Apple for the teacher

It’s  the time of year when people look for gifts for their children’s teacher. Normally I leave this to the last minute but this year, I’ve had a moment of inspiration since spotting this little brooch by JammyPudding on Instagram. You can buy it from her Etsy shop here

il_570xN.517506422_sh7vI was immediately reminded of an image of a crocheted washcloth I stuck on pinterest months (years?) ago.

Screen Shot 2014-06-28 at 15.43.49I can’t credit this image very well because when I click on the link in pinterest, it takes me to a dead end. If you want to investigate further, check my pinterest page, the link is here. Anyway, I thought that I could create something very similar so I set about making my own version. Mine is probably a tad smaller than the one above, which was intentional because I liked the idea of a brooch, rather than a wash cloth. This one is made with cotton double knit and measures approximately 7cm across.IMG_0693Since I made the first one, I have made an even smaller one using fine crochet cotton. It is much smaller, only about 3.5 cm across.

If you would like to make one of your own, here is the pattern. Everything is in UK crochet terms. From the second round onwards you need to put your hook into the top of the stitches from the previous round. Sometimes you need to put two stitches into the same place, sometimes only one. In the pattern, you can tell if you need to move your hook onto the next stitch place because there will be a comma so, for example, if you need to make a double crochet in one stitch from the previous round and then two trebles in the next stitch, and then a half treble in the next stitch, it’ll be written like this:

double crochet, 2 trebles, half treble

Round 1

Make a magic circle

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IMG_0657 Pull a loop through the circle to begin.

IMG_0658Chain three and put a stitch marker in the third chain (i.e. the one before the one that is on the hook). You can see that I used a bit of spare yarn or a safety pin for a stitch marker.

IMG_0660Make 14 trebles, crocheting over the tail end of the magic circle.

IMG_0661 IMG_0662 Pull on the tail of the magic circle to make the loop tighten up and you should have something like this.

IMG_0663 When you have completed this first round, join it with a slip stitch in the third chain you made at the start, the one with the stitch marker in.

IMG_0664You should have 15 stitches and something that looks like this.

IMG_0665Round 2

Once again, chain three and place a stitch marker as before. Make a treble in the same stitch.

IMG_0667 Continue to make two trebles into each stitch from the previous round until you have 30 stitches altogether (don’t look too closely at my picture – I can’t count 30 in there). Join the round with a slip stitch as before.

IMG_0669 Round 3 – shaping the bottom of the apple

In the next stitch make a double crochet and a treble, then into the next stitch make 2 trebles, make 1 treble in the next stitch *make 2 half trebles in the next stitch and 1 half treble in the on after that* repeat from * to * 10 more times putting a stitch marker in the 13 stitch that you have made.

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IMG_0732The reverse the stitches you made at the start of the round. Make 1 treble, 2 trebles, 1 treble 1 double crochet. Cast off by cutting the yarn leaving a tail long enough to thread through a needle and weave it in on the reverse side.

IMG_0735Round 4 – shaping the top

Start by inserting your hook where the stitch marker is placed. Make the following stitches: 1 slip stitch, 1 double crochet, 1 half treble, 2 trebles, 1 treble, 1 treble, 2 trebles, 1 treble 1 double crochet, slip stitch, slip stitch, slip stitch, double crochet 1 treble, 2 treble, 1 treble, 1 treble, 2 trebles, 1 half treble, 1 double crochet, 1 slip stitch

I haven’t shown pictures for every bit of this process.

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IMG_0697IMG_0698IMG_0699IMG_0700This is what you should have now.

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Making the green or red edge 

Starting at the bottom of the apple, insert your hook into the back loop only and draw a loop of green (or red) yarn through to make a slip stitch. Continue to do this all the way around the apple shape.

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Making the stalk and seeds

Cast on with some brown yarn in the centre top and chain 6.

IMG_0685Then, insert your hook into the 5th stitch that you made and make a slip stitch. Continue to slip stitch back down the the line of chains.

IMG_0686IMG_0689IMG_0688Cast off the brown yarn at the base of the stalk by weaving in the tail end on the reverse side.

With another piece of brown yarn, stitch the seeds. I think this is ‘lazy daisy’ stitch.

IMG_0691 IMG_0692 IMG_0693That is it!

I have lots of ideas about how to use these little apples. I would like to crochet two together and stuff them with some apple scented pot pouri to make a pomander for the wardrobe. I’d like to team it up with a pretty covered coat hanger decorated in similar colours.

I hope you enjoy making some too.IMG_0710

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Granny Square Crochet Cushion Cover: Ta-da

This cushion cover was my New Year project. I needed something to replace the very old and threadbare original cover.

IMG_9053To my surprise, I realised that very few of my previous projects have required joining so I had to think quite carefully about how I was going to do it. I don’t really like sewing crochet together, I think it probably has a greater tendency to work loose and this cushion is going to get some rough treatment from my children. In the end I decided to make four strips of four squares and then join each strip together. I placed the squares right sides together and used a slip stitch through the back loops only to join everything together. Although this creates a slight ridge, it’s barely noticeable once the front and back are joined.

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I felt that it would be a good idea to create an edge to the whole thing so I did a row of treble clusters in the deliciously named ‘pomegranate’ (pink) colour and completed the front with a row of trebles in ‘sherbet’ worked singly.

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Then I had to think about how I was going to make the back. I enjoyed doing the row of single trebles so much that it seemed like a good idea to keep going in the same style. Before long I had decided to work the back in random, stripy rows using the same colours as the front. It also wasn’t long before I realised that I was going to like the back better than the front.

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As much as I don’t like sewing crochet together it was the best option for the edges. I left a tail of yarn at each end of the row and used this to sew the stripy back to the square patterned front. The opening for the cushion pad is about a third of the way down and the flaps are overlapping slightly.

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This picture was taken in artificial light so the colours don’t show up so well but you can see that I was trying to work out how to place my buttons. The final stripy row that I did included some gaps made of chains to use as button holes.

IMG_9271Here is the finished product: the stripy back and the granny square front. Or is that the other way around? A stripy front and a square patterned back.

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So, only another two of these giant covers to create. Maybe I’ll have finished them by next New Year.

Buddy, the Birthday Owl

I was given this book for my birthday by my Mother-in-Law. She knows me well. I almost received it twice in a week because my Godmother had bought it for me for Christmas too.

IMG_9276As you can see, it contains patterns for all sorts of animals.

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IMG_9279My favourites are the flamingo because of it’s subtle colours and clever tail feather pattern….

IMG_9283and the cool, colour-changing, reversible chameleon.

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There are lots of lovely projects in this book and I found the instructions easy enough to follow. I’m not sure if I’m too keen on the way the pattern diagrams are laid out, almost in a handwritten style. The only good thing about them is that the rows are shown in alternate colours so it’s easier to remember where you are up to. I don’t think this a book for complete beginners to either crochet or the amigurumi style. I think it’s probably a good idea to have a go at making some simple spheres or tubes first. One cute little feature that I’ve just noticed is that there is a little logo at the side of the page so you can easily flick from one pattern to the next.

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If I’m honest, I would probably have put this book to one side until I got a request for an animal from one of the children. However, my Mum reminded me that my cousin’s little girl was having her first birthday in early January and her Mum has a bit of a liking for owls…

IMG_9280So, Mr Owl became my first project. He did look very appealing. I started working on him just after Christmas while we were on holiday at the in-laws and he was finished by the end of the first week in January, just in time to pop in the post for the birthday girl.

IMG_8879As you can see, I changed the colours quite dramatically from the suggested browns in the book. Brightly coloured owls seem to be fashionable at the moment and I wanted to use my nice, smooth, shiny cotton yarn. The head part is all double crochet, so a little bit tedious but the lilac ‘feathers’ were lovely to stitch. They are more or less just combinations of trebles.

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So here he is in all his fully feathered glory. I am really happy with how he turned out. I wonder what colours everyone else would choose?

So far this February…

The garden has begun to wake up and I have even planted some seeds….

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IMG_9187and finally got round to harvesting the last of the potatoes and a few more leeks.

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IMG_9182I made my first ever rough-puff pastry. It was delicious considering how hastily I made it. Lemon, leek and goats cheese tart, courtesy of this recipe. A bit too lemony for me but still enjoyable.

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IMG_9136Look how well it puffed up! It was slightly disconcerting to work out how much fat and how many calories were in it. Never mind, I’m still running.

Trying to enforce some ‘screen free’ time. This was the surprise hit of last weekend. It is a good game and easy to play too. Even babykins could get involved.

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Of course I have no problem entertaining myself. I have been working on the back of my cushion cover. Random stripes made up of trebles. Typically I ran out of several colours. Just when I was hoping that this might use them up for good I had to go and buy more.

IMG_9149The weather has been mostly dull, wet, cold and windy but there have been occasional days when the sun has shone. Then it has only been cold and windy. It’s been a time for staying inside with a cup of tea and a nice bun (or two).

IMG_9190At least we are not flooded in this part of the country. Fingers crossed that this stormy season will be over soon. Spring is definitely on the way, the days are lengthening, only two weeks of February to get through.

 

Random Rainbow Star Garland

I started this project (which was a commission) back in the Christmas holidays. I used my free time while we were visiting the in-laws to hook a rainbow of stars. The first round on these stars is essentially a granny square: clusters of three trebles, separated by a chain, except in this case, there are five clusters instead of four. As you can see in the photo below, this forms a little pentagon shape. You can probably also see how I began to arrange the colours. The balls of yarn, which are 100% cotton double knit, are in a classic rainbow arrangement (which I still remember by the mnemonic Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain) as are the little pentagons below. However, the pentagons have been moved along one place, relative to the original order; the top row one place to the left and the bottom row one place to the right. That gave me the colour combination for the next two rounds as I just moved them on one place again for the third round.

IMG_8831The second round is just another ‘granny pentagon’. If you’ve made granny squares, you’ll have an idea of what I mean. If not, there is a tutorial here. It’s not exactly the same pattern as mine but you get the idea. The third round is where I tend to mix it up. By that I mean I can’t completely remember how I did it. When my three round stars are complete, they tend to look a lot more like five-petalled flowers. They have to be blocked out to pull them into shape. I do this by soaking them in a mixture of PVA glue and water (usually about one part PVA to 4 or 5 parts water), squeezing them out and then pinning them out to dry. I have a couple of foam yoga blocks covered in muslin for this purpose but I have recently seen children’s interlocking foam play mats used and I like that idea too. This garland was going to be 2.5m long when finished so I needed some smaller stars to string in between the three-coloured ones. I made them by doing just two rounds in the same colour.

IMG_4393Once everything was dry (and indeed crispy from the PVA) I added buttons to the stars. These days I am doing this job with a glue gun. Stitching them all on was not my idea of fun. It’s probably hard to tell but each star has a different button or combination of buttons, hopefully providing a bit of contrast.

When it came to arranging the whole thing I would probably have strung the stars together like a traditional rainbow, red, orange, yellow, green etc. etc. but the person I was making it for suggested it should be more random. I’m really glad she did, though at the time I wondered how it would work. I tried to pick the stars at random and lay them out but in all honesty, the truly random approach just wouldn’t work. I had to tweak the order they were in so that I didn’t have two of the same colours together.

IMG_4403This is the only picture that has every star on it

Finally, I had to somehow stitch the whole thing together. Last time I made a garland like this I made one long chain and individually stitched on all the shorter chains with the stars at the end. The finished result looks just fine but I’ve got a nagging doubt that the sewn in ends will start to work loose eventually. My holly and star garlands had the decorations attached to the main chain without any ‘dangly bits’ and that was MUCH easier (note to self: make them all like that in future).

This time I made the whole thing with chain stitch and slip stitches. I workded one long foundation chain, 2.5m long, did some calculations regarding where to make the hanging down chains and put in my stitch markers accordingly. I then worked my way back along the enormous row of chains, slip stitching into each one (yawn) until I got to a marker. Then I chained ‘downwards’ catching the star in the last chain in the row and slip stitched back up again to the main chain and along to the next marker. I think there were 35 chains between each downward chain and each of those was made of either 25 or 40 chains depending on whether a big or small star was at the end (I knew I should have written these details down when I was doing it). It was a complete pain in the *****. I grumbled all the way through doing it, swearing ‘never again’. If you’re like me and find the foundation rows of any crochet item to be slow and fiddly, you’ll know why this was such a chore. However, it does produce a satisfyingly strong looking ‘rope’ and there were no ends to sew in. It will never fall apart!

IMG_8956It’s very hard to photograph anything this long and still capture the details but I hope you get the idea. I think it’s a very cheery piece of crochet and I hope it looks good in it’s new home.

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New Year – New Project: Granny Square Cushion Covers

If you read my self-indulgent Christmas wish list you will know that I was after some newer, larger cushions. In the end, I was able to get some plain cushion inserts in the size I wanted but there was nothing available (ready made) that I wanted to cover them with. So, I bit the bullet and bought some fabric. Goodness knows why because I’m not really much of a sewer. Here it is – quite floral and chintzy but I liked the colours in it. I’ve shown it next to our checked curtains and our ancient leather sofa.

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IMG_4380I only bought enough fabric to cover the two new cushions that I bought but I already had an old, threadbare cushion that, being the biggest on the sofa, is the one the children fight over like the most. I decided that the quickest and easiest way to cover it would be to crochet something. I also had it in mind to use up some of my acrylic yarn stash.

IMG_4365Because I wanted this to be a quick and easy make I thought simple granny squares would be a good idea. I’m also hoping that good old fashioned grannies will be in keeping with the slightly vintage floral feel of the print.

But, it’s always worth having a wander around the internet to see what ideas other people have had. I had a good look around on Pinterest, searching for ‘Granny Squares’ and I found lots of lovely projects. I also found that the term ‘Granny Square’ covers a multitude of stitches and patterns. If you want to look at some of the things I pinned, you can visit my board ‘cushion inspiration’ by clicking here. For me though, a granny square should only be made up of trebles (double crochet in US terms) clustered together, with each cluster usually separated by a chain stitch. Something like this in fact.

IMG_4368This is the first test square that I made. If you look carefully, you might be able to see that some of the rows have clusters of four trebles together while some only have the traditional three. What you might not be able to tell is that there are no chains separating the clusters, except at the corners, where there are two. I want my squares to be as dense as possible so that eventually, the plain white cotton underneath doesn’t show too much so I pinched the ‘no chains’ idea from here. I am also using a 3.5mm hook. I like the fact that it contains all the matching colours I found in my stash. I also like the fact that the last row is a similar colour to the sofa. What’s more, I found that making 16 of these should be just the right size for one side of my cushion.

IMG_4382I was pretty happy about the colour combinations but not too sure that I had enough of the two central turquoises. I attempted to find out by weighing my yarn and weighing a tiny square made just from the first two colours. I wasn’t going to have enough of the second, lighter colour so I bit the bullet and bought a new ball of Stylecraft Special 100% acrylic in ‘sherbet’.

IMG_4366It is a lovely colour so I have no regrets. I’m already mentally covering my other old cushions in this yarn.

So, I had to start making another test square, slightly different this time and ending in the bright red in preparation for the ‘join as you go’ technique. This time I made all the clusters of four trebles, just as an experiment and it seemed to work quite well.

IMG_4369Off I went, making 15 more new squares, one colour at a time.

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IMG_4370When I got to this stage I  started to thing that I should have made the whole cushion from a much more limited colour palette. And, there was something bugging me about that bright red. I photographed a few new combinations and I think I am going to replace it with this pinker shade. I’m not entirely sure what it is called. It’s definitely another Stylecraft Special dk, I think it’s ‘Pomegranate’.

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IMG_4385Progress has slowed somewhat this week as I have been working on a commission – a  garland of rainbow coloured stars. Normally they don’t take too long but I decided to try a new joining method. It turns out my method was a very bad idea, it takes forever. I’m hoping that by this time next week I will have finished the garland and finished at least a few of my squares so I can really see how this new colour combination works.

2013 was…crochetastic (with teeny-tiny bit of knitting)

Projects I’ve worked on this year: knitted sheep; spring bunting for Mothering Sundaypink bag and patchwork bag; hearts in abundance here, here, and here; stars; snowflakes; hair ties; holly and star bunting; rainbow hat and mitts; autumn flowers and autumn leaves; granny bunting and finally, the fun of Yarndale. Not all my projects are finished, some I despair of ever finishing but looking back, there are plenty of nice things that have come ‘off the hook’ in 2013.
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