Monday, December 19, 2011

Playing with beads

I used to play around with beads a lot a few years ago. Before I started card making, crocheting and knitting. But once and again I get my bead boxes out and make something. A long time ago, I made my mum a bracelet. She wanted me to add something to it, but I decided I didn't like it as it was anymore, and started all over. I like it more now, I only have to make it a little wider to actually fit my mum. That's the problem with me, small hands, skinny wrists and big head - not always easy to make things for others and actually make them fit!

Mum also wanted me to make her a brown necklace, and the choice of beads was easy enough. I love these stones, I think they are called Tiger Eye or something like that. This time I made it big enough. I love the toggles I used, they are both pretty and easy to use. 

I actually have a few more things to show you, but I don't have the time right now, which means you'll probably hear from me again soon. If I find the time between all the Christmas preparations that still are to be done...

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Goodies for Christmas season

 Hello there! Having a busy time now, with Christmas soon coming up? I wouldn't say I'm busy or stressed out, I do all the baking and such because I enjoy it. But I haven't been well this week, so I am a little after my schedule. But then again, I always am. Guess I am always a bit too optimistic about how much I will get done in one day, especially when it's all fun things to do. I have mostly been sitting on my bed, reading a good book and trying to get some knitting done. Have to finish that brain hat soon...

But today I have been feeling much better and have been able to shorten my to-do list a little. Much to my daughter's delight, we have now made our first Christmas sweets, white truffle with lime. Mmm, yum yum! One of my favorites! (I know the pictures are too dark, but I don't have a fancy camera and it's dark here most of the time now. )

 I also baked saffron buns. They should have been done before the 13'th when we celebrate the Lucia tradition, but I didn't have the strength then. We'll enjoy them just as much now! Usually, the saffron buns are made in quite a different shape than these, and are decorated with raisins. But I fell in love with their shape a few years ago and have made them "my" saffron buns. They are supposed to look like stars, but they really did rise this time and turned out like huge... buns. But at least I know they're stars. And it seems my kids like them just the same. Probably even better, bigger buns means more for their sweet teeth, right?

The kids prefer the stars you see, while I found a new favorite last year. I thought for a while that I had lost the recipe, but to my great joy I found it. In my book with recipes, who would have thought that? I actually jumped up and down with joy when I found them, that's how tasty they are. Saffron buns with a filling of almond paste, vanilla and orange. Soooo yummy! 

They too did rise more then I expected, so my husband stated that we could serve them as a meal, or at least a decent snack. He didn't seem to sad about that, I have to say. The best thing is I don't have to bake as many kind of cakes and cookies for Christmas this year, a bun like this and a ginger bread and anyone will be full! A good thing, since we also have a birthday coming up (my daughter is born on Christmas day, which is alright since we celebrate Christmas Eve here in Sweden) which usually calls for a lot of baking. Just perfect!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Less messy

Yesterday my hands was hurting so I had to avoid knitting and crochet. They do so from time to time, due to the weather most of the time. So I decided I would do some sewing instead. I'm not very keen on putting my sewing machine on the table, since we're not really the best of friends. But when I tidied my work table the other day, I realized I really needed (and wanted) a place to keep my circular needles. They tend to get so tangled up when you just let them lie around... So I decided to upgrade my DPN organizer to a DPN and circular needle organizer.

So this is what my organizer used to look like. I undid most of the seams to be able to fold it up to a rectangle. Chose two new fabrics that I sewed together and attached to the rectangle, then I started making new pockets for all the needles. 

Now there's room for all my DPN's, circular needles, knit pro's and hooks. Hooray! 

If you ever plan to make an organizer like this, please do yourself a favor and THINK, long and hard, about what you want to keep in it and how big place each thing will need. I thought I had done so, but when I started putting all my things in place, I realized I could have done with less pockets in one size, and more in some other sizes...

But I managed to put it all in there, and they are all so much easier to find now. And I get a much clearer view of what I have. Maybe there won't be enough room in it for all my needles if I keep buying knit pro's for instance, but if I know myself right I won't be too disappointed if I have to make a new organizer when that day comes.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Unfinished crochet

 I think it might be a good thing for me, showing you all my unfinished projects like this. Why? Well, it makes me want to finish them to show you how they turned out. And that has to be a good thing.

This basket belonged to my mother-in-law, who passed away seven years ago. She was a crafty lady, and has painted this basket herself. She used to keep some embroidery in there, I think. It felt right to bring it home and use it for crafty stuff. Now, I keep unfinished projects that I'm not working on for the moment in it. On the picture it's filled with bags that I intend to line. I don't really like making lining, since I'm not very good at it. But it gives a more worked feeling to the bag, so I'll do my best.

This is another bag I am meaning to line, and maybe add a zipper to. It is crocheted in wool and felted. I didn't have enough yarn to make a whole handle, so I had to improvise. I wanted to try beads for the handle, but I thought it would roll off the shoulder if I used only beads. So I crocheted and felted part of a handle until I ran out of yarn. For the rest of the handle I used wooden beads and felted wool rolled to balls.

 I'm not sure that I like the way it turned out. I used a wire to thread the beads on, but it is rather uncomfortable in the crocheted part. And it looks a bit weird, doesn't it? I'm thinking about making a new handle, but I don't know how yet. I bought the yarn on sale since they were deleting the colors from the product range, so I can't buy more. Maybe I can find something else in my yarn boxes.

Yes, one more. This was actually the first one. I was meaning to give it to the church sewing circle's annual charity auction, but it was never finished and then my kids got ill and I totally forgot about it. Yes, I'm a bit ashamed. Especially since it's almost done. I just need to attach the handle and line it. Maybe add a zipper. But I'm not completely ashamed, I am honestly a bit relieved too. I only said I might give it away, and then my neighbor forgot about the might and I felt obliged to give it away even though I didn't really want to. But I do feel ashamed that I forgot about the auction and that I didn't donate anything at all to be sold.

Yes, I do love African flowers! I made this one before the two above, but put it aside for a while. This one is supposed to be for me, but so far I have only made this one hexagon... I guess I have enough to keep myself busy for a while. But if I know myself I will probably get started on a few new projects before I finish all of these...

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Some unfinished business

Oh, I know I've been boring lately. Not posting too often, am I? I hoped I would have something fun to show you, but all I seem to have is an endless row of unfinished stuff. No, that's not entirely true. I do have these, I finished them last week. But how much fun are they really?

Cozy and hopefully warm, yes, but not too fascinating. So I guess I have no other choice than to show you some of my unfinished (and in some cases unsatisfying) business. Too many for one post, so let's start with the knitting.

I was tidying the mess (and indeed, a mess it was!) on and around my worktable today, and found some things I had almost forgot about. This mit was one of them. Last winter, I thought I would try making cables. Turned out it was not my best skill, and here it is now. I'm thinking I might give it a second chance, maybe influenced by the first snow that fell here last night. Winter and cables seems right somehow.

The next one is newer. Do you remember the trouble I had, trying to machine felt a purse and a mobile cozy to the right size? Well, this is the too big mobile cozy. I thought I'd keep it for myself, since I have a rather big mobile phone. I thought I would make something colorful, like Swedish kurbits. I really like the way it's turning out, but unfortunately I broke my last felting needle and was unable to finish it. Have to get new ones soon!

This one is the actual custom ordered cozy. This one belongs to the category unsatisfying unfinished business. I managed to get the cozy the right size, but then she wanted the motif of a wolf. Oh my! Never thought it would be so hard to make. I just started needle felting motifs, and I can truthfully say I'm not very good at it. Yet, anyway. I hope to be one day. What you are looking at is supposedly a wolf howling at the moon.

Someone close to me admitted it had looked like a rabbit to him, and he had the courtesy to say so when I had come this far. Thank you! (Love you anyway!) So now it looks like a rabbit to me too. Rabbit or not, I don't really like it. And I really like to be proud of the things I make, especially if they are for someone else. Now I'm thinking about how to make it better. Felting a wolf is so hard since I'm not good enough to make details. And embroidery on such a thick material, in the shape of a cozy seems too hard to do. Grateful for any suggestions! 

This one is something I really long to get started on. This is the first attempt I made at that felted purse with ribbon embroidery that turned out too big. I'm thinking about turning it into a small handbag. I will felt a long handle for it, line it with red, silky fabric and make some embroidery on it. Red. I searched long and hard to find the right pattern, and I think I found it.

When I knit purses and bags for felting, I cast on with a cotton yarn. Then I start knitting with the wool. This way I can sew the bottom together very neatly. On this one I happened to use red cotton, and it looked lovely! Red and gray are winter and Christmas to me. I'm thinking that this tiny little handbag would be perfect for any Christmas related party where you need only a pretty little something for your mobile and maybe your wallet.

This last project is the only one I'm actually working on for the moment. A friend wanted me to make a very special hat for her husband for Christmas. It will look like a brain when it's done. Hopefully!

Last but not least, I would like to say thank you and welcome! Thank you for all the lovely comments on the African Flower bag, I've walked on clouds for days now. I could never imagine that my little how-to would lead so many people to this blog. So do feel welcome, both you who just passes by and those of you who liked it enough to stay with me for a while. I'm very glad to have you, and I hope to find new friends among you!

Friday, December 2, 2011

African Flower bag pattern

I have been meaning to do this for so long. I got started on it over two weeks ago, and had done half of it. Saved it (so I thought) to finish it the next day. And realized that only two pictures were saved, everything I had written was gone! Got a little upset and have feared to make another try... I have to warn you though, I'm not a very talented pattern writer, just an amateur who wants to share the how-to... But here we go

OBS! Vill du ha mönstret på svenska, så finns det här! (Link to Swedish pattern.)

Achtung!Jetzt gibt es auch ein Anleitung auf Deutsch! (Link to German pattern.)

 This bag is known on Flickr and Ravelry as my Pink and Purple African Flower Bag. It's been quite popular, so I thought someone might be interested in the pattern. I made a new one in purple and gray a while ago, and took some pictures of the process. Wish I had taken more, but I hope this will be enough.

I use a chunky cotton yarn for this bag. With a 4,5 mm hook, the hexagons measure approximately 12 cm (4,5 inches) across. If you need the pattern for the African Flower hexagon, you can find it here
I start by picking out one base color for the bag, and three or four flower colors. One of the flower colors are chosen to be more dominant than the others. Then I make 12 hexagons. I chose to make them in only three different variants and so I get four flowers of each.

When I have all the hexagons I need, I sew them together. Two of each color variant in each row. I like to make a symmetric pattern and put them in the same place in the rows. Like A, B, C, A, B, C, and then sew the last C and the first A together to form a circle of hexagons. I do not use the base color for the seams, I like to make them visible and use one of the flower colors for each row.

When I put the two rows together, I make sure that flower C comes directly underneath flowers A and B, so that flowers with the same colors are separated from each other. I use a third flower color for the seam between the rows.

When all the hexagons are attached into one cylinder, I start with the lower part of the bag:

Round 1: Use the dominant flower color.1 sc in every st, and 1 sc in the seam between the flowers.
Round 2: In the base color. 1 sc in each st.
Round 3: Now I start to make an even edge. In the dominant flower color, start on top of one of the hexagons and crochet [4 sc, 3 hdc, 2 dc, 3 dc tog, 2 dc, 3 hdc, 4 sc] and repeat this with every flower. (Depending on how you've sewn the hexagons together, you might have a different number of stitches than this, but don't worry! Just adjust the number of sc or any other stitch you'd prefer to change.) The middle dc in the group of 3 should be in the lowest stitch between the flowers.
Round 4: This round will probably start elsewhere, but it is so much easier for me to describe how you crochet from the top of the hexagon, just like the last round: [5 sc, 3 hdc, 3 dc, 3hdc, 5 sc] Repeat for every flower. Now the edge should be rather straight.
Round 5: 1 dc in each st
Round 6: In base color. 1 sc in each st.
Round 7: In dominant flower color. 1 sc in each st.
Round 8: In base color. 1 sc in each st. Cut the yarn and weave in the end.

Now we are ready to start with the upper part of the bag. This part is done exactly like the lower part to start with. I just use a different color scheme: 

Round 1: Dominant flower color.
Round 2-5: Base color.
Round 6: Dominant flower color.
Round 7: Base color.

So far we just repeated the bottom part pattern. But now we will start to make the part where we can weave in a string to close the bag with. Choose one of your flower colors, other than the dominant one.

Round 8: Flower color of choice. 1 sc in each st.
Round 9: [2 dc, ch 2, skip 2 st] repeat the entire round.
Round 10: [1 sc in each dc, 2 sc around chains.] Repeat.
Round 11: Base color. 1 sc in each st.
Round 12: Dominant flower color. 1 sc in each st.
Round 13: Base color. 1 sc in each st. Cut yarn and weave in.

Now we have made most of the bag. I like to get done with the big parts first, so let's make the bottom:

 Use the base color. Start with chaining 4, and join them to a circle.
Round 1: 9 hdc around the circle.
Round 2: 2 dc in each st.
Round 3: 2 dc in the same st, 1 dc. Repeat.
Round 4: 2 dc in the same st, 2 dc. Repeat.
Round 5: 2 dc in the same st, 3 dc. Repeat.
Keep increasing every round with 1 more dc between the increases every row, until you make the last row: 
Round 11: 2 dc in the same st, 9 dc. Repeat. Cut yarn and weave in.

On the first bag I made, the bottom was all in the base color. On this one I was running out of yarn and made one row in the dominant flower color.

Attach the bottom to the lower part of the bag with one of the flower colors. I didn't get exactly the same number of stitches on the bottom and the lower part, but if you count them you can figure out where to skip a stitch in the seam to attach the bottom evenly to the bag.

Now, we do need a string to close the bag with. This is absolutely the easiest part of the bag. Pick a flower color and make a long chain. It should be at least twice the width of the bag to be long enough, but I make mine three times the width. It will "shrink" some before it's done, and you want some length on it. Then I simply make sl st all the way back. Weave in both ends and weave the string back and forth between the groups of dc's on the bag. Make a knot in each end to prevent it from slipping through.

And finally the handle. It is a matter of taste, I guess, how long you want it to be. I made mine roughly twice as long as the bag is long from bottom to top. Maybe 90 cm (35 inches) or so. Hang it over your shoulder as you make it, and try to feel how long you want it.

Start by making a chain, as long as you like the handle to be. Use the base color. Make a sc in the third ch from the needle and start making sc all the way back. 
Round 1: Make 1 sc in each ch on each side, but make 4 sc in the first and the last ch, to make a rounded increase.
Round 2: 1 sc in each st on each side, but increase in each end like this: 2 sc in the same st, 1 sc, 2 sc in the same st, 2 sc in the same st, 1 sc, 2 sc in the same st.
Round 3: 1 sc in each st on each side, increase like this in each end: 2 sc in the same st four times.

To make a more comfortable handle, I sew it together on the sides to form a rounded handle. I start a bit up the handle, and save approx. 4-5 cm (1,5-2 inches) on each side. Make the seam with one of the flower colors. If you want to, you can put a piece of fabric, a rope or something else to add sturdiness and volume to the handle. I cut out a piece of fabric the same length as the handle. I then folded in the edges and made a so called "straight" seam (as you can see it's not very straight, but no-one will know!) all the way along the fold. I put it on the wrong side of the crocheted handle and started sewing it together around the fabric. 

Now, attach the handle to the sides of the bag. I turn the seam down, and sew around the rounded edges with the dominant flower color. I also sew with the base color to make sure it is firmly attached to the bag. I actually let the seams go through the fabric between the handle and the bag. This way the handle won't stretch as you fill your bag up, like crochet might do. If you make the flower color seam go through only the handle itself and the bag, you hide the fabric efficiently.

Now the bag is done! If you want to, you can make a lining for it. My friend who I made this bag for specifically asked for me to line it, so I did. I'm not the best of friends with my sewing machine, but I think we made a decent job with it. I placed the bag on the selected fabric and draw out the size. Make sure the fabric is folded double in one side where you place the bag. Then draw a piece with the same height as the bag, but a little bit wider (for the seam). BUT exclude the rounded bottom from this piece! Draw accordingly to the edge at the bottom part. Sew the sides together, right side to right side.

Then draw a circle on the fabric for the bottom, a little bit wider all around. Sew in on to the first part, right side to right side.

You now have a fabric bag. Keep it with the wrong side out. Fold down the raw upper edge as much as needed to make the fabric bag fit into the crocheted bag, from the bottom up to the sc rounds just beneath the string. Make a straight seam.

Since this is a pretty big bag, I thought it would be nice to make a pocket for the mobile phone, or whatever you want to put there, and also a snap hook to hang your keys in. The pocket is just a rectangle with a seam on top, and raw edges folded in before I attached it to the bag. The piece of fabric used to attach the hook is a strip where I folded in all raw ends and sew them down from the right side, folded it double around the hook and attached it. As simple as possible!

The final step now, pin the fabric to the bag, and attach it. You can sew by hand if you want to. I prefer that, but in this case I didn't manage to make a straight seam, got tired of it and used the machine... Tadah, the bag is all done!

Anything I want to add? Well, I think this is a very easy bag to make. Using a chunky yarn also makes it very quick to work up. I've made similar bags with thinner yarn which meant more hexagons, and they take forever. Yes, I know I'm lazy...

If you want to make a big bag with thinner yarn, you could still use this pattern. Just increase the number of flowers, make some more rounds on the bottom and maybe also on the handle. 

And of course, if you find any mistakes or have any questions, please let me know! And it would be amazing to see your bag, if you make one!

Good luck!