Monday, 30 June 2014

Hurst Country Fair: wet/dry, happy/sad and Unicorns

The country Fair at Hurst was very interesting. Saturday was very miserable it rained most of the day and when it wasn't raining it was absolutely pouring. We spent most of the day covering and uncovering the crochet to stop it getting wet. Sunday was a beautiful day, no rain mostly glorious sun and lots of people. So why did we take more or less the same amount on each day I wonder?

If you look carefully you can see the rain on the roof and the drips around the edges of the gazebo.

Probably our best selling items were these key rings.

Sadly we only sold one of the pot plants but don't they look pretty set up like this?

Our stall was right opposite the arena so at one point during the day we looked through the rain only to see princesses on unicorns which were dancing to the music - honestly!

Hurst is a small village but the show was extremely well organised, with gazebos already erected when we got there and people to help with traffic management etc.  My favourite part was the dog racing: just any old dogs chasing a ball in the direction of the finishing line -very funny. Or was it the hobby horse racing?  I am very glad to say dobbin found a new and loving home after having been loved by Ben and Danny for quite some time.

Saddest story of the day a little girl fell in love with purple bear and her grandma bought it for her but they came back later because she had lost it. I said I would make her a new one but sadly I can't find any more yarn like this. So two things; if you know the whereabouts of the bear then please let us know - anonymity guaranteed. Or if you know a source of 4ply variegated purple yarn- PLEASE PLEASE get in touch.
Thank you.

P.S. in search of yarn, today we went to Hobby Craft -didn't find the yarn I wanted but found lots I didn't know I wanted. But I did find CE marked stuffing so with all the help we have received from the CE group and the stuffing we can now CE mark all our toys. Hooray!

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Inspiration B and Q and Free Braid Instructions

Last time I promised to tell you about tile spacers because I knew how interested you would be!!!Well it wasn't true because the thing I used was a plastic packer for jamming doors and windows in place.
There are three different colours which represent three different thicknesses. I have found them easier to use  for braid making if the prongs are shorter so the red ones I cut with scissors, the green ones I cut with a bread saw and I suspect I will need a hack saw for the black ones. I then filed the rough bits off and used a flame to melt/smooth the finished product.

We have long been searching for something to make small pom-poms with and when I saw these in B and Q who could resist ( 30 in a packet for less than £1.50). Then Mrs creativity or Vicky as I sometimes call her got hold of one and the rest is history. She worked out how to use them to make pretty braids much in the same way you would use your loom bands and then I spent some time developing her idea. First attempt too ambitious so a bit messy.

 The thing I keep forgetting is to leave a very long end at the start as this will form one of the ties.
It is easier when you start to use super chunky yarn, which gives a neater finish.

 The one below is Dk and it took all my concentration
to keep the colours in the right order.
I went to sports day yesterday and many of the older girls were wearing flowers in their hair so I have started this braid. It is not finished yet but I hope it gives a flavour of what is possible.


1.  Make a slip knot loop and put it on the left hand prong.

2.  Wind the yarn around the right hand prong, going through the gap around the front and then back through the gap.

3. Now wrap the yarn around the LH. prong, going around the front first, then around the back and back through the gap towards you.

4. Repeat 2 and 3 until you have three loops on each prong ( this time you also count the slip knot as a loop).

5. Use the hook to lift the bottom loop on the LH prong over the top of the other two loops. It is quite difficult to do this as you have to stop the other loops sliding off and hold the end of the yarn as well.

6. Now take the bottom loop on the RH prong over the top of the other two loops.

7.  Your work should now look like this.

8.  Wrap the yarn as before but first around the LH prong and then the RH prong to get back to three loops on each and now do 5 and 6 again.

9.  Just keep doing numbers 5 to 8 over and over again until your braid is as long as you want it.

10. To finish off when your work looks like number 7 don’t do any more wrapping, just lift the bottom loop over the top one on each prong so that you now only have one loop on each. Then put all the loops on one prong and lift the bottom one over the top one.  Slide the final loop off the prong, cut the yarn and then put it through the loop and pull tight.

NOTE: to make it easier you can do all of this with only two loops on each prong and just lift the bottom loop over the top loop each time.
When you get really clever you can make braids with three different colours or add some beads – use your creativity and imagination and have fun.
You can also use the prongy thing to make tiddly pom-poms!
Finally we are at the Hurst country Fair this weekend so come along and say hello. You can also try your hand at making braids, pom-poms or making a finger knitted bangle, so hope to see you there.

Monday, 23 June 2014

The garden is a happy (hippy) place.

We have been talking about crochet for the garden well here is another idea?

 Something about bunting makes me happy. Perhaps it is its association with celebration. Here is some of the bunting that Vicky and I have made. It is strung between a jasmin and a wooden fence. It is a bright and scented place to sit but it has shade if you are too hot. What more could you want?

Here are some close ups                                                                                          

It even looks good in a heap, somehow full of promise? 

I went off to make a bowl of strawberries at the end of the last post - well I did but I think you might need a pretty big bowl.

The bowl on the left has real strawberries in it, you can see that I got the scale a bit wrong. Never mind I have made them into key rings or bag charms. You will certainly never lose your keys again if they are attached to one of these.

 Strawberries make you think Wimbledon (or maybe cream) so I tried a tennis racquet. As you can see not everything  is successful, one hit and the handle ended at 90 degrees to the face! I used to play with one like this and it weighed a ton.

This is today's cliff hanger a pretty hippy type head band with flowers and bells. The question is what has it got to do with a tile spacer bought at B and Q? All will be revealed in the next exciting episode.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

More Garden Crochet for the Flower People.

Next show/fair is in just over a week so all my crochet has been in preparation. But it is still for gardens

Spare buttons glued on to wooden row marker sticks Not really crochet but pretty.
 All of the flower pot covers and markers. -so far!
All made using dk. cotton of various makes but any double knitting will do.
Notice how the markers have been made to go with the pot cover. Pot covers are all washable and re-usable.
The trouble is I do these as I go along and so I don't know how to make another one the same, which is a shame because I really like the 3D effect of the one on the left.  But if you just experiment and make a tube that fits around the bottom of the pot, the naturals stretch in crochet will allow your cover to fit.
Is it possible to have too many flowers?
The colour combination of this one has worked out well. Another happy accident.

 This is another set of coasters using the free pattern from a previous blog - still trying to take interesting photographs. Notice that if you make rows 3,5 and 6 one colour and row 4 a different colour you get a row of what looks like hearts!
You can use the coasters in the garden as Vicky said - ideal for your pimms.
Finally a pair of neck purses for people going to festivals. They will need a safe place to store their beer money.
I can' really wangle it so that these are for the garden -I suppose you could keep seeds or string or something in it if you are a gardener.

I am off to make a bowl of strawberries and some bunting (crochet ones of course) - it's the time of the year you know!

Monday, 16 June 2014

CE Testing Crochet Toys

If you were to see an old woman weighing bean cans and torturing small crochet creatures in her kitchen, I expect you might suggest she needs medical help. In fact this is just to comply with the safety of toys laws. Don't get me wrong I thoroughly approve of making sure toys are not a threat to children's well being and we always have tried to make the things we make very safe. You can probably feel the but coming: we also believe in upcycling and recycling and we usually only make limited numbers (sometimes only one) of each toy. This it seems is no longer possible. The rules have been made for large manufacturers of toys and we small artisan makers must try to comply.

I have tried to get round the problem of limited numbers of each toy by making a generic toy for testing:

 He has a limb, an ear, some hair, all the different eyes we might use and each side of him is made to a different tension.

Now assemble your torture kit - not shown is a bag full of bean cans and sugar bags weighing in total 9.2 kg
This is me testing a seam.
And when you have tried to stretch him on the rack you have to try and shove a wooden spoon into him . The scales should read 1kg but it is quite hard to do this yourself as well as take the picture. Anyway he has passed all of the tests so far - hooray.

Having said that we rarely make many toys of the same kind there are one or two exceptions so I had the terrible task of selecting one of these dear little mice for the torture chamber. These are one of our best sellers.

Here I am checking that the beads used for his nose and eyes don't come off - they didn't but his tail needs a better way of anchoring it.
He is being very brave!

Here I am trying to pull the hair out of a minion. The fact that he is an evil minion doesn't make me feel any better!

The first lot of tests are done and mostly things have gone well but I am dreading tomorrow when I have to start the flamability tests so I am going to be setting fire to mice - good grief!

The final test for all of these is the chemical migration of dyes test on the yarn and I really don't think it is even possible to find out about this for the vintage yarns we have used.

On a lighter note I wonder if I can sue the government for the damage I have done to my back doing the tension test?

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Garden Crochet

Yesterday mum touched on my new campaign to take crochet into the outdoors.  I love yarn-bombing/yarn-storming when it is done well and I think there's a real place for lovely yarny things brightening our gardens.

Mum blogged about some of the things she is making at the moment in the last post.  I recommend going back and looking at her pictures ... but not 'til you've finished here of course! :)

So, let me introduce you to our outdoorsy crochet.  Some from the past and some currently for sale as patterns or finished objects.

Little hanging baskets made from bright t-shirt yarn hanging on a trellis.  I filled them with strawberry and tomato plants.  Can you see the two little crochet bird friends keeping watch?

Flower pot covers.
 Again in T-Shirt yarn.  Mum turned some of these into bigger hanging baskets.

Pretty, aren't they?  Particularly if you match your pot colour with your flowers.  They make a real feature.
T shirt yarn is so lovely and stretchy and versatile.  The bright colours really cheer up the garden corners that belong to children. My boys have a giant t shirt yarn crochet net to keep their foot balls in. It is like an enormous crochet shopping bag that hangs on the fence in the back garden. Dead quick to make - less than an hour with a giant hook.  I must write up the pattern to share.  If you have children you need one!

These are my favourites!  We sell loads of them every year in many different colours.

Tiny (although bigger than life-size) woolly bumble bees. With shiny stingers and antennae.
I don't know if you can see clearly but I have a whole swarm in the bush in my front garden.  We sell the bees and the pattern in our Etsy shop.

If you're really brave ... what about a nest of spiders crawling on your decking?  
It is my ambition to fill my front garden with little animals.  I'd like chickens on the lawn, a cat by the door, crochet hanging baskets full of crochet flowers, slugs and snails and frogs and hedgehogs and ... everything!  My only problem is that things don't last long in the English weather.  They go soggy and colours fade.  I need to find a good way of water-proofing.  I've a feeling this project may take me a while.

Victoria x