Monday, 31 December 2012

Happy New Year

I hope you've all had a lovely Christmas. I somehow managed to add a few handmade touches to some of my gifts, and made a few homemade decorations too. I loved sitting and relaxing amongst my Christmas decorations that I'm slowly adding to year after year.

I'll share my paper bunting tutorial asap as you could make this any time of the year for any occasion.
I've had a small break from my knitting, with just a pair of socks to finish over Christmas. I gave the hats a complete break as I realised they were getting me down a little. Desiging and knitting 30  fun hats sounds exciting - and it is, but they're time consuming too and they've been eating up a lot of my time lately. Spending some much needed time with my family has been wonderful over Christmas and I feel a lot happier and much more enthusiastic now. I have 5 more hats to design, a couple of hats to re-knit in different shades and a couple of hats to completely re-design at the request of the US publisher. We're way past the initial deadlines, but I can only knit so fast, so there's not a lot I can do about it. I've decided not to worry over it - if they're desperate they'll have to find another designer to knit up the last few hats. It's not the end of the world after all.
We had a lovely night out at our neighbour's 50th. surprise party. A great opportunity for me and hubby to get dressed up and let our hair down - something we don't do often, but perhaps should do more of. Perhaps we'll organise some 'date nights' to the cinema, or go out for a meal or just a nice walk.
I've been busy planning for the year ahead, deciding on my aims and goals and what I what to achieve and focus on once the book is out of the way. I have some new design ideas, so ideas for my blog and some free patterns to post. I've been thrilled with the way that 2012 has turned out. I've been delighted with most of my designs, and here are some of my favourites from this year:


I'll be back with a bang after the New Year and I wish you all the very best for a great 2013. Let's hope it brings us all happiness, craftiness, peace and  good health xxx

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Knit Today Issue 80 - a great xmas pressie

It's still not too late to grab yourself a great last minute pressie with issue 80 of Knit Today and it's FREE diary, with a free flower pattern for every month of the year, designed by me.
When my copy of Knit Today dropped through the letterbox, I literally squealed out loud when I saw the fab free diary with my 12 flower patterns - one for each month. It's a fab free gift that can be used throughout the year to keep on top of your appointments, not to mention the 12 lovely flowers designed by little old me. The flowers include:

Snowdrops - January
Rose - February
Daffodil - March
Bluebell - April
Tulip - May
Iris - June
Fuchsia - July
Peace Lily - August
Sunflower - September
Phlox - October
Poppy - November
Poinsettia - December

I love all the flowers, but  my favourites are the Fuchsia, the Poppy and the Iris. Here are some photos that I managed to grab before I hurriedly sent off my projects for the deadline (I'm always last minute!!). I mainly used oddments of mercerised cotton as I found this produced a firm fabric.I also used Debbie Bliss Rialto DK.

I really enjoyed designing these flowers and it's strange to think that lots of knitters will be carrying around my diary in their bags for the whole of 2013. I hope you all enjoy making the flowers - they're really satisfying.

If you get a chance to buy it, the magazine is great value for Money. There are some gorgeous patterns including my 6 festive quick knits. I love my christmas tree bunting and my simple wreath. I hope I get chance to make some before christmas.

Happy festive knitting xxxx

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Vintage Loveliness

I love anything vintage - fabric, yarn, surface patterns and most of all vintage knitting and crochet patterns. I have a secret little collection dotted around my various drawers, so that it's no so obvious to the casual observer (namely my husband!!). I have a daughter who loves all things vintage too and I'm lucky that her charity shop rummaging often results in a nice little pile of gorgeous patterns to add to my collection.

Recently I was offered a knitting commission for 3 pairs of socks/stockings - a thigh length pair, an over-the-knee pair and a knee-high pair. I jumped at the chance before considering how long it might take me to design and knit up 3 pairs of long socks. Oops, that was a mistake. Working thigh length stockings on 2.5mm needles with sock yarn isn't something I could do over a few nights. Luckily I've found a nice lady who will knit them up for me. What a a relief - I'll be forever grateful.

Whilst researching socks, mainly for heels, shaping and toes, I came across the most wonderful etsy shop called 2nd. look vintage.I love the way that Lauren has tinted her images to make the items stand out beautifully.

My heart skipped a little beat when I saw her fab collection of vintage clothing, accessories and jewellery. I just love the sophistication of 1940's and 1950's knitted and crocheted bags, gloves, scarves and socks. Somehow they seem timeless and classic.

I love this pretty crochet shrug
and this sexy knitted jumper
This crochet tote is fab

and these sexy stockings were the perfect inspiration for my commission.
Lauren's etsy shop is definitely worth a look if you love anything vintage click here for 2nd. look vintage.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Proud of my Knitting ladies

I'm currently running an intermediate knitting class through the Sandbach Adult Education Programme. At £40 for 5 classes it's bRiLliAntT value.
I was a little apprehensive to say the least about running an intermediate class - what if everyone was more advance than I anticipated? what will we make? Will I be able to keep everyone interested enough for 5 weeks.
I was even more nervous when I was told there were 9 ladies registered. OMG!!! Nine!!
Last minute as usual, I quickly designed a pretty christmas stocking that incorporated various intermediate techniques. We started week one with a fancy edging zig zag strip, then picked up the main stitches from the long length of the strip. We moved on to some simple fairisle then week three took us to the heel. Week four involved some slipped stitch patterning and toe shaping. Some ladies have finished their stockings and others have a little more to do. I was so proud of my ladies. They had only knitted basic stitches and followed basic patterns and they took to the new techniques really well. I'm so impressed with their new found skills and I hope it gives them the confidence to go away and try some more advanced patterns.

Look at their LoVeLy stockings:

Aren't they fAb. We have one week left after half term to learn something new. Can't wait. Then I'll be running a learn to crochet course.

If you live locally to Sandbach you may wish to come along - for more information click here.....

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Let's Get Crafting Issue 44 Review

It seems longer than a week ago that we returned from a lovely family holiday in Menorca. 10 days of uninterrupted sunshine. Lots of sunbathing, snoozing, swimming, eating and walking. Oh, and a little bit of drinking too. Fabulous. Just what the doctor ordered.

I was thrilled to find LGC issue 44 in the pile of post when we returned. Despite being tired, we sat and had a nice cuppa and I had a good read through the latest offerings from LGC.

I love LGC mag. They've supported my work since I first embalked upon knit and crochet designing and I'm forever grateful. The magazine has improved dramatically over the past few years, and the current look is bright, modern, informative and packed full of fun and practical projects.

This month is no exception. It's a festive issue with 23 patterns, so you can start crafting your xmas gifts in plently of time for the big day.

The free yarn pack is a Christmassy combination of red, white, green yellow and purple and these colours have been cleverly used in the wide variety of projects. In terms of value for money, on a personal level I tend to rate the magazines I buy in terms of how many projects I would actually make. For me, this issue is great value for money as I will definitely be making Susie Johns Winter Hat and Christmas Mascots (they're sooo cute!!), Lucinda Ganderton's striking Scatter Cushion, Amanda Berry's Simple Mitts and Mini Sparkling Stocking,  and of course my own designs - Festive Tea Cosy Wrap, my easy Console Cover and Star Bunting.

I'd better start my xmas knitting right away!!!

In addition to the many fab patterns, there's an interesting interview with Erika Knight whose signature style of crochet is so popular at the moment. There's also an informative 'how-to' guide for fair-isle and intarsia knitting. It's not as daunting as it seems and practice definitely makes perfect. I forced myself to get over my fear of intarsia/fair isle knitting by practising simple designs and I'm pleased to say that due to many hours of practice, my console cosy looks extremely neat. There are lots of other interesting articles too - I seem to fnd something extra each time I pick it up.

Another great feature is the granny square club. In issues 43-47 there are 4 unique granny square designs per issue. If you crochet 2 of each per issue you'll have 40 squares to turn into a lap blanket. What a great idea.

So if your looking for a modern, informative and interesting magazine that you'll use over and over again, look no further than Let's Get Crafting.

What's more - if you subscribe this month you'll receive my free chunky hat and scarf pattern (on the front cover), plus the yarns and needles to make it, all in a beautiful sewing box. All the details are in this issue or on the LGC website Happy Crafting!!

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Book Diaries #1

I've finally signed my book contract - whoop whoop, so there's no going back now EEK!!

How absolutely exciting. Well, to be honest my emotions over the past few months have ranged from wildly excited, to frustrated and just plain scared. At the moment I'm panicking as to whether my work is good enough for a book. Now I'll just have to make sure it is!!!.

How did it all begin, you may ask. Well, some time ago I'd put together my own book synopsis and started sending it to prospective publishers. I didn't hear anything back from any of them. Not a dicky bird. How disappointing after ll my hard work. Oh well, I thought, I'll try again with another idea.

But before I got that far, I received a random email out of the blue from a publishing company called Quintet. They'd contacted me once before about a potential book deal called 'Knitted Letters', but I didn't hear anything further from them after my initial response. In fact I've just seen on the worldwide web that the fabulous Catherine Hurst is authoring that book for them. My presumption is that they contact a few prospective authors for each book and choose the most suitable. It obviously wasn't me for the Knitted Letters book.

This time around, they asked if I'd be interested in a Fun Knitted Hats book. I responded with a yes (of course) and they asked me to write the book synopsis, a biography and knit up a couple of samples along with instructions. Armed with my work, they went off to a book fair to 'sell' the book concept and hey presto, it attracted interest and the book went live.

Since then, I've been to-ing and fro-ing with the very patient editor at Quintet about sizes, designs, book content etc. The planning really does take a long time but it's important to get everything right before I start designing and knitting.

So, I'm now in the process of sketching the hats. There are 30 in total so it's rather time-consuming. I had to take some quick sketching lessons from my artist daughter Kate (you can read all about Kate's work here). Thanks to Kate, my sketches look good and are being well-received. I've quite enjoyed sitting and drawing in the lovely sunshine we've been having.

The hats are meant to be fun and wacky, so it's not a serious book. Perhaps the content isn't exactly what I'd have chosen, but I'm excited all the same and I'm determined to make the book as great as I possibly can.

So far, my main concern has been about hat sizing. Children's heads vary so much and grow quickly from birth to child age, but after a lot of discussion and research I'm finally happy with the sizing which seems to compare well with other knitted hat books. I love working out the stitch counts and shaping - with my mathematical mind, it's just up my street.

I invited my knitty friend Tracey Todhunter to design 8 of the hats for the book and she's as excited as I am. (you can read about Tracey's work here). We talked last year about taking over the world with our knitting and crochet, and here we are writing a book. It just shows that with hard work and determination you can achieve your dreams.

I've been tinkering about with the first few designs  and I'm delighed with the outcome. They're looking fab and funky. I just need some cute little heads to try them on for me.

In the meantime, I'm still working on my magazine commissions, so I'll be knitting and crocheting in every spare moment to meet my deadlines. Wish me luck and I'll keep you informed on my progress.

Thanks to everyone who's supported me so far and for helping me to believe in myself.

Happy crafting xx

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Knit Today, Yarnwise and Let's Get Crafting

Well, I can't believe it's been so long since I blogged. To be honest, I've been so ridiculously busy, either working on commissons or negotiating my book deal. Yes I know, a book deal. How exciting is that? I'll be blogging separately about the book in my "book diaries". This post is to let you know which of my designs are featured in this month's knit and crochet mags.

Firstly, do you remember my labour of love - the knitted blanket. Well, here it is in all it's glory, in Knit Today, issue 75, along with a matching cushion and place mats. All ready for the hot and sunny days (like today). It's really easy to make, knitted in strips that are sewn together. Some of the squares have love hearts embossed on them, to compliment the cushion. I think it looks really pretty in the photo shoot.

Next are my mocassin slipper in Yarnwise, issue 50. I haven't been able to buy a copy of Yarnwise despite searching everywhere, but hopefully I'll receive a contributor's copy soon. I'm delighted with these slippers, they're a female version of the men's slippers here (but smaller and with a different cable design). I've noticed that quite a few people have knitted them already on Ravelry and they look fab. They're super warm and comfy.

My good friend Tracey also has a design in Yarnwise 50 and she's blogged about her pretty cushion here.

Last but certainly not least are two projects in Let's Get Crafting issue 42. I really enjoyed these commissions. I designed a crochet peg bag and a knitted necklace, both of which are fun to make. The peg bag is really practical too and would make a nice house warming gift.

I really hope you enjoy making your own versions of my designs. If you don't buy these magazines, then at some point in the future I'll be making them available either as free patterns or for sale in my shops or on ravelry.

Happy Knitting and Crocheting xx

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Two Little Pigs

About a year ago, I designed a series of 6 toys for Knit Magazine. I really enjoyed designing them  - a cat, a fox, a penguin, a mouse, cakes and a pig.

4 of them were published. Then Knit Mag conducted  a customer survey and the overall feedback concluded that readers didn't want toys in the magazine as they felt they were more suited to knitting mags like Simply Knitting and Knit Today. Oh well, you can't please everyone .....

However, I did received some great feedback from readers and I'm pleased to say that my cat, fox, penguin and pig were well liked.

I have to admit, I'd forgotten about the toys, until I looked on Ravelry recently and found that a couple of Knit Mag readers had knitted up my Peover Pig. I was thrilled to see the photos, so I thought I'd share one of them with you.

Meet Pat Pig, knitted by Pearlcable on Ravelry. Pearlcable works in a wool shop (what a fab job!!) and Pat is her boss. She finished her Pig on Pat’s birthday, which is why she's called Pat too. Click here to see more of Pearlcable's lovely knitting projects.

Pat Pig looks just like the twin sister of my very own Peover Pig - don't you can barely tell the difference. I love to see readers versions of my designs, especially when they turn out exactly the same. Both pigs are knitted in Sirdar Baby Crofter DK (Shade Pinkie 155) which is really soft and beautiful to knit with.

I was delighted to find that my mouse cuddle cushion is being featured in Yarnwise issue 50 - she's such a cutie - I can't wait to see her in print. I hope you'll love her too.

If you'd like to knit up your own Pig, the pattern will be available soon in my various online shops. In the meantime, happy knitting (or crocheting) xx

Monday, 11 June 2012

Back to Normal (almost) and a free seaside bunting pattern

Well, it's been almost a week now since the Jubilee celebrations - are you all getting back to normal? Here at number 10, we're slowly returning to our daily routine. Our middle daughter went back to Chester yesterday, ready for here final term at dance school. She's working hard towards the end of year production and I really can't wait to see it. I have two tickets, just because I always want to watch her dance again. So this time I will be able to. How exciting!!!

Our youngest is back at school tomorrow, much to his disappointment. So it's homework and reading today for him (much to his further disappointment!!!).

We had a lovely week off, pottering in the garden and tidying it up, jet washing the patio, painting the fence and sheds and buying some new (but cheap!!) patio furniture. Then it rained all week. Typical. We went to the cinema and had a day out shopping too, mooching here and there and buying a few things for our holiday. Oh, and I managed to sneak in a trip to Abakhan Fabrics in Hanley.... I didn't come out empty handed as you can guess.

We all enjoyed  watching the jubilee celebrations and I finished my bunting just in time. Do you remember, I blogged about it here - it helped me to relax on our flight to Ibiza.

We munched on our homemade yummy jubilee cupcakes.

The buttercream frosting was made from a Pink Whisk recipe here, - it's the most delicious frosting I've ever tasted and easy too - if I can make it anyone can!! 

So it's back into the swing of life and finishing my current knitting and crochet commissions. I'm pushing the boundaries at the moment with some very tight deadlines eek!! Hope I make them all - 12 flowers, 3 pairs of gloves/fingerless mittens/children's mittens, plus some christmas knits. They're more time intensive than I expected, but I think I'm winning.

In the meantime, if you'd like to make some bunting of your own, here's a free pattern for my seaside bunting, available through the Let's Get Crafting Website. Click here for the pattern (you'll need to register - but it's worth it - there are some great resources available). I'd love to see a photo if you make some of your own.

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Olympic Torch in Congleton

I've had an amazing morning running with the Olympic torch procession in Congleton, Cheshire. I'm not sure how he managed to organise it, but the Headmaster of my son's school arranged for the school to run in the procession, as long as they had an adult with them. My son and his friend wanted to run, so I agreed to run with them. I'm so glad I did. What an amazing atmosphere. The streets were lined with the people of Congleton, cheering and waving and taking lots of photos. I think that having the children running with the procession added an extra dimension and the kids were sooooo excited (and so were the adults).

We had to run behind the full procession, which included quite a few large vehicles, so we didn't get to see much of the torch being carried. But we revelled in the fab atmosphere and made the most of the drizzly day. Well done kids for running such a long way - especially up Rood Hill (which is really steep!!!). Here we go:

Waiting at school - Congleton is also known as 'Bear Town' - hence the bear masks......

The Congleton torch has just been lit (behind the yellow coach).....

Here we go....

A proud moment for the torch bearer .......

The Olympic mascot......

Change-over time. 11 people carried the torch through Congleton, each running approximately 300m each...

Me and Ollie running in the procession (I'm turning round looking at the camera).....

We made it to the end - phew. Rood Hill in Congleton is very steep!!! Well done kids......


I hope you enjoy the Torch if it passes your way. Have a fab jubilee weekend - let's hope the sun shines x

Friday, 25 May 2012

Crochet at 36,000 feet

I've just returned from the most relaxing holiday with my lovely hubby and son. It was a real treat for the three of us to spend the week together - no work, no phones, no computers and best of all no noisy X-box -Yippee (although hubby would probably say "best of all no knitting or crochet"!!).

However, one small problem I have with overseas holidays is that I don't like flying. Not one tiny bit. I've learned not to panic beforehand, so at least I didn't have sleepless nights on the holiday run up. But when the plane lifts off I really start to panic. I struggle to read a book as this needs concentration, and I'm constantly having mild heart attacks as the plane tilts this way and that, as the pilot finds the right flight path. How on earth people look out of the window I'll never know. I'm firmly bolted to my seat for the duration of the flight, counting the minutes until landing, not looking at how pretty the english coastline looks from 36,000 feet up!!!

But this year I had a brain wave. I decided to take some crochet with me.

Now, I know that people have had their knitting and crochet equipment confiscated at check-in before now, so I thought carefully about my plan. I'd take some oddments of red, white and blue yarn that wasn't precious (or expensive) and a cheap plastic hook, just in case they were viewed as dangerous weapons - afterall, I could potentially tie up the pilot with my yarn and poke him in the eye with my crochet hook - couldn't I?

I packed my secret stash neatly in a little canvas bag, in my hand luggage. And guess what? I made it through all the technical processes without so much as a bleep. Success!!! Now I can crochet on the plane. And that's what I did, both outwards and inwards. I crocheted some pretty jubilee bunting for the garden. Now I know you're wondering how I cut my yarn after each round - well, I used my house keys - ingenious. I also read this month's Mollie Makes as the plane took off and landed - thanks Mollie Makes for another great issue. It really helped me to stay calm

Do you recognise the pattern? I blogged about it here - it's one of my designs from last month's Let's Get Crafting magazine.

Unfortunately I can't share the pattern with you yet, so I've found some other bunting patterns that are equally as pretty. Just click on the title to go to the blog page. You'll find their patterns plus handy how-to photos.

They'd look fab in red, white and blue, so if you start now you'll have a strip ready for your jubilee (or olympic) celebrations.

Happy crocheting xx

heart bunting by Julia Crossland

 Heart bunting by Sarahndipities