in a shoe box for later in the year.

Dresden stars are where it is at. I am loving making our quilt right now. I have absolutely no idea how I am going to sandwich a king size quilt together but hey ho! I will keep calm and sew on.

Jo xxx

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Lace Pattern Socks

You can put some things on a pedestal and put things off but as we tell or children when trying a new food, 'you won't know until you try it.' Patterned socks were like this for me. I thought they would be so hard that I put them on my New Years resolution list in order to have 12 months to build myself up to them but the truth is, they were a pleasure to knit.

The yarn is Stylecraft Head over heels which I bought from a new wool shop in Church Stretton. I am a sucker for a chat in a yarn shop with a nice owner and so left with a ball of sock yarn.

I used the October sock pattern which is free on Christina's blog A colourful life. It is so well written and I found it a breeze.I did a little change on round 1 of the pattern section - I made a full wrap around of the yarn as the last stitch before the purl 1, knit 6 rather than just bringing the yarn forward. It depends on what style of knitting you do but look out for it anyway if you use this pattern and find out what works for your knitting style.

The heel is the most comfortable one I have knitted on all of the socks I have made so far.

So the moral of this post is: don't put things off, have a go, 'You won't know until you try it!' Good Luck with trying to get your children to eat Sprouts though:)

One of my crafting resolutions for 2018 already gone. Yay!

Jo xxx