Author Archives: ACEades

About ACEades

A post-graduate student and contributor and literary critic for www.nerditorial.com, I am passionate about literature, criticism and theory and aim to become a respected figure in the literary-critical landscape. My research interests include Nineteenth century literature and art (and the combination of the two); 1950s American Beat poetry; Imagism; Contemporary women poets and the poetry of place and landscape. Contemporary writers I am following with interest include Gwyneth Lewis, Alice Oswald and Jo Shapcott.

Finished – Crochet Shell Baby Blanket

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A while ago I posted about a blanket I was rushing to finish to send to a friend who had her baby earlier than planned. Finally, after crocheting my fingers off for a week, I finished it.

I thoroughly enjoyed crocheting this blanket. The pattern wasn’t too repetitive as it had lots of colour changes and the recurring shells throughout add texture and interest. The border was a tricky one to decide on – I wanted something that would add to the overall delicate look of the blanket, without being too fiddly. I decided on a shell border with decorative gaps, to mimic the shell pattern whilst adding enough interest to frame the blanket. To keep it light and fresh I decided to border it in white, instead of blue – I think this works well.

This hardest part of the project, as any crocheter will know, is the dreading darning in of the  photo BD3740E4-2FE0-4085-9867-5A2475144F6D-26811-000002E863374C38_zps6ea8c176.jpgends. There are 88 rows in total, and each row had 2 ends to darn in. I managed to finish the darning in process within 3 hours though, and then double crocheted around the edge to give the decorative border something to stick to.

The photo to the right shows the front (right of the border) and back (left of the border) of the blanket, the pattern allows the colour to sit back to the white shells on the front of the blanket, giving it a great texture without allowing the colour to become too bright. Even so, I still think the back of the blanket is pretty; a little more muted.

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The finished size of the blanket is 30″ x 37″, bringing it out at a fat rectangle, the perfect size for wrapping up baby. It’s not too far off a suitable size for a cot blanket too, so hopefully my friend will get a lot of use out of it.

 

 

I will be listing this blanket as a made-to-order item soon, so if you would like one, sign up to

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blog updates using the button on the right of the homepage to receive an email when the new page goes live.

Happy crafting 🙂

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The Pink Granny Square Monster…

Do you have a project that sits in an unmarked bag, staring at you from the other side of the room? You complete a few rounds here and there, perhaps a granny square now and again – but it never seems to get finished?

You do?

Well you’ve got a UFO.

In the world of crochet, a UFO – or an unfinished object – is like that annoying little stone in your shoe that never seems to drop out. You started it with love, and you dream about it often, but you Just. Can’t. Get. On. With. It.

Here’s a beautiful stack of pink and white granny squares that I started about two years ago.

photo(6)The pile is considerably bigger now – I only need about thirty-five more squares until I can put it all together. I even started crocheting some together a few months back, to try and jump start the creative process. But it didn’t work. And now a rather awkward L-shape of squares sits in a fabric bag, untouched for weeks.

This was one of the first big projects I ever started, designed to be a throw for the bed (ironically, I just posted about another granny square throw I want to start for the bed. Maybe I should take the hint and finish this first?). I was so young (in terms of crochet experience). I didn’t even check my balls of wool were from the same lot, so there are some tell-tale variances in colour throughout the squares. I’m hoping this will add to the charm of the blanket once it is finished. I’ll be edging the blanket with a deep raspberry colour to try and make it pop a bit more, perhaps in a shell stitch or a frilly treble row. Either way, I can see this blanket living at the edge of the bed, perhaps folded up and hanging over the bedframe for chilly mornings. Perhaps I’ll crochet some of those lovely May Roses from Attic24 and attach them at random on the blanket. Perhaps I won’t even finish it. I’ll keep you posted.

My next project…

I am slowly nearing the end of a crocheted blanket for a dear friend who I have worked with for the last couple of years. She gave birth to her bouncing baby boy a month early, just a few days ago, so I really need to step up my hook-time and get this done for her! Here it is – a photo from a few weeks ago – but this shows the pattern off well

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I’ve been using Hayfield Baby Bonus DK to create the blanket, alternating rows of white shell stitch with blue, mint, pink and lemon. When I started the blanket, we didn’t know the sex of the baby, so I’m hoping the pink will be OK! I am planning to edge it in a row of white double crochet, followed by a row (or two) or double crochet in blue, just to give it more a boy-ish feel.

Anyway, I digress. The reason I’m harping on about this lovely shell stitch blanket is because once I finish it – and only when I finish it – will I allow myself to order yarn and start on a new project. A project that has been on my list for months. The Springtime Throw by Nicki Trench – a pattern that features in Nicki’s book Cute and Easy Crochet. It is probably one of my

Springtime Throw, courtesy of laughinghens.com

favourite crocheted throws, ever. I love the little granny squares, don’t they look like little sweets? Or perhaps stained glass windows?

Nicki uses the most delicious wool to crochet this – Rooster Almerino DK – in a very fresh, colourful palette that is this blanket’s namesake.

As much as I love this blanket, I just can’t justify the cost of Rooster wool. It’s totally out of my price range. So I have decided to use the pattern, but adapt the colours, to suit my bedroom.

With roses on the bed cover, a rose garland on the bed frame, and white wooden furniture, my bedroom is quite girly (the other half puts up with it VERY well). So I want the blanket to echo the pink palette of my bedroom, whilst still being quite contemporary and not too girly or parma-violet.

I’ve decided to use Stylecraft Special DK yarn – a ridiculously cheap (£1.59 per 100g at www.woolwarehouse.co.uk) but soft yarn with an extensive colour range. I copied and pasted the blocks of colour from the description page on the website and used them to create a slapdash tester (on MS Paint, no less) of a proposed colour scheme. It took me ages. It started out too girly, way too much sugary pink, and then it descended into crazy blues and reds – which does not suit my room. In the end, I finished on this:

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Granted it isn’t the tidiest of tester charts, but it gave me the opportunity to play with colour. I’ve never been very good at colour choice – and have only just discovered the absolute joy that is the colour wheel (will post about it soon). So I’m starting to feel a bit more confident about putting colours together, and I think I’ve got the balance right with this combination. The colours are as follows: raspberry, grape, pale rose, bottle, meadow and carmel. The background colour, that makes up the middle section around the central diamond of colour – will be crocheted in the same yarn, in the colour ‘parchment.’ I used my knowledge of the colour wheel to select the colour carmel – being almost yellowish or caramel in colour, it sits opposite the pinky side of the colour wheel, so I think it brings out the pinky tones nicely in the tester. The green will keep it fresh, whilst mirroring the little splash of leaves and foliage that’s scattered over my bedding and in the rose garland. I’m really excited to order the yarn, but must finish the baby blanket first. Here’s some more photos of the lovely Springtime Throw from various blogs. Click on the image and it will take you to the source.

Beautiful!!

Crochet Tutorial – stitch height

Welcome to the second tutorial from Amanda Makes 🙂 how did you get on with the first tutorial? Are you feeling confident with your tools now? I hope so. If you would like to give any feedback about any of my tutorials, please email me. You can find my contact details on the about me page.

This tutorial is going to give you a quick look at the way in which crochet stitches work. There are several different crochet stitches, all of which differ in height. Here’s a quick photo I’ve written some labels on for you. Take notice of the varying height of each stitch. All crochet starts off with a flat foundation chain, that has no real height and the stitches increase in depth as you progress up.

crochetheight

Double crochet, the shortest stitch, gives a lovely dense fabric. I love the way it looks. It’s the stitch I used for my crocheted tea cosy – the dense fabric will make sure my teapot is nicely insulated! Double crochet is often used for making crocheted toys, like teddy bears. This is because the dense fabric that the double crochet creates makes sure that no stuffing can pop out of the toy!

Half trebles are the next size up, I find these to be used alot in crochet baby clothes. Dense enough to give good coverage but light enough to be free and easy for littleIMG_1465 arms 🙂

Trebles are often used for the granny square, one of the most delicious things anyone can make. They are so versatile. Here’s a giant granny square blanket that I have made  – it is so soft, but the height of the treble makes it a quick blanket to hook up. That said, the taller your stitch gets, the more you use to make it, and the more of a ‘yarn guzzler’ it becomes!

And now onto the real yarn guzzlers – the double and triple treble. Both of these stiches are very light and airy, making them perfect for lace work and for garments that need to have a very light feel to them, perhaps a summer shawl or a christening blanket.

I hope this little introduction to the different type of stitches has whet your appetite for the tutorials to come 🙂 In the next installment, we will be looking at creating the foundation chain – the flat row of ‘chains’ that is quite literally the foundation of all things crochet. As well as the foundation chain, we will be looking at the importance of the turning chain – an extra length of foundation chain that you use to get the height required for the stitch you will be using. I hope that this quick tutorial on stitches and their varying heights will help with your understanding of the turning chain.

See you soon 🙂

Crochet Tutorial – Holding hook and yarn and making a slip knot

Welcome to the first crochet tutorial at Amanda Makes 🙂 I’m so glad you are going to give it a go. The first thing we are going to look at are the different ways you can hold your crochet hook and your yarn. To start all you will need is a 4mm crochet hook and some double-knitting yarn. Bit confused about the relationship between hook and yarn? Take a peek at the crochet basics page.

Holding the hook

There are two main ways to hold your crochet hook – as you would hold a pencil or the ‘over the hook’ position where you hand dominates over the hook. I find the pencil hold more comfortable, but I’d like you to just pick up your crochet hook and see what happens. Don’t try to force your hand into a particular hold. Just pick it up and go with what your hand does. Sometimes I will use both, so don’t worry about it!

To help with your understanding and to determine what kind of hold you prefer, here’s a couple of photos.

Here’s the pencil hold…

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… and here’s the ‘over the hook’ hold.

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Whatever way you are holding the hook isn’t that crucial. What’s important is that you are comfortable in the way you hold your hook. If your wrist feels strained or it just feels unnatural, put the hook down and pick it up again.

When you start to crochet, you will probably find that you wrist aches, your fingers ache and the tendons along the back of your hand ache. This is all normal (for me anyway, as was back ache!) and as you practice it will fade. The more relaxed your hand is, the more even your stitches will be. A tense hand can often lead to tense stitches! So get comfy before we add the yarn. You might even find your hand naturally sits in a different position to those above, perhaps a hybrid of the two, or something totally new. Don’t worry. Every person crochets differently.

Feel the weight of your hook – are you using a plastic hook, a metal hook or a beautiful wooden hook? I like metal as I love the cold feeling of it! But alot of people prefer wood, as it warms as you use it. Totally up to you.

If you are left handed you just need to mirror these photos to see how you can hold the hook. Here’s a link that’ll help you to visualise.

Holding the yarn

Holding the yarn is a contentious subject for me because I have always struggled with the ‘accepted’ ways to hold yarn and the way special way that I hold it! Here’s a clear diagram of one of the more popular ways to hold the yarn. The most important thing is you find the way that YOU hold the yarn. This will be comfortable for YOU and being comfortable is one of the most crucial things to maintaining good tension in your yarn and your work. Bad tension can lead to crochet that is too tight, curls over or under or even has a distorted shape. Equally, bad tension can make your crochet sloppy and too loose. So as we progress with learning to crochet, see how YOU are holding the yarn and if your crochet is looking uniform and you have no problems with misshapen rows or squares, or baggy rows and sloppy looking results, you are holding it right for you.

Just to help you along, here’s a photo of me making a foundation chain (don’t worry, we are going to cover this in a tutorial soon).

 photo 68D9D0FF-78AF-484B-A055-D74D72411392-34693-000003D95901ADD1_zps61baceeb.jpgTo the left of the image is where my ball of wool is. It comes up inside my slightly curled hand and loops over my index finger. I keep my index finger pinched in, and this gives me a good tension on my yarn. I use the working space between that loop you can see on the shaft of my crochet hook and my index finger to pick up the yarn onto the hook. My thumb is holding the already worked foundation row, which is also giving me good tension. You might like to come back to this photo when we start looking at the foundation chain, as it’ll make more sense to you once you have started to practice making the foundation chain. So do not worry too much for now. What is important at this point is that you start to get a feel for your tools.

Making a slip knot

Some people find making a slip knot easy to pick up, some people find it hard. I was one of those people that found it hard! Here’s some photos to help you. You might find it easier to try the first few times with your yarn on a surface in front of you. Then you can start to make the slipknot holding the yarn (as you will see in the video below).

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With the ball of yarn to the left, loop the end of the yarn up and over itself, so you get a loop like the one to the right. The tail end of the yarn sits on top of the ball end.

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Now, take that tail end of the yarn and put it behind the loop, so it hangs down behind. It should look a bit like a pretzel.

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With your hook (or your fingers, whatever you prefer), pick up that tail end of the yarn that is sitting in the middle of your pretzel.

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Grab onto the ball end of the yarn and the tail end of the yarn, the lengths of which should be hanging free of the preztel. Pull up with your crochet hook and the slip knot should start to tighten!

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Pull up with your hook until the slip knot sits nice and snug on the shaft of your hook. You don’t want it to be tight, it should have a little bit of give in it. You should be able to slide it up and down the hook easily with your fingers.

I hope that has been helpful. Practice making a slip knot until you can do it easily. Once you get the hang of it, you will find a quick and easy way of doing all the above steps that is just ‘your way’, so keep practising. Different people have different ways of doing it and within a few sessions you’ll be making a slip knot without even looking at your yarn or your hook!

If you’d like to see a video of me creating a slip knot, click here.

Crocheted Tea Cosy

Over the last week and a half I have been creating a crocheted tea cosy to cover my Christmas themed tea pot. I really love the shape of this teapot – it’s a ‘tea for one’ design: the top half is a tiny teapot that sits inside a teacup at the bottom. As a result, it has two handles (that move independently of eachother) and a really high spout. It’s so funny when you start to crochet something for a static object – like a teapot. You look at things in new ways. I never thought I’d describe a spout as being ‘high’!

Crochet with Raymond tea cosy

I read a few patterns first, including this one from one of my favourite blogs, The Green Dragonfly, and this one from another favourite (but sadly no longer active) blog, Crochet with Raymond (left), to get a good idea about the construction of a tea cosy.

The main things to consider are – the width of the bottom of the teapot (as this determines your foundation chain), the change in diameter of the teapot as you progress up (this will determine how many increases you need to make, and how often) and the positioning of the spout and the handle. It was a challenge, but with the inspiration from two of my favourite blogs, I set out to cover my seasonal teapot with a suitably spring-like tea cosy.

I started with a foundation chain long enough to fit around the base of the teapot, and then worked in double crochet in rows all the way up, evenly increasing the stitches to allow for the round shape of the teapot. Shaping around the spout was tricky, but the key is to keep putting the cosy on the teapot to check that you are increasing correctly and the cosy isn’t too baggy. Create the hole for the spout by folding the long rectangle of fabric in half and marking the middle with a stitch marker. Work out how many stitches either side will give a snug hole for your spout to fit through, leave these stitches unworked, and then work in rows on seperate sides of the fabric, leaving the area free for the spout to come through. When you have worked enough rows to come up to the top of the spout chain the number of stitches that you missed and then join to the other side of the fabric. You’ll now be working in rounds! Decrease to keep the cosy snug, leaving a hole in the top of the cosy for the teapot’s handle to poke through. I might do a tutorial for this one day – but for now here’s some yummy photos

Once finished, I made the daffodil and the roses using the amazing tutorials from Attic 24. You can find the roses and leaves tutorial here, and the daffodil tutorial here. Attic 24’s tutorials are so easy to follow. I used a slightly thicker yarn for the flowers as I wanted them to come up chunky enough to cover the top of the cosy completely. The leaves are one of the most effective tutorials I have come across and look really sweet next to the flowers. The daffodil was surprisingly simply, but so pretty.

I will definitely be using these patterns again, I think the roses would look beautiful crocheted into the centre of granny squares, perhaps for a cushion cover of a blanket.

I found it easier to sew the leaves onto the back of the flowers first, so leave a long tail if you intend to do this. It made placement alot easier and I was able to control the positioning better too. I also found I had to block the leaves and the daffodil petals – this is really easy to do. Just mist each piece with water, place a folded up tea towel over it and run a warm iron over it. With the daffodil, you will need to do a couple of petals at a time to avoid pressing the central trumpet – you want this to stay standing up 🙂 Let the pieces cool down and dry off before you sew them on. Alternatively, if you have more patience than me, you can pin the daffodil petals and the leaves down individually to a thick piece of foam, or even a large cushion (a flat one!) and mist with water, leaving to dry naturally. Both techniques work perfectly!

I’ve put my finished tea cosy on my kitchen dresser, ontop of a cut glass cake stand, to really show it off! But here’s a rather badly executed photo of it, which was taken as soon as I finished! I was too eager to show it off!