Monday, 5 December 2016

Elfs on The Shelf: Week One

My two Christmas Elves, Angus and Flora have settled into our household really nicely, and so far, haven't done anything too mischievous! I made Angus a little present to help keep him warm as he looked a little chilly at times. Do you like his crocheted scarf?

The scarf is made from a combination of DMC Natura Just Cotton, and Rowan Siena 4 ply which I had lying around in my wool basket. I used a 2.5mm crochet hook and made some simple striped double crochet rows, 10 stitches across. I couldn't decide on what colour I wanted to use and ended up using all seven colours, three in the DMC yarn, and four in the Siena. Once I had done each colour twice, except for the green which appears three times so I could start and end on it, I added some simple tassels either end and voila! Extra detailing was added when the colours changed as I alternated colours from the old to the new which has made it a more special stripe I think. Hopefully Flora doesn't feel too left out, although I am sure I will be making something just for her rather soon.

I am absolutely loving the challenge of the Elf on the Shelf. They move overnight you know and in the morning you have to try and find them wherever they may be in the house (lets hope they don't discover the attic!!). I am taking a photograph a day to show everyone what they have been up to and plan to post about the events on my blog at the end of each week so that you can see what they have been doing too! Here are last week's photos.

Day One: Flora and Angus are wrapping up warm in Angus' scarf- who knew it could fit two(?!), and choosing the very best mini Christmas trees. I think Flora has found her favourite.

Day Two: Only Flora is allowed to use the big scissors for cutting out paper snowflakes. Angus can't be trusted to not cut off a pigtail!

Day Three: Testing out the Christmas socks! A highly important job that one should take very seriously...Angus!

Day Four: Who ate all of the mince pies?!?!!

These Elves are very very naughty, and I expect they will get up to all sorts of trouble and mischief. Flora is definitely the more grown up of the two, but with Angus egging her on, they could do anything!!

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Simply Stripes

After spending so long on a complicated crochet blanket made up of hundreds of tiny pieces made into slightly less tiny pieces and then into slightly less tiny pieces again before being attached together, I was craving a really simple project which wouldn't require planning or much thought and would just roll off the hook in a straightforward sort of manner. Stripes! I thought, stripes are nice and easy going, versatile, colourful and beautiful, just what I needed.

The colour palette for this new blanket was picked off of the Wool Warehouse website from their coloured images- a dangerous game I know but the sudden urgent need to purchase wool was quite demanding and I couldn't find my wool colour chart in time. Some colours I remembered from the Log Cabin blanket so I chose favourites from there, mingled with some new colours I thought I would try. It's a very sweet colour scheme, nothing offensive (this time), with some colours teetering on the edge of pastel, contrasted with bright, bold, berry colours. The mental image for this one is a stripe of beautiful colour, separated with lashings of cream. Yes I saw this blanket quite vividly in my mind and the excitement, whilst waiting for the wool to arrive, was huge!!

The wool is my favourite 100% acrylic Stylecraft Special DK which is soft and versatile, not scratchy like various other brands of acrylic yarn, plus in comes in the most amazing, intense colours. The chosen colours are:
Top row from left: Boysenberry * Cream * Parchment * Apricot *
Bottom row from left: Soft Rose * Fuchsia Purple * Sage * Duck Egg *

The plan was simple, a starting chain of 198 stitches plus 2 for turning, followed by a row of double crochet, and then an initial row of treble clusters separated by chain stitches to start off... the granny stripe blanket! All further rows from now on are worked in the chain gaps and you can simply glide along the blanket adding colour after colour until you wish to stop. There really is nothing stopping you from making this blanket as long as you wish, you could keep going until you can wrap a house in it, or maybe when it fits a single bed.

In my experience of making striped blankets before, the first 30 or so rows seem to fly by and work up really quickly, but when you get further into it, there is an illusion that makes it look like you aren't adding any fullness until you have crocheted past that point, and suddenly, it is a full size blanket!

Each colour is worked up in two neat rows, seperated each time by two rows of cream which is giving it a very girly effect. I still haven't decided whether these colours should randomly appear, or if once I have used all of my colours, I should go back to the beginning and follow the initial order all the way through. I shall cross that bridge when I get to it, although my instinct is saying to go random.

It is currently joining the cat, the geometric blanket and myself on the chair in the evenings, all snuggled peaceably together in front of the laptop watching DVDs or The Crown on Netflix, have any of you been watching that? It's fascinating!
So this is what I shall be doing in the run up to Christmas, snuggling down and striping away!

Saturday, 3 December 2016

WPLUP:: Geometric Ta-Daah!!

I think last time I updated you all on my geometric blanket, I had just finished the centre panel and was trying to plan how to finish it off with a border. I did toy with the idea of creating my own border pattern to include triangular shapes, mirroring the shapes in the blanket, but in the end I stuck with the simple; working rounds of double and treble crochet stitches. 

One weekend we drove up to visit The Brother in his university halls in Guildford, and as I find crochet a soothing way to occupy a journey, the blanket came with me and I managed to finish the border in the several hours worth of driving! Such an excellent way to pass the time when you can't really be doing anything else.
The curves and points of the edge were quite difficult to navigate as they weren't true and precise turning points, just gentle curving arches. They did still need an increase in stitches but it wasn't really clear on where to put them, and in hindsight I should have put more in, especially on the very corners of the blanket as they do curl over slightly where it's tight. The 'trough's of the curve were worked with trebles and doubles worked together to create a lovely 'v' shape.

I have to say that the cat really excelled himself in the testing of this blanket. Never has a blanket been so rigorously tested for comfyness, durability and the ability for easy removal of cat hair after a long nap. Such wiggling and wriggling, kneading and clawing, dribbling and cleaning went on both during the creation of the blanket and in the final quality control checks after completion. We spent many an evening snuggled together; the cat, the blanket and I.

It was finished just in time for the sudden cold snap which has descended upon us. The days are beautiful, sunny and clear but with that brisk freezing wind whisking away any warmth the sun may be sending our way, and the nights are gorgeously starry and bright but oh, so cold! You lose all feeling in your face, which is the only thing that isn't wrapped up under layers and layers of woolly knitwear. The blanket and various others have been in constant use, building little nests from which you can safely sip hot chocolate and eat mince pies (still in the testing stage), wishing never to emerge from the colourful safe haven created.

But go about our daily routine we must, and today I found myself wrapped in said various layers, draping the blanket around the garden and frantically taking photos whilst my fingers still had the ability to do so. I love how these colours zing together in the sunshine, it is truly the best weather to view this blanket in, the gold and yellows really sing loudly, and that gorgeous bright blue is simply marvellous!

The finished edging ends on my love/hate mustard colour, as I think is fitting seeing as how it is the whole reason for the blanket to be in this colour scheme in the first place, and I used Attic 24's spot on edging as I really love the effect it gives. It isn't a wide border as it only has five rounds, but is enough I think to finish the blanket nicely.

So here we go then, a ta-daah moment. Are you ready to see my full, finished blanket?



The cat is still feeling a little possessive over the blanket I think as he decided to brave the cold with me to view the ta-daah moment taking place (he is now fast asleep and slowly sliding off my lap as I type this blog post), and as he worked so hard as well it seemed only fitting for him to photobomb.

Don't you just love where the light has landed on the corner of the blanket there? Talk about a sucker-punch for colour and pattern! The finished and overall effect really reminds me of an artist's painting I saw in the Tate Modern once several years ago, it was very similar in terms of a regimented structure across the canvas, but the colours together were amazing; the light and dark, swirling around and creating their own story and effect.
So, I hope you have enjoyed this latest installment of the Winter Project Link Up Party hosted, as always, by the lovely Jen over at Thistle Bear. If you are interested in seeing what the other members of the party have been up to, do click on the link here to go to the relevant blog post, or click on the button on the right hand side of my page. xx

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Flora & Angus

Hello! I am just popping into the Dotty T world to wish you all the best for tomorrow. It's the start of Advent, daily chocolates, double bookings, pantos, school plays, decorations, family squabbles, last minute present buying and frantic Christmas card scribbling. We have already started by testing out the mince pies, something we take very seriously in this household. At least once box from various supermarkets has to be consumed and then we decide which one to buy our 'proper' Christmas mince pies from; such a task!

This year, a little known tradition seems to have exploded in all of the shops here in England. Do any of you know of Elf on the Shelf? The story is that Santa sends his Elves out to 'watch' the children to see who should be on his nice list and get presents under the tree on the big day. The Elves arrive on the first day of December and stay until Christmas Eve when they have to go back to the North Pole and present their report. They are given magic to enable them to move around the house when no one is looking and can get up to all sorts of mischief, but if a child touches the Elf then it loses its magic (and presumably doesn't give a favourable report to Santa)!
I have to admit I don't really like the look of the mass produced Elves for the shelves, but a lady at work makes the most amazingly beautiful fabric Elves, and I asked her if she would mind my adopting two.

Meet.... (pause for effect).... Flora & Angus!!! So cute! They are quite tall and beanpole like, about 40cm tall, and with bags of character. They were hiding in a white bag on the bus home, peeping cheekily at me through the gaps in the handles. The attention to detail is quite amazing, from the fur trims around their hats and boots, the carefully sewn hair and pert noses, the removable outfits, bells on their toes and the hand sewn bobble trim on Flora's skirt- they are quite the best Christmas Elves ever!

I am planning on doing my own Dotty T style Elf on the Shelf, and will keep you updated with the mischiefs this cheeky pair get up to. Let me know if you have your own little Elf visitors!!

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Festive Penguin Plate

Last week we took the Guides to a new pottery painting studio that has opened up in my town, Kilnwood Studio. I often go to a similar place nearer to where I work, Glazy Daisy, so am familiar with the painting process and the girls absolutely loved it!! Never have they concentrated so hard on something and been so quiet in their concentration- it was brilliant!!
We decided before going that the girls were going to paint plates, rather than ask them to choose something on the day which would have taken absolutely ages(!), and they also brought in images of things to inspire, which had to have a festive theme. I was asked if I wanted to paint a plate of my own, and, never one to turn down a creative opportunity, I jumped at the chance!!
The background was a sponged, icy effect and I got my hands dirty making thumbprint penguins around the outside, adding little accessories to keep the penguins warm in their cold looking surroundings.

The girls did a brilliant job! Some of them look almost like a professional design that you would buy in the shops (others are slightly less polished I admit, but still full of enthusiasm and creativity). An interesting method that the slightly less creatively minded Guides used to was stick stickers onto the plates and paint over them, achieving a very neat polka dot, especially effective on the edges. The stickers get removed with a cocktail stick once the paint is dry. Any pen or pencil marks also disappear in the kiln which is handy.

How sweet is that little penguin above? And the robins!! Did you spot the Christmas pig?

This week we were able to collect our plates, and unwrapping the bubble wrap is very nerve wracking as it reveals how the colours changed after being glazed and fired. You have to remember when painting to add three layers of colour for the strongest tone, and any missed areas will be revealed in the finished piece. I am very pleased with how mine came out, especially with the little bobble hats! A plate to eat my mince pies off of!

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Field Of Flowers Stitchscape

Here we are then, another weekend, another finished stitchscape! I think this one wins the competition for the highest amount of Bullion knots included in a single 'scape but it just had to be done!

As usual there are many layers to this piece which has made it look a little busy I think, but then there are many layers to floral fields so it's not a bad thing if it makes you look closer. Each stripe of a background fabric has its texture stitches with the Bullion knot flowers added over the top, and a lovely strip of lace peeking out through the stems.

I especially loved enhancing the flower print fabrics and trying out different types of stitches, lazy daisy (single chain stitches), tiny seed stitch petals, slightly longer stitched petals, satin stitch, French knots, fly stitch, Bullion roses (the things you can do with Bullion knots!!)....

The lovely spotty fabric has a kind of cross stitch thing going on,with some stitches worked almost in a chevron and others crossing over for a variation on cross stitch. Over the top of this we have long single stitch reeds with tiny fly stitch feather flowers. Nothing heavy, but adding amazing texture.

This little piece was mounted and framed this afternoon, although I ran out of white frames so it is currently residing in a natural light wooden one. Now it is framed, the perspective really comes into play which is brilliant! It still amazes me that such a finished image comes from a vague notion in my crazy brain. Standing back and looking at the piece brings out new ideas and things even I hadn't noticed whilst stitching it- like the cloud formations in the sky, and the way the lace strip now looks like a tiny picket fence.

I went slightly mad in Wilkos this week and bought quite a lot more frames for my pieces- it was so enjoyable seeing other stitchscapes come to life once in a frame, I had to see them ALL! So today I have been cutting mounts, positioning and re-positioning stitchscapes, doing some last minute ironing and polishing glass, until.....

.... they were all framed!
I've stuck with the box frames as some of the stitchscapes are starting to become more three dimensional with the sequins and beads being added and I didn't want to squash anything. Although I'm not wishing to boast, I think they look fab!

There's quite a collection building up now!! What 'scape should I do next?