Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Spring Color & Calico

Hello there!
I'm sorry I never got back to you last week, I finally succumbed to all the bugs going around the house & spent most of last week curled up on the couch feeling bleugh! The weather outside didn't help much, more of the grey & miserables, but today the clouds are more white than grey & I can even see a little bit of blue sky - yay! The pots I bought last week have been a real ray of sunshine, they have grown so much in just a week - in fact I'm sure if I stare at them long & hard enough I could watch the hycinths moving!

 Also enjoying the beautiful blooms is the little Tatty Teddy hubbie bought me for our special day a few weeks back. Which reminds me I still haven't gotten around to photographing the card I made him...

Isn't Nature wonderful? Such glorious colors! Soon the hycinths will be ready to open & perfume the whole room, I hope the last of my stuffy nose is gone by then so I can smell them! I'm also hoping for a nice sunny day this week to take the camera out into the garden & see what changes spring has wrought out there in the last week.
The other thing I want to share with you today is my new ami. I had a suggestion for designing this animal a while back along with the request to use bright colors but I just wasn't "feeling it" until I saw a particular orangey shade of Sirdar Calico yarn in a store in the city. I love working with Calico - it is more expensive than the yarns I generally use but it has such a beautiful peach skin softness to it. Who would have guessed that a blend of cotton & acrylic would result in such a silky soft product? The colors it comes in are beautiful too - they have a slightly washed look to them. Am I slightly obsessed? Yes I totally love this yarn! Using it for amis produces a very huggable,soft, & lovable character so I have decided to design some teddies made from this & call them my "Super Snuggly range". Here is the first one, Charley Cat!

Along with the orange yarn I used pink & purple Calico, black to embroider his nose & mouth, & black embroidery thread for his whiskers. His stripey blue ribbon collar has a little silver bell hung from a silver thread. Sitting sideways you can see his tail, tipped in pink to match his ears, muzzle, & body.
Here he is with Bryn Bunny - they make a colorful duo don't they?
 I'm not going to take Charley down to the Crafters shop just yet, I want to design & make a few more characters for this range (what a good excuse to keep playing with that lovely Calico!) and get some group shots of them all together. I think I'm going to have a busy week ahead! I hope you all have a lovely week too :-)

Monday, 20 February 2012

Bulbs & Bunnies

Hello & welcome to my new follower!
Monday & the start of a New Week. The snow of the weekend has vanished & I wonder whether spring will make a renewed effort this week, an extra push to say "it's coming! Winter is nearly done!" At this stage of the year I am longing for spring; for the longer, lighter days, the awakening of our garden & of Nature beyond my garden fence. It is still cold out there, the wind is blowing gustily keeping most of the birds off the nearby rooflines today. Whilst little shoots are starting to emerge outside I couldn't resist buying some small pots of bulbs for indoors the other day.


Iris Reticulata, Tete-a-tete daffodils, Primrose, & Hycinths. I just couldn't resist them, especially as the cheerful little yellow pot of daffodil shoots was only 50p! Now if winter prevails outside for the next couple of weeks at least it will feel like spring in here :-)
My main project over the weekend was creating a new ami for the shop. My last new design was Briallen Bunny.
The last few that I have taken down there were "families", brother & sister of the same animal in two different sizes, so it seemed logical to make a brother for her. So here he is - Bryn Bunny!

 Turns out he is a fan of spring bulbs too!
 Full details of Bryn & Briallen & all my other amis can be found on my website www.twchighland.co.uk please do sign my guestbook if you pop by for a visit!
Today I made a start on a new animal, so far I have a head & two ears but that is all I'm going to tell you for now - I hope you will stop by later in the week to meet him/her? Have a great week everyone!

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Out of the comfort zone

Hello from a cold & grey north of Scotland! It has been snowing on & off all day so far but although the hills have turned white, it isn't lying in the garden or on the road... yet... Definitely a day for staying inside, finding a job or two that can be done with a kitten curled up next to you! We have a brother & sister duo, Pippa & Felix, who came to live with us last summer from the SSPCA & are now around 10 months old. So while Pippa snuggles up on one side of me I will tell you about my latest crafty endeavor.
Sometimes when we try something new it doesn't go at all how we had envisioned it & that can either be a blessing in disguise or put us off ever trying that thing again (well at least that's how it works with me!). About seven years ago I saw a cross stitch magazine with a free cover gift that I instantly knew would make a perfect gift for my grandmother whose birthday was coming up. I couldn't wait to get the magazine home, get the other materials required & get started. The project called for 18 count aida which I had never used before, but I had been stitching on & off for years by then & I didn't think anything of it. Well - I HATED it! The stitched areas were very small but it took me a disproportionate amount of time to do & I couldn't wait to get it finished & get rid of it!
My grandmother loved them so the struggles were worth it & the rest of the 18 count fabric was promptly relegated to the bottom of my fabric stash.
Earlier this week a chart in a magazine caught my eye, it was stitched on 18 count & initially I had thought I would just substitute 16 count, but I have been having a bit of a tidy & a sort through some of my craft supplies & saw the 18 count lurking. I really should make a decision about it's fate instead of simply ignoring it - rehome it with a crafty friend or have another try? The chart was pretty small so I figured I would give it a go & if I still couldn't get on with it I would rehome the fabric & stitch the design on 16 count. So Thursday night I gathered what I would need & settled down to make a rather apprehensive start. In the last seven years as the children have gotten older my personal crafting time has increased dramatically, both the quantity & variety of stitching projects I have tackled has grown, & a few years ago my wonderful hubbie bought me a daylight lamp :-) It's a clip on one with a flexible neck so I can get it exactly where I want it & it was instantly a huge improvement over the daylight bulb in a floor lamp arrangement I used before. Probably due to a combination of these things I found myself working on the 18 count waiting for the other shoe to drop. You know that expression? The 18 count was definitely visibly smaller than the 14 count I had been working on earlier in the day but it was no problem, in fact I actually started to enjoy it! The design began to emerge finer & with a dainty look about it that I loved & six hours later I was done.
Yesterday I made it into a card for a friend overseas whose second child arrived last weekend, so soon it will begin it's long journey to the Pacific coast.

I hope she likes it, but I must admit I am definitely pleased with this one - I am very glad I gave the 18 count another try & am looking forward to using it for other card toppers in the future. One day I might even get brave enough to try a big project on it! Overall the lesson I have learned this week is give it another try - what's the worst that can happen? You probably still have the materials from the first attempt & you might pleasantly surprise yourself! I hope you all have a lovely weekend, the cat has moved so I'm off to make a cuppa & start something new...

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Midweek Makes

Hello & thank you for dropping by! Today is cloudy, the wind is whistling down the chimney here & I can't quite believe it is Wednesday already - where is this week going? It is half term so the usual weekly routine is off, but as my youngest people are 17 now school holidays aren't what they were ten years or so ago. Then we would have been out & about with the dog or busy on the kitchen table with glue, paint, or any manner of creative mess - to be honest I rather miss all that! But one of the benefits of older offspring is that I have more creative time for myself & I certainly wouldn't have got hubbie's Valentines present finished in time otherwise. I finished the stitching Sunday night & then it got a wash in soap flakes & laid on a towel by the radiator to dry Monday. Yesterday I walked down to the High Street for a frame (we have a local shop with a brilliant frame selection) & it was all ready for hubbie when he came in from work last night.

This little guy is called Somebunny to Love & he is hubbies' favorite character. Well actually there is a boy Somebunny & a girl Somebunny & you will find them both appearing on here regularly - I have already made a start on a new one for our wedding anniversary next month ;-)
I was a bit more organised with the Valentines card this year as I wanted to try a new technique. Whilst out shopping a few weekends' ago I came across some table confetti in the shape of lovely little hearts & thought it would be perfect for a shaker card. I had seen an article in a card magazine about how to make these & had fancied trying it for a while, the acetate & sticky foam pads have been in my stash for ages. It really was quite simple to do and if you like the effect I would encourage you to go for it!
 For the shaker part I cut two identical heart shapes from the acetate using my Pazzle, but you could cut whatever shape you wanted by hand or with another die cutter etc. Then using tweezers I stuck 2mm double sided foam squares around the edge of the heart. These need to be as close together as you can get them so they form a wall & stop whatever you put in the middle to shake from coming out. I used a glue pen on the reverse side of the acetate & stuck it onto the pink swirly backing paper, Pritt stick & the glue pen I have both show through acetate even when dry so I made sure to keep all the glue hidden under the foam pads. I selected the different sizes & quantity of confetti that I wanted & placed it in the middle of the acetate heart & then peeled the backing papers off all the foam squares. The other acetate heart shape goes on the top so you have an "acetate & confetti sandwich" on the front of the card. At this point you can still see the foam pads through the acetate so you need to make a frame to fit over the top of your shape. I made mine from pink card, you want to cut it slightly larger than the acetate shape so that the edges are completely hidden. There you are - all done!
Before I go I have one last thing to share with you - the ripply goodness blanket :-) I am loving seeing these colorful ripples grow under my fingers:
I spent some very happy hours at the weekend adding to this & now I'm nearly to the half way point. One added bonus of it's growing length is the warmth it brings across my lap while I work on it, I have discovered making a blanket is just the perfect activity for these grey cold February days so if you have been thinking about starting one of your own I can heartily recommend it!
Have a great week everyone!

Friday, 10 February 2012

Two amis & a love of yarn

Hello! Nice to see some new folks have joined us - welcome!
I thought I would start off by sharing with you the two amigurumis (amis) I finished last night:

They are minions - characters from the movie "Despicable Me" (a great film even if you don't have young kids!). Originally I made one of these for my youngest brother last year & this came up in a conversation between my daughter & her friends. End result - in the last two weeks I have made three of them! I would like to point out that the pattern is not one of my own designs, I found it at http://wolfdreamer-oth.blogspot.com/2010/07/despicable-minion.html . I don't know anything about the lady behind this blog except she is very talented & has some great ami patterns she is generous enough to share with the rest of us. Do go on over & check them out! I haven't tried any of her other patterns yet but I'm pretty sure it's just a matter of time, after all doesn't the blue of the minions' overalls look a lot like a "Sonic the Hedgehog" kind of blue? ;-) Well the minions were dispatched in the school bag mail this morning & were apparently well received by their new owners so mission accomplished there!
Last week I showed you my lovely chunky yarn that arrived & promised you I would show you what I was going to make with it. Well this project is slightly bigger than the minions & will definitely take me longer to complete! I had been tempted into buying some yarn last summer when we were on holiday. I had thought that I would bring home some craft supplies but planned to stay away from the yarn! After all I wouldn't be sure on quantities & would be unable to get more if I wanted it, and for a little at least while I managed this. But all the good intentions went out of the window when I spied this:
 Now this picture really doesn't do it credit as the days are so grey here right now & the light isn't great, but you get the jist. It is Red Heart Supersaver yarn, two skeins of Monet & one of Ocean, & it kept calling to me from the shelves! On about the fourth or fifth time I came across it on our travels I gave in & bought some with no earthly idea what I would make with it, I just knew I would regret it if I came home without it. So it has been sitting in one of my yarn boxes waiting for me to decide on a project for it...
In one of my January blog browsing sessions I discovered the brilliant http://attic24.typepad.com/ .If you haven't visited Lucy in the Attic yet may I highly recommend a trip? I have fallen in love with her use of bright colors & plan to try out a lot of her patterns in the months to come. I also found the perfect pattern for my Red Heart yarn here. Of course it would need more than just three skeins, so I picked out colors that were in these mixtures - what a great excuse to buy yarn! I spent part of last weekend working on different ways of combining all the colors & this is what I have so far:
Waves of ripply goodness :-) you can find the pattern here http://attic24.typepad.com/weblog/neat-ripple-pattern.html with an excellent tutorial if (like me) you have never crocheted a ripple before, I was off & running (or rippling) in no time! I find it an extremely soothing pattern to work; I don't know quite what it is, maybe the gentle rhythm of the "valleys" & the "hills", but I am LOVING this!!! I have decided to keep it as a weekend treat, a reward with far less calories than those I often choose! So come Friday night I will be happily rippling away & I will try & remember to take a photo Sunday night for you before I pack it away for another week.
Well Friday is almost here, I hope you all have a lovely weekend of sunny days & sweet dreams :-)

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

A sign of things to come?

It seemed a bit ironic that while half the country shivered & struggled with snowfall yesterday, here in the Highlands we had a beautiful spring day!
 As it was the day after the Superbowl Hubbie had the day off work, so after a somewhat later than usual start to the morning we set about a few jobs. I had bought some irises & snowdrops at the street market on Saturday & it seemed like the perfect opportunity to get them planted.
 It was warm enough to be out there without a jacket & as I put the snowdrops in I thought how lovely it would be to get an early start to the outdoor year this year. A lot of the plants only make it through the winter here because they are sheltered by the dead growth from last year, so there is a lot of tidying up & cutting back to do in the spring. But we probably have a lot more cold yet to come so I mustn't get too carried away yet... I contented myself with sorting out the edge of the bed here & weeding at the base of the apple tree where I had decided to put some of the irises. They will be joined by other flowering bulbs as spring progresses but it is nice to see some color out there now.
 I have had a trough on the kitchen window sill with cyclamen in it throughout the winter but they aren't flowering as much now so I thought the remaining irises should join them. There are some later flowering bulbs in this tub too, but I can't remember what I ended up putting in there so that will be a nice surprise! For now it will be enough to see a splash of color every time I through the window, especially when the weather reverts to it's normal grey!
To end the afternoon Hubbie & I took the dog for a walk to some local woods. It was beginning to get chilly & there was ice underfoot in places where the sun never reaches. There was beautiful color to be seen with the sun finding it's way through the trees & further on some lovely views from the edge of the woodland.

Today was a total contrast - we woke to freezing fog & frosty white grass - which is why it is important to make the most of the beautiful days when we get them. So today I stayed indoors working on a few ongoing projects. I also remembered to take a few photos of the project I worked on over the weekend using the lovely colors of yarn! I will share that with you soon, but in the meantime thought you might like to see a congratulations card I made on Friday for a good friend who has just got engaged.

I hope whatever the weather has been like where you are you have been enjoying the start to the week, stay warm folks!

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Three Lovely Things!

Hello & welcome to my new followers - I do appreciate you dropping by!
Today got off to a good start with my long-awaited yarn arriving - YAY! The colors were as lovely as I had been hoping from the website pictures, I had been a bit apprehensive about that one as on every webpage they seemed to look different despite having the same color code numbers. Now I know there is a technical reason for that to do with monitors etc., but it doesn't really help when you are trying to match colors! So here is what I've been waiting for:
Now how lovely are these? It's a chunky 100% acrylic yarn & feels so soft & cuddly too!
Seeing them all piled up on the couch like this put a big smile on my face :-)
Now you will have to wait a few days before I let you see what I am using them for...
On to the second lovely thing of today!
Recently I visited the main library in Inverness to see what selection of crochet books they carried. It had been quite a few years since I had last popped in, & while a lot of things appear to have remained the same, there have been some very welcome changes! In the category of "remaining the same" they had just one book on crochet - the catchily titled "Crochet for bears to wear" by Amy O'Neill Houck. I took it out of course, & the lady at the desk told me you can now view the entire library catalogue online. You need a pin number & your library card & then from the comfort of your own armchair, & with a steaming cuppa by your side, you can browse to your hearts' content! Now I liked the sound of that! So last night I gave it a try. It is really user friendly & I quickly found two books I have been interested in seeing, so reserved them. This afternoon I walked up to the local library & collected one of them, the lady up there seemed rather surprised that I really did want a book on crochet (!) but was very helpful & told me they will call me when the other one arrives from whichever branch it is coming from. As easy as that! The book I took out today is one of Jan Eaton's - 200 crochet blocks for blankets, throws, & afghans - so far it looks really good!
So on to the third lovely thing...
It has been another cold, crisp day here; the skies clearing to a beautiful blue as the day progressed. The dog & I headed out to walk down by the river as the light was beginning to fade this afternoon. I love the quality of light at this time of year when the weather is like it was today. The dog seemed to be enjoying the low temperature too & was bouncing happily along the path as though she were a good few years younger then she is! We love walking down here, the small river runs out to join the estuary, the views are pretty, & we can see lots of different birds. The dog has just about accepted she will never catch a duck - that only took her 8 years! This afternoon I was thinking the cold was keeping a lot of the birds away & then, just around the bend, I saw him. Mr Heron! I love it when I can catch a glimpse of him :-) The tide was low & he was standing in the middle of the water - maybe one time I will have the camera with me.
Well I hope you all had a lovely day too! I'm off to get busy with that yarn :-)

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

A First Start

Well hello there! So I finally bit the bullet & started a blog - I expect this will be a big learning process for me so please feel free to share your ideas & comments with me.

This morning it is cold & crisp outside under a beautiful blue sky. It would be lovely to take the dog up into the hills for a walk but I am expecting two parcels so need to stay put. I contented myself with taking the camera out into the garden again to try & capture the winter sun & the sparkling frost. Here is one I took a couple of mornings back....

This week I have been working on the various cards I will need for February, a cross stitch surprise for my husband for valentine's, and some amigurumis for a couple of my daughters' friends. I am also waiting on yarn that I ordered last week for a big crochet project that I am itching to get going on but will have to be patient & not jump at every courier van that comes down the road! Honestly I am worse than the dog! Well I think it's time for a cuppa so I will be back later. I hope you all have a lovely day!