Friday, 23 January 2015

Bracken the Fox

I love foxes. I don't know what it is, maybe it's their beautiful colouring or something about the confident way they hold themselves, but I'm always really excited when I spot one on a walk. I've had two, possibly young ones, practically run into me as they chased each other across my path, but usually when I see them they just sit nonchalantly a little distance away (usually behind a fence) and stare at me.

I've been meaning to crochet a fox for ages, to be honest I don't know what delayed me, just lots of other ideas that I wanted to try out, but I've finally done it. Meet Bracken the Fox, named after the ferns that turn a lovely russet colour in the autumn. I've made him in two versions, with and without a sweater, and he's about 30cm (12") tall.

I've made a lot of my amigurumi in the past using totally acrylic yarn, but I decided to use yarns with wool and alpaca in to make Bracken, to give him a nicer texture. I mostly used Stylecraft Alpaca, and their newer Alpaca Tweed for the sweater, which is lovely and soft.

The pattern is now available in my Etsy shop and on Ravelry.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Mini Pets - Snails, Bugs and Frogs amigurumi patterns

My latest pattern, or rather set of patterns, to make tiny amigurumi snails, beetles, spiders and frogs, is now available in my Etsy shop and Ravelry. The creatures, which are quick to make with minimal sewing, also come with the details to make a toadstool play mat and hollow log.

As a child I loved and was fascinated by all types of animals, and was keen to have all sorts of pets, that weren't always practical. I did keep snails for a short while, and repeated the experience with my children. They make great temporary pets, you just find some in your garden and put them in a plastic pet box with some soil and greenery keep them damp and fed, and then return them to the garden after a few weeks.

However, not everyone wants various creepy crawlies in their house, and so for a more cuddly alternative I designed these creatures, so that the little animal lover in your house can play with them any time they want. You can make snails, two different shapes of beetle, including a ladybird (ladybug), spiders with various patterns on their backs, and tiny baby frogs. Their sizes range from 1.5" to 2.5" long.



You can keep them in a jar or matchbox, but you can also make them a grassy mat for them to play on, with a toadstool in the middle, and a hollow log to climb in. It has a drawstring around the edge so you can turn it into a bag and keep everything safe.

Of course, you can do all sorts of things with these creatures. It's easy to turn them into key chains, or put small magnets inside as you crochet them to make them into fridge magnets. The beetles would make unusual brooches, the spiders are great for Halloween accessories, and you could make the frogs in sets of different colours and use them as game pieces. You can make them as party favours, or stocking fillers, or make lots for a school or church fair. Whatever you do, I hope you'll have fun with them!

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

My first cushion cover

Since I started to crochet, I've pretty much stuck to making amigurumi. I've made a few hats and scarves, but I've never made a granny square, or attempted an afghan/blanket. I've seen so many lovely patterns, and really felt the need to have something I'd crocheted sat around in my house so I could enjoy it all the time. Rather than starting on a blanket, I decided to make myself a cushion cover, so I could try out some ideas without committing to something so big.

I had a look at a lot of patterns, and tried a couple of granny square designs, but I felt that they were too holey, and I didn't want my cushion pad to show through. At least they'd given me the idea of how to make a square shape, so I came up with a very simple square that didn't have many holes, and that used three colours.

Then I searched through my stash for a selection of twelve colours that would match my sitting room; mostly reds and dark pinks and greens with a bit of beige, gold and yellow. I have lots of different colours in my stash (I barely have two balls of yarn the same), so it wasn't difficult to find what I wanted. I really enjoyed working on all the squares, trying to make each one unique, and not to repeat each colour too many times. I nearly always crochet in the evenings, and usually I'm trying to work on one of my patterns, but I'd got to a stage on my latest pattern (which is very nearly ready) where I only needed to take photos and write up my notes. It was nice to be making something for myself, and more relaxing.

I decided to make thirty-six squares, though when I finished them I was worried they'd be too big when sewn together. Luckily it came out just about right in the end, and I did one row of single crochet (UK double crochet) in red around the edge to neaten it up. I thought it would be nice to try a different look for the back, so I did alternating rows of single crochet and double crochet (UK double crochet and treble crochet) using all the colours except the red, then I used that to form a border. I found enough matching pink buttons from the collection I inherited from my husband's great aunt, and then all I had to do was sew the two sides together and stick the cushion pad in.


I'm really pleased with it, it goes nicely in the room, and my sons really like the fact that I made something to go in the house. Now I need to make a blanket - I've already bought lots of colours of Stylecraft yarn - so I'll have something to do with any spare time over the rest of the winter!

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Itty Bitty Bat - free amigurumi pattern

Well, Halloween is nearly upon us, so here is a tiny little bat pattern for you to have fun with. It's quick and simple to make and, depending on the yarn you use, will end up about 2” tall, with a wingspan of about 5”. The feet are actually small loops, so your bat can hang upside down from a small stick or length of yarn or cord. The loops are large enough to fit the crochet hook you are using through, so you can use that to pull yarn or cord through. You could make several bats and hang them up on a length of chained yarn as decorations, or just wear one as a cute Halloween necklace! If you want to hang your bat on something thicker, just do more chain stitches when you make the feet in round 13.

ch = chain
st = stitch or stitches
ss = slipstitch
sc = single crochet (US), double crochet (UK)
dc = double crochet (US), treble crochet (UK)
tog = together
sc2tog = decrease by working two sc together
FLO = work in front loop only
FO = fasten off

General instructions:
Work in rounds unless otherwise stated and do not join rounds unless told to. Use a stitch marker to mark the start of a round - a small piece of different coloured yarn placed under the stitch at the start of the round will do. To start a round, you can use the magic ring method, but I prefer (ch 2, work 6 sc into 1st ch). If you work the 6 sc over the tail of yarn as well you can use that to pull the hole tight.

Work through both loops of stitches unless otherwise indicated.

You will need:
Small amount of black, purple or light and dark brown yarn, double knitting or worsted weight.
1 Pair of 7.5mm brown safety eyes, or 6mm black safety eyes, or yarn to embroider them.
Small amount of stuffing.
3.5mm (E) hook.
Tapestry needle.

Special stitch instructions:
5 dc pop: popcorn stitch for ears. Work 5 dc into 1 st, take hook out leaving loop, put hook through 1st dc & pull loop through.

Start at top of head.
Round 1: Ch 2, work 6 sc into 1st ch - 6 st.
Round 2: [2 sc in next st, (sc and 5 dc pop in next st), 2 sc in next st] 2 times – 12 st.
Round 3: [2 sc in next st, sc in next st] 6 times - 18 st.
Round 4 - 6: (3 rounds) Sc in each st around – 18 st.

If using safety eyes, fit them now between rounds 4 and 5, four stitches apart.

Round 7: [Sc2tog] 9 times – 9 st.
Round 8: [2 sc in next st, sc in next 2 st] 3 times – 12 st.
Round 9 - 10: (2 rounds) Sc in each st around – 12 st.
Round 11: [2 sc in next st, sc in next 3 st] 3 times – 15 st.
Round 12: Sc in each st around – 15 st.
Round 13: Sc in next 8 st, [foot: ss in next st, ch 4, ss back into same st], sc in next 5 st, [foot: ss in next st, ch 4, ss back into same st] – 15 st (the first ss used to make each foot counts as a stitch, the second one doesn’t).
Round 14: [Sc2tog, sc in next 3 st] 3 times – 12 st.
Ss in next st then FO, leaving a length of yarn. Embroider eyes if you haven't used safety eyes. Stuff and use yarn to sew up the bottom in a line between the two feet.

Wings (make 2):
Ch 15, turn.
Row 1: Ss in 2nd ch from hook, sc in next 6 ch, miss next ch, sc in next 6 ch, ch 1, turn.
Row 2: 2 sc in next st, sc in next 10 st, turn.
Row 3: Miss 1st st, ss in next st, sc in next 3 st, miss next st, sc in next 4 st, turn.
Row 4: Miss 1st st, ss in next st, sc in next 2 st, miss next st, sc in next 3 st, turn.
Row 5: Ch 2, sc in next st, ss in next 4 st, ch 2, ss in next st.
FO, leaving a length of yarn. Work this yarn through to the end of the wing and use it to sew the wing to the body.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Knitting and Stitching Show

On Saturday I went up to the Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace in London. I went last year, and enjoyed it, but it was much better this year because I went with my friend Julie - it's far more fun to gush over yarns together than on your own!

Alexandra Palace is a lovely building, and traveling up to it on the free bus gives you a great view across London. I meant to take a photo of the outside but I forgot, however, it looks good on the inside too.

The first thing we saw when we came in the entrance was a pergola absolutely covered in knitted flowers, butterflies and birds. It had been created for Livability, a charity that supports people with various disabilities, and it looked amazing. Here are some of my favourite parts - I especially liked the blue tit hanging on the peanuts.



The show consists of three large halls of exhibitors, with a mix of stands with items for sale, and artworks created using a variety of the crafts that were on show - knitting, crochet, felting, embroidery and sewing. We headed into the largest hall, which boasts a lovely stained glass window, as well as an incredible number of stands filled, amongst other things, with all sorts of lovely yarn!

We were particularly taken by the Stylecraft stand, where the lovely Lucy from Attic 24  was showing off her gorgeous colourful blankets, made with Stylecraft Special DK. They now have packs with all the colours you need to make a particular blanket, and they were doing a roaring trade - it seemed like every other person there was carrying a big pack of yarn away with them!
I've bought Stylecraft acrylic yarn before but I haven't found it so good for amigurumi - it's a bit thin compared to other yarns I use - but it does have a very nice feel, and it's perfect to make blankets that are soft and comfortable, but still good for everyday use. However, I used their Alpaca DK to make my Alpaca Family and found it worked really well for amigurumi, with a nice texture. Since I'm working on some more animal amigurumi I couldn't resist buying a selection of colours, and some of the new Alpaca Tweed DK.
After a bit of lunch we moved onto the other rooms, which had some amazing creations in them, such as these felted skulls and organic shapes (the first two photos are items by Stephanie Metz, I didn't get the details for the others), sculptural crocheted clothes and a life-size knitted bear sculpture.

Given that I'm a massive Tolkien fan, I think my favourite creations were by Denise Salway, The Knitting Witch. She has made the most amazing knitted Hobbit coat, with Smaug flying over the Lonely Mountain and all sorts of details, like a little Gollum peering through the stitches. It has a lovely selection of different textures, and is apparently quite wearable. She has also made lots of characters from the story, including Bilbo, Thorin, Gandalf, Galadriel, Smaug, and Peter Jackson filming them all!
Denise Salway with her creations.

 All in all we had a great day, even if we were exhausted by the end. I'm looking forward to next year now!

Friday, 10 October 2014

Halloween Patterns

Are you getting excited for Halloween? It's not such a big thing here in the UK as it seems to be in the US, but I do enjoy a lot of the things associated with it, and it's nice to feel a bit spooky at this time of year. The other day I looked out of the window while I was drawing the curtains and saw a bat flying overhead - I've never seen one outside our house before (and we've lived here for 17 years) so I was really excited. I went outside and it made that perfect bat shape as it went over my head. That's inspired me to work on a little bat pattern, which I'll make available for free when it's ready. in the meantime, here are some of my other patterns that might be fun to make for Halloween.

Witch and Wizard Amigurumi Pattern 
Make either a witch or a wizard using slight variations on the same pattern, available in my Etsy  shop.
Witch's Cat and Wizard's Owl
These little animals are quick and simple to make, either on their own or to go with the Witch and Wizard. You can find the free patterns here: Cat and Owl
Mini Frog
There's also this little frog that might be useful for a little present at a Halloween party - here's the free pattern: Mini Frog