29 October 2014

Buying Handmade - Layla Amber

I love unique jewellery and wear a necklace almost every day. By far my favourite necklaces are unique, hand made ones and what better place to shop for these than Etsy? Whenever I am looking for a special and different gift this is my go to place.  I can loose hours just looking through and discovering new handmade shops.

I recently decided to buy myself a present, as most of my Etsy purchases are usually for other people! Why the hell not, eh! One of the prettiest shops I have discovered lately is Layla Amber, I adore all of her stuff.  She illustrates and makes each piece by hand herself, such a talent.  The hardest part was deciding which pieces to go for.  In the end I chose two small necklaces, a buttercup and an acorn.

I noticed that the acorn came as standard on a longer chain but I emailed Layla and asked if it was possible to put on a shorter chain and she got back to me straight away to say no problem at all. 

One of the things I love best about buying handmade is the packaging, and Laya's pieces are no exception.  My neclaces came in paper tied up with pretty string with the cutest little thank you card with her social media links on the back.  Inide the neclaces were mounted onto printed card, illustrated beautfully with a gorgous typeface.  I almost didn't want to open them!

Here's my lovely buttercup, I love the detail cut out of the wood, so pretty.  There are 3 other flower designs to choose from in this range too, plus larger flower necklaces. 

I also went for a teeny acorn, how cute! I have a thing abut oak trees and already own 3 more oak themed necklaces, but not a single acorn so I couldn't resist this one.

Here is my neck sporting my new neclaces! I won't wear them together like this usually but just wanted to give a scale guide.
You can find Layla Amber on Etsy here, go now, buy pretty things...
Just to let you know, in case anyone is wondering, I was not asked or paid to write this.  I chose and purchased these necklaces with my own money. I love finding amazing new designer makers online and I think we should shout about their awesomness!

21 October 2014

A Crochet Dino - Pattern Review

As soon as I knew I was going to have a new baby nephew I began to think about what I could crochet (obviously!) and I knew instantly that I wanted to make him a dinosaur, specifically a T-Rex so I set about googling for a decent pattern.

I found THIS PATTERN from Bluephone Studios which you can find in their Etsy store here I fell in love, how cute! I love this pattern, I love his rounded shape and thought he would be just perfect for a new baby.

The Timothy T-Rex pattern costs just £3.18 and is available in an instant PDF download.

(Image credit: Bluephone Studios)
I really like the line of these dinos, the body is one solid shape rather than my usual Crochet Pals which are made up of a seperate body and a head. It takes a lot of skill to design a crochet pattern that is a little different like this, one that is molded into one solid shape.  I wasn't sure how easy it was going to be to make and just couldn't figure out how to get the shape without having to join sections.
The pattern itself is excellent, so well written and easy to follow with everything you need, yarn suggestions and hook sizes.  I really liked the joining up section, this made it very easy, with a instructions as to exactly where to place the pieces.

(Image credit: Bluephone Studios)
I set off crocheting, following the pattern exactly and I was so surprised and happy to find that with just a few rows in he was taking shape!
The hardest part of the pattern has to be the stripes.  I must admit to unravelling and re-doing this section quite a number of times to try and get it right.  I have not worked this way with colour before, changing colours mid way through a row so I was a little unsure how I was going to make this look neat.  I did get very frustrated at one point and considered abandoning the stripes, but how could I, look how cute they are.  I think it is so effective using a different shade of the same colour.
My stripes kept ending up underneath his chin which is just not right at all! I did end up going off pattern a bit to save my sanity and just working the stripes vaguely where I thought they ought to be.  They did end up a bit uneven in the end, but I think that just adds to Dino's charm! ;-P
My top tip for the stripes is to take your ends with you! Don't cut off your old colour and fasten off, simply bring the end of old colour with you and stitch over the tail, that way it is right there when you need to change colour again and you do not risk messy joins.  Do be careful though, if your stitches are not very tight and colours very bright you can see your lines of yarn a little bit.

I think my little blue dino turned out so well, he looks like the pictures right? That is testament to how well written the pattern is.

What I love best is the teeny tiny arms! When I made them up I thought, this can't be right, they are far too small, but they look so cute. T-Rex's have stupidly short arms don't they! This vid always makes me lol!

Scream! Look at all the pretty Dino colours! (Image credit: Bluephone Studios)

The pattern calls for a safety eye, but I changed this bit and replaced the safety eye with an embroidered eye as I felt this was safer for a baby.  You can just never be too careful and I didn't want any small parts.  I still achieved the 'pulled in' shape by simply pulling the thread through to the other side.
I couldn't resist making another dino! This time in green! This little guy is for my other little Nephew Corey.
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16 October 2014

Scarily Cute Ghost - Crochet Pattern

BOO!!! HOW scary is this ghost? Screeeam! hehe, it's the cutest ghost crochet pattern ever! I do NOT take credit for this pattern unfortunately, but this is the work of Amy Gaines, but you can find the pattern for FREE here yeah! I LOVE Amy Gaines's super cute patterns, do visit her shop here https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/AmyGaines

The yarn I used for this little guy is Sirdar Snuggly Snowflake, the softest, snuggliest, loveliest yarn ever, but also the most frustrating and difficult to work with yar ever! Grrr. I was so excited when this yarn arrived in the post and couldn't wait to get started but basically you cannot see your stitches at all, so you have no idea what you are doing and for someone who has perfectionist tendencies with my crochet makes its very annoying.

Here is Amy's original photo (credit Amy Gaines) as you can see little scary ghost is meant to be a little plumper, have more of a peak to his head and a longer 'tail'.  I followed the pattern correctly, but my little ghost ended up a bit shorter with a less defined tail. 
I love the pattern so much and knew someone else who might just like him too... so I persevered with my frustrating yarn.  I wasn't pleased at first with how he turned out, but then when I put his little sideways smile on I fell in love.  He's my little imperfect ghosty pal.
Here he is modelling a side view pose!

Here you can see his little stubby ghost tail! This snuggly soft little guy now has a new home with my new baby Nephew James.  I just maybe won't show him the pics of how he is 'supposed' to look!
Have you worked with Snowflake or other similar 'teddy' yarns?  Any tips for making the process easier? I would like to use the yarn again as it is SO soft and lovely to touch.

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13 October 2014

Crochet Halloween Pumpkin - FREE Pattern

I believe I mentioned this last year on my Nails post and my Party post but I LOVE Halloween! Loved it ever since I was little and used to go out trick or treating with my sister dressed as witches. Friends and family seem to be reluctant to dress up these days and get in the festive spirit, something about being 'too old'! NEVER! Anywho... any excuse for some themed crafts.  I present to you the first of two Halloween themed crafts this week on the blog, meet my little Pumpkin Pal!

You will need some orange yarn, I am using Patons Fairytale Dreamtime DK and a small piece of brown yarn, I have no idea what this yarn is, it was just loose in my stash.  You will need black embroidery thread for face. You will also need a crochet hook, my trusty 3.5, darning needle and some scissors.

My pumpkin is teeny, he measures only 29cm round.  But you could probably just double or triple all the numbers in the pattern here to make a bigger one!

Here's the pattern... worked in a continuous spiral

  1. Ch 3, join with a ss to form a ring
  2. Work 5 dc into your ring, don't join (5)
  3. Work 2 dc into each st (10)
  4. *2 dc in next st, 1 dc in next st* repeat x4 more times (15)
  5. *2 dc in next st, 1 dc in next 2 stitches* repeat x4 more times (20)
  6. *2 dc in next st, 1 dc in next 3 sts* repeat x4 more (25)
  7. *2 dc in next st, 1 dc in next 4 sts* repeat x4 more (30)
  8. *2 dc in next st, 1 dc in next 5 sts* repeat x4 more (35)
  9. *2 dc in next st, 1 dc in next 6 sts* repeat x 4 more (40)
  10. *2 dc in next st, 1 dc in next 7 sts* repeat x4 more (45)
  11. *2 dc in next st, 1 dc in next 8 sts* repeat x4 more (50)
  12. 50 dc around (50)
  13. 50 dc around (50)
  14. 50 dc around (50)
  15. *dc2tog, 1 dc in next 8 sts* repeat x 4 more (45)
  16. 45 dc around (45)
  17. *dc2tog, 1 dc in next 7 sts* repeat x4 more (40)
  18. 40 dc around (40)
  19. *dc2tog, 1 dc in next 6 sts* repeat x4 more (35)
  20. 35 dc around (35)
  21. *dc2tog, 1 dc in next 5 sts* repeat x4 more (30)
  22. *dc2tog, 1 dc in next 4 sts* repeat x4 more (25)
  23. *dc2tog, 1 dc in next 3 sts* repeat x4 more (20)
Pause here and add your face! See below for face instructions.  For my pumpkin I left the front where the face is in one large segment, if you prefer to segment this bit see instructions below and segment your pumpkin before embroidering your face.

Stuff your pumpkin before moving on with the last couple of rows, pause again just before you finally sew it up to check you have the right amount of stuffing.
  1. *dc2tog, 1 dc in next 2 sts* repeat x4 more (15)
  2. *dc2tog, 1 dc in next st * repeat x4 more (10)
  3. Cut off your yarn, leaving a really really long tail (you need this to make the pumpkin segments later) and thread with a darning needle.
  4. Work your needle through each stitch and pull tight to close up the hole.

The Face

For the face I used some thick black embroidery thread, use all the strands.  I marked out my face with a little pencil mark first, using the stitches to line them up and as a size guide to get your eyes even.

I marked out a triangle shape outline with my thread then I simply filled it in with horizontal stitches across decreasing the size of the stitch according to the triangular shape.  Ensure you fasten off your thread at the back securely.  

If you are using a thick dense yarn it is fine to go straight from one eye to the next without fastening off and snipping but be careful as sometimes the 'trails' show at the front.

Stuff your pumpkin with toy stuffing.  Be careful to use stuffing suitable for children, flame retardant etc if this is for a child.

Use the same black thread for the mouth, simply mark it out how you want it in pencil and then I used a running stitch.  You can use your stitches as markers again to get straight lines.


Now for the pumpkin shape!  This is where your long tail comes in.

Mark out with pencil or a tiny stitch equal segments around your pumpkin shape, thread a darning needle onto the end of your long tail and bring the yarn out from the bottom and round your pumpkin and down through the top, pull your yarn tight so you get the desired squashed pumpkin segments.

Repeat this all the way round so you have the desired number of segments.  I put in 3 small segments in the back and left the front where the face is in one larger segment.  If you wish to segment the face as well it is probably best to segment before embroidering!

To finish off your scary pumpkin add a little stalk.  For the stalk using your brown yarn,  I simply made a ch of 7, then starting in the second ch from hook worked 1 sc into each stitch down, fastening off and leaving a long tail for sewing onto my pumpkin.

There you have it, a scary Halloween pumpkin! I probably wouldn't try sticking a candle in him, nor leaving him outside! I don't think a soggy wool pumpkin is very scary! LOL!
Do let me see if you make a scary pumpkin, or any other Halloween crafts! Tweet me, Instagram me, FB me, you can find all my social media links up there at the top on the right.
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10 October 2014

Bear Square Baby Blanket

The most special news ever happened very recently, my little sis became a mummy! Screeeam! Oh and what a fantastic mummy she is already, I can tell she is such a natural.  We welcomed teeny baby James Philip Raffles into the world on Tuesday 30th September, phew he just made it into THE best month ever! He was 6 lb 15 oz a teeny little thing but the cutest little baby EVER! I now could not be a more proud auntie to have the two bestest, most perfect, cutest nephews in the world!

So of course I crocheted! I crocheted quite a lot.  Let's start with this, bear square blanket as this was his main pressie.  I'm in LOVE with it, It's so good (if I do say so myself) I love how it worked out and the colours etc.
 Here's the blankie in all its glory.

My inspiration came from this image, I pinned from Pinterest and it linked to a pattern on Ravelry, which you can find here http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/funny-face-square for free, you need a Ravelry account first though.

I tried a few different 'fluffy' yarns for the bear's face but was not happy with any, I find fluffy yarn infuriating to work with and my circles just were not up to scratch, so I stuck with my trusty Lullaby by Stylecraft and my three colours are Misty, Primrose and Denim. I adore this yarn, super soft and perfect for babies as it is washable.

I joined the blanket in a traditional single crochet raised join, I love this join for a granny square blanket, I like the effect of the edging and it looks great in a contrast colour.  I then edged the entire thing in one row of triple crochet in the grey, with two stitches in each corner, and a ch 3 in between them to get the corner holes.  I then did a row of yellow triples, then a row of blue triples and finally another row of grey triples to finish it off.

All the bears have slightly different personalities! Some have eyes and ears closer together and they all have slightly different smiles.  It wasn't entirely intentional at first but after a few turning out different, I just went with it. My embroidery is not perfect so the back of my work is always a little untidy.  To hide this on my blanket I simply sewed a circle of grey felt to hide the messy stitches.

The finished blanket is super soft and quite heavy and thick, perfect for his pram on these blustery Autumn days.  I hope you like it James. 

7 October 2014

We Stayed in a Camping Barn

Last weekend, after what felt like the driest ever September on record here in Cumbria, it rained a LOT! We of course chose this weekend to brave a camping barn in the Borrowdale Valley.  But if you wait for nice weather to do things in these parts you will never leave the house.  We had lots of fun despite the rain, here are the photos....

I was going to lighten them and edit them, but actually I have left them natural, as they capture the atmosphere and weather of the weekend.

We stayed in Tilly's Barn which is just beyond the village of Stonethwaite in Borrowdale, Cumbria.  As you can see it was quite remote but absolutely stunning! Just look at the view from our door, so nice to wake up to this in the mornings and our little inquisitive sheep friends in the garden!

So here's our barn in full, not massive, just a nice cosy size, but can sleep up to 8 people!  You can find out more about the barn and its history, and of course how to book a stay on the website here, the people that run the barn could not be more friendly and helpful.

So I guess you want a little peek inside then, do you do you... here's Emma inviting you in....

The wee kitchen, actually a good size kitchen, with literally everything you will need.  We were so impressed with how well equipped it was.  All saucepans, utensils and crockery, not just wine glasses but champagne flutes too! Lots of candles, cleaning products, bin liners, etc etc... so if you forget it, likelihood is there will be one in the barn anyway!

I Loved this little yellow table, unfortunately it would not fit under my jumper so I left it in the barn! haha.  It would look perfect in my little loft flat though...

The cosy living room, with original stone barn walls and lots of books and games to keep you occupied.  The barn is well a barn! It runs off gas lights, some solar lights and water is from the local stream and heated by an open fire. The toilet is outside, but there is a little bath upstairs. So don't expect a luxury cottage, there is no mains electric and certainly no phone signal or internet.  But if you want to get away from it all it is the perfect place.  It was luxury to us after our usual camping trips of bothies or the tent.

Upstairs is a large dormitory to sleep 8 with bunk beds which is rather fun! I didn't get any good snaps as it was a bit too dark in there but there are some on the website.

Here's the camping barn gang!

I have so so many pics of the pink sheep who lived in the garden! They just stopped and stared at us every time we went out, this was a bit freaky in the dark when all you can see is their gleaming green eyes!

Off we go for a pretty walk round the area...

Look at that scenery! Look at it! Who cares about the bad weather when you are right here?

A little cow friend...

And a rather big one!

Little herdies escaping the rain under the trees.

Yeah a snap of the birthday girls! We all have our birthdays within weeks of each other round this time of year so the camping weekend was to celebrate. That's me in the middle!

Of course there was LOTS of yummy food, here we all are in the cafe at Grange.

There was a wee bit of drinking too, here we are in the pub at Stonethwaite!

A last Jo and Mark camping barn selfie before we set off home, up the track...

Mark loved driving on this track, it was quite a challenge, nobody else manged it the whole way.  He likes to think his old Astra Estate is actually a 4x4!

No visit to the lakes is complete without a stop off at The Filling Station Cafe on the way home for a huge breakfast of Hot Choc and Pancakes! Yum.