Thursday, 31 January 2013

I didn't, I won't (Part 2)

Indecisiveness is a trait of mine (such as choosing paint colours), and when it comes to gift selection, I can dither like the best of them.  I know when I have found the perfect gift because I have that feeling of certainty that it fits that particular person's interests and lifestyle and knowing that they will love it makes me happy.  When I feel indecision as strongly as I did with the ripple crochet blanket, it's usually a sign that it's the wrong gift for the intended recipient.

So, while my girls made merry baking mayhem in the kitchen this afternoon...

...I opted to sew my friend's new baby a change mat instead.  I feel happier about this already so I know I'm on the right track.

Using Tea Pea's change mats as my inspiration, I cut a template from an old change mat of mine and curved the edges.  Some of you may recognise the Michael Miller prints I used.

Many store-bought change mats have a layer of wadding for absorbency.  The downfall is that it cannot be machine-washed (if you are inclined to follow the manufacturer's care instructions).  What's the point of a change mat if you can't machine-wash it when it's dirty?  Hand washing items is not my favourite job, and it's not likely to feature highly on a new mother's list of priorities either.  To counter this, I put a double layer of cotton fabric between the outer layers.

I used striped bias binding, mainly because it contrasted with the fabrics and also because it was the only one in my stash that wasn't girly.

Degree of difficulty: Easy
Time taken: 40 minutes
Result: I'll let you know what the new owner says.  It was quite a nice departure for me to sew with boy's prints.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Do I, don't I, will I, won't I? (Part 1)

Your impartial advice is needed please.  I am full of indecision on this one.  This ripple blanket was started a while ago in anticipation of the birth of my friend's baby boy and now he is here (yay!), I'm not sure if it's something my friend would even like to receive as a gift (boo)?  I know that crochet items are not everybody's cup of tea and I would hate for her to accept it out of politeness.

Added to that is my nervousness about gifting something for the first time that I have made myself. Will it survive its first wash?? Will little fingers pull on a thread and unravel the whole thing?

I made it a travel blanket size so it fits in a capsule and stroller.  It's made from pure wool so will be handy for the cooler months ahead.  I think the colour combination is quite masculine, but now that I've worked it up, I'm thinking I probably should have gone with a chevron pattern rather than a wave.

Now that I've bared my soul to you, what do you think I should do?  Should I just go safe and buy her son a book or something instead?

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Vintage floral fabric

When I saw this fabric stashed away in a cupboard at my mother's house it was instant love.  I'm so glad she agreed to let me have it.

The cotton fabric is from the 50's and despite the odd stain and hole, it is in amazing condition for its age.  It's so soft to touch and I love the floral print, even if my husband thinks it looks like an old curtain.

I didn't have a specific project in mind at the time but now I do and I can't wait to get started.  It might have to wait a little bit longer though, it is still school holidays here and I really need to concentrate on this one because if I make a mistake with pattern placement or sizing, there are no second chances.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Louise blanket

Here is my finished ricrac crochet blanket.  It is a mixture of wool and acrylic.  By some small miracle, the flower squares I made fit around the edge neatly, in fact, I made too many as I didn't allow for the space needed for joining the squares together.  I also had enough purple yarn to border the blanket (yes!).  I was sweating tacks there for a bit thinking I would need to make a trip for yet another ball of yarn.

I am calling this my Louise blanket in honour of my quick-thinking sister in-law who saved this blanket from having a bowl of beetroot juice spilled on it when I was setting up to work at the kitchen table.  It was one of those heart in the mouth moments.  Might have been better to clear the table of food before I started...

If anyone would like the blanket pattern, it is here but there is no pattern as such for the flower squares or for joining them to the blanket, I really just fumbled my way in the dark on the flowers and joined the border using part-flat braid technique, part-I'll-just-chuck-a-stitch-in-here-and-really-hope-this-works -out.  Anyone who is an experienced crocheter will look at the stitching and know that unconventional stitchwork was used, and while the stitching is not the neatest, the border sits flat and I am very proud of myself.

How many hours were spent on this?  Plenty!  I craft when time permits, usually in the evenings, but with my husband home for the summer holidays, I crept away during the day too and the borderless blanket was made over two weeks.  The flowers took nine and a half hours to make and nine hours were spent stitching them together.  I needed a further three and a half hours to stitch the border to the blanket.  It feels so great to finish it.  On with the next one now.

Degree of difficulty: The ric rac pattern uses a shell stitch, is repetitive and works up steadily, but I found it not as quick to make as the granny square blanket
Time taken: 2 and a half weeks
Result: I cannot stop looking back over at it, so I guess that means this was a success.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Leaning Tower of Pieces

Flower squares to border my latest crochet project.  This purple yarn is the largest ball in my stash because I don't particularly like the colour and don't feel inspired by it so my aim is to use it all up in this project.

I made up the flower pattern using single and treble crochet stitches, inspired by a gorgeous blanket I saw that was made by a very Clever Cheshire Cat.  If you love crochet, I think you should like her on Facebook, she's talented beyond belief.

The whole blanket is taking a while to come together because I'm still weaving in the ends...

Speaking of weaving, would you like to meet my new BFF?  Of course you do:

Why didn't anyone tell me about the existence of wool needles before??  I was slaving away for EIGHT freakin' hours weaving in ends with my 3.5mm crochet hook cursing why no-one had made a decent weaving tool before I realised that there was a good possibility something might have already been invented.  It's a beautiful thing and the best $2 I have ever spent.

I haven't worked out how to piece the flowers around the edge of the blanket yet, I'm thinking a flat braid might look good, but I've never done it before and the pattern I found on-line looks a bit complicated.  If all else fails, I will go with the technique I learned for the Krista blanket.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Child's desk

I am enjoying breathing new life into my little items of furniture but the stories behind them intrigue me too.

Take this desk, for example.  There was an inscription on the base of the desk which told me that it had sat in a classroom at Enner Glynn School in the Nelson district before being sold for $10 in February 1998.  At some point in the last 15 years, it has taken a trip across the Cook Strait and who knows where it went to before it ended up in my sister in-law's possession.

Four hours of sanding off paint and varnish led to this:

Thankfully, there were no borer, and surprisingly, no compass gouges, graffiti and very few scrapes - this desk must have been in the front row of the classroom.  When I sanded the paint off the lid, I discovered a faint manufacturer's stamp.  I may have inadvertently sanded off the first initial, so my best guess for the origins of this desk is G.P. Russell and Sons in Nelson, which was a furniture business established in 1929.

I bet you can all sleep easier now that you know some of the desk's history.  If you are still awake after that, here's a breakdown of what I did to revitalise the desk.

I removed all of the stickers by dabbing at them first with a turps-soaked cloth.  Most of the stickers came off cleanly after a minute or two, and others needed a helping hand with a scraper (I used a blunt knife).

After sanding off the paint and varnish, I undercoated the lid and oiled the legs and desk base with tung oil, which really brings out the lovely golden colour of the wood.  Then came the fun part.

No prizes for guessing the paint colour I used on the desk lid.  Sienna absolutely loves this colour, but then she also likes tofu so there's no hope for her.  I really wanted to put a world map on the lid, like this one, but I had no old atlases or maps at home and I really did not want to have to spend more money than I already had on this project (which was kind of a lot, really - just as well the desk was free).  To line the desk, I cut to size a piece of wallpaper from a roll that was left over when the girls' room was decorated a few years' ago.

Instead of decoupaging the lid, I decided to turn the inside of the desk lid into a memo board, which meant burying G.P. Russell and his sons under another avalanche of paint.  Sorry, guys.  I applied four coats of Magnetic Magic between the undercoat and topcoats.  This magnetic paint is totes amazeballs, and is acrylic, which may sound like a minor detail, but after working with enamel-based paint for the past little while, I know what paintbrush I'd rather be cleaning.  I am already thinking up other projects just so I get to use it again.

Just in case you thought they were for show, I am really pleased to report that the fabric button magnets I made actually do stay on when the lid is closed.

Overall, I am really pleased with how this desk has turned out.

The new owner absolutely loves it too.

Cost: $40 ($30 for the magnetic paint and $10 for a packet of magnets - I probably bought them from the most expensive places in town, but I had already spent 2 hours jumping in and out of the car with husband and children in tow trying to find what I needed and so the purchases were made in sheer desperation to Just. Get. Home)
Time taken: 3 days
Result: Love it.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

For my next trick

The plan is to restore this old school desk.  It was given to Sienna by her aunty (yay for Aunties!).
Apart from the painted lid and stickers, it is in fairly original condition.  I'm hesitant to guess the wood type, apart from saying it's native timber.  My husband thinks knows it's rimu.

In keeping with my last furniture restoration attempt, it may be another three months before this project is completed.

 Stay tuned.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Restored chair - Oooooh or Eeeeeww?

Who knew that settling upon a chair colour would be so difficult?  In true indecisive fashion, I grabbed a swag of test pots and then left them sitting in the bag for a few weeks.

I went with my original shortlist and applied the paint colours onto a board, waited to see how they would look in natural light, artificial light and up against the other main colour in the room (which is white) - and then decided against all of them.  Luckily for me, my husband has access to testpots through his line of work otherwise the ol' wallet might have been feeling a bit ouchy.

Since I was wavering between my first pick, Half Kumutoto and a lighter aqua called Reservoir, I did what any true professional would do and asked my children what colour they liked.  They all picked Reservoir.  When I painted it on my test board, it looked to be the perfect colour.

I cannot believe that after all that, I still managed to get the colour wrong.  Incredibly wrong.  $30 wrong.  I painted the first coat with half a hope that it would dry darker and become that nice shade from the testpot.  Not to be.  The chair is mint green.  Or Peppermint.  Or Ugly.  Take your pick.  Now my little project has become a salvage operation to help it tie in to its surroundings.

The paint finish is a semi-gloss, which is probably the only saving grace as it has given the chair a really nice sheen, and gives definition to the details on the chair back and seat, which is what I had hoped for.

The chair was originally intended to be used in a part of the house that is a bit of a blank canvas at the moment.  Now, I'm not so sure about it.  I cannot show you the space yet as it is a future project that I plan to blog about.   This is my red bag giving the chair a few lessons on how to look cool just by hanging out on a door handle.

Until I find a better place for it, the chair can sit in my room for now and look after some cushions for me.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

What's on my hook

Have I mentioned how much I love my husband?  After nearly two weeks of no handcrafts whatsoever, I was starting to get the shakes.  My husband quickly noticed the signs and bundled the children out of the house to give me three whole hours of quiet, uninterrupted Me time.  What a guy.

I sat outside on our deck to enjoy what is passing for our Kiwi summer so far and instead of a book, I picked up my crochet hook.

This is the beginnings of a blanket and these would not ordinarily be the colour combinations I would put together, but I am trying to use up the balls of yarn I have left over from my crochet pillow so just go with it, people.

I haven't woven in the ends as I've completed each row of colour.  I am cringing at the thought of it already.  Why, why, why don't I just follow my own advice and do it as I go rather than at the end??? I am going to stop crocheting more rows until I have woven in what I have done so far.  It might be a while before I post an update on this, that gives you an idea of how much I hate that job.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Happy New Year

Firstly, I just wanted to welcome my new followers - half of my followers know me in real life and are duty-bound to read my blog (ha!) but to have people I have never met actually want to follow my crafting journey is buzzing me out.  I hope you like what you find here.  To my dear friends, thank you for your encouragement along the way, your support means so much. I read all your lovely comments (sometimes several times if I need a boost - just so you know).

I thought I would share what I have been up to in the last week or so before I launch into more craft projects for the year.  The family block of land lies an hour's drive from Wellington, which is where we spent our Christmas holiday relaxing with family and friends.  The children love escaping to this part of the world, they spend most of their time playing outdoors, exploring and making their own fun. I hope it gives them the same kind of memories I have of my own childhood growing up on a farm.

I took so many photos but not very many came out well at all.  I am from the Point and Click School of Photography so my New Years resolution is to improve my photography skills and learn how to use my camera properly, especially with nighttime shots. Even so, I hope that you get a sense of what the past few days with my family was like.

Here they are testing out the Christmas presents:

Paintball started off well...

...before a little gremlin came along and stole one of the course flags.

Ushering in the New Year - at 9.30pm.  My girls struggle to stay awake even until this time of night (if I'm honest, so do I):

Home again.  Just in case I gave you the impression that this is the view from our house, I had to walk a couple of minutes down the road to get this shot.

I am feeling rejuvenated and excited about the year ahead; there are so many projects I want to start and others I can't wait to complete and show you.  I hope you all are looking forward to 2013 too.