Sunday 12 February 2012

Let's crochet it!

Last January, when I was on my way back to the UK I saw in a shop at Rio de Janeiro Airport this lovely blanket. I had some left over Reais and I was very tempted to buy it. When I looked at the price tag though, Olly had to stop me from falling on my back. It said reduced from R$ 1,090 to R$ 899. Just over £300... I don't need to say that I left the shop without buying it, but not before taking a picture and adding to my list of new year's resolutions: make my own crochet blanket.

Crochet Afghan Pattern
Photo Credit: Olly Hunter, with Instagram by ZB
I was determined to make one for myself, however, I had never attempted to crochet anything in my entire life, so I knew it wouldn't be easy. And it hasn't been, I confess. But we are only in February and if I am finished with this blanket by December, I am happy. So if you, like me, is totally new to the art of crocheting (I have no idea if this is even a verb!), welcome to this post and the next ones that will follow!

Step 1: Learning the skills

The basics:
Obviously, you will need crochet hooks and yarn/wool. I got this kit from Amazon with 22 aluminium and steel hooks just because it was the best offer they had (£8.95), but as to start with you will only need 1x 4mm hook, you can spend less if you want. There is a lot of discussion out there about which is the best type of hook (bamboo, steel, hard plastic, aluminium...) and after reading a lot about it, I figured out you need to try a few and make up your own mind.

Regarding yarns, some people say that cotton ones are the best option for beginners. I kind of ignored the advice and regret it. As I knew I was going to mess up my first attempts, I bought the cheapest wool I found and it is really annoying when the threads start to come apart when you're in the middle of a stitch. I guess as soon as I get a bit better, I will move on to cotton or a more expensive yarn. The ones I got were Sirdar Country Style, from John Lewis, for about £2.95 a ball. If I can give you any advice it is do not buy this one!

Getting started:
There are hundreds of videos on Youtube that might help you with the first steps. In my case, however, I still prefer the good old books, so I got 200 crochet blocks from Amazon after reading it was a good option for who is learning. Although the title is a bit of a lie (they count the different colour patterns to justify the 200), it's proven to be a good book, although my attempts so far weren't that successful.

After some online research, I stumbled upon this blog by Megan Turnidge that lead me to a very good website by Garn Studio, where I came across this lovely pattern below. It's saved on my favourites and it's pretty much what I am trying to achieve in the long term.

Crochet Afghan Pattern
Photo Credit:

Although I really liked the Garn Studio pattern, downloading it proved to be a task. The pdf file the website creates for you to print is messy and difficult to read, so I made a more friendly version that takes only 3 pages and you can download it here.

Understanding this new language:
It didn't take long for me to realise that apart from learning the skills (how to hold a hook, the movement with your fingers, keep the consistency) I would have to learn this new language in which crochet patterns are written in.

Any beginners book should have (like the one I mentioned above has):

1. A glossary with what the abbreviations mean (please, do get familiarised with them before you start, otherwise it can be very off putting).
2. A "how to" diagram with pictures of the most common stitches.

NOTE: Understanding the instructions is for me the hardest, but also the most important thing. If you read it wrong, you will very likely realise your mistake only when you're way further down your pattern and going back over and over (although common when you're starting) can be a bit frustrating. 

If pictures are not enough, then you should make the most of online video tutorials. I found Youtube a bit of a waste of time. Way too many videos, most of it useless. Go for the specialised websites, like the one I mentioned before, Garn Studio. I found these videos from them very useful:

1. Chain stitch (ch)
2. dc (US) / tr (UK)
3. Ring of chains
4. Slip stitch (sl st)
5. tr (US) / dtr (UK)

NOTE: I've noticed that apart from the differences in nomenclature US vs UK, there are often some variations from tutorial to tutorial. I don't know why, but it is something you should definitely be aware of. What my book calls "tr" is different form the tr (UK) in Garn Studio video. So every time you come across a new pattern, it's good to check if they have a glossary of the stitches they use.

Thursday 2 February 2012

Cute decorated wooden pegs

I love these wooden pegs below. I found them at Paperchase at the end of 2010 but have been checking their website since and apparently they stopped making them. It's a shame, but wait a second?!

Cute decorated wooden pegs
Our wedding table! Photo by the lovely Graham Morgan

They are so easy and cheap to make and you don't need to stick to a butterfly theme only.
So if you want to make them, here are some tips:

- You can buy a pack with 50 mini pegs from Ryman for £1.09.
- For the embellishments, the best shop I found was Windermere Craft, on Ebay. They have both assorted packs or themed ones. Click here for their collection. Prices will vary, but they are usually between £2 to £3 a pack of 12. I particularly love the dotty dogs!

- If you have a hot glue gun, you can use it to stick the embellishments to the pegs, but normal arts & crafts glue should do the job as well, especially if you're not worried about transporting or posting them.
- You can see that in the first picture there is a O + Z on the back of a peg. We did that because we used them on our wedding as place name holders and we told the guests to take them home as a souvenir of our day. For that, I used a woodburning pen I got from Amazon.

After the wedding, I use the remaining ones for different things, but my favourite is to hold my pictures!