Good morning, what a lovely, sunny day it is here in Belfast. The weather has been fabulous for the last week and I am hoping it lasts for the rest of the month (and June, July & August too, but that is probably too much to wish for). Today I have a freebie for you. It is a cute set of gift tags for the crocheters among you. I was searching through some photos at the weekend and came across some crochet themed clipart I bought quite a while ago, planning to make stickers with it. I decided that I really need to be better at organising the files on my computer so I know where stuff is and it doesn’t get forgotten about and also that it was really time to put the clipart to good use. I have a few things I have crocheted to put away for birthday gifts so I thought it would be a good idea to make some tags to go with them. I had so much fun playing around with the graphics and trying to come up with suitable messages to go with them. I really need to do this kind of thing more often because I love working with graphics and designing things.
I came up with three different designs so I hope you will like at least one of them and be able to use it on your gorgeous handmade yarn goodies. I printed mine on normal A4 white card and then I just cut them out, punched a hole at the top and put some coloured yarn through to hang them from. I think I might have to go and make some matching stickers now and I can think of lots of ways to use the pretty images in my EC planner.
I found that printing the tags from the pdf reader built into Google Chrome gave better colours than using Adobe Acrobat Reader but that may just be my printer. The link to download the tags is below the images. Let me know what you think of them, I always love feedback.
Here in Northern Ireland we are having lovely sunny weather at the moment and I am taking every opportunity to fling the patio doors wide open and let the fresh air in. The dogs are spending lots of time lying outside in the sun and hubby and I are getting to all those jobs that get put off for a dry day, such as clearing the garage, tidying up the garden, painting the outdoor furniture etc. When it comes to the gardens I have lots of ideas in my head for planting I want to do and pots I want to decorate but finding time to do it all is a bit of a challenge. I have been stocking up on garden magazines and this weekend we are looking forward to having a family day out at the Garden Show Ireland. I want to take lots of pictures of beautiful plants and inspiring gardens, and of course we will have to sample all the delicious foods on offer at the Festival of Food and probably buy one or two new handmade items from some of the fabulous local crafters. I am always on the lookout for pretty handmade props to use in my photos and it is a good excuse to treat myself 🙂
I go through phases when I love the garden and want lots of colour and interest, and then after a while life gets too busy and I can’t be bothered with trying to keep on top of outdoors as well as indoors and I want low a maintenance garden. At the moment I am inspired by all the beautiful flowers I have been looking at on Instagram and I have been spending a fortune on fresh flowers for the house so now I want to grow my own, hence my current enthusiasm for the garden. My mum had green fingers and could grow anything. Her particular favourite was geraniums and she had them everywhere. Dad was into his roses and looked after them meticulously. Unfortunately, I have not inherited any of their skill and tend to kill any plant I touch so things could go either way with my garden plans. But looking on the bright side, if I can’t manage to grow anything I can still go to the florists and buy lots of lovely fresh blooms to brighten up the house.
My current favourite plants are Hydrangeas, white Roses and Peonies. As you may know, I am crocheting a blanket inspired by Hydrangeas from a pattern on Attic24 and I have found some gorgeous pinky lilac ones in the garden centre that I would really like to plant in the garden. They are so pretty and delicate looking and remind me of quaint country gardens. I have been taking photos of flowers a lot this past month and have been using flowers in many of my Instagram photos too. They seem to add joy and life to a photograph and I love looking on Instagram and seeing how other people have used flowers in their photos. Do you use flowers in your photos? Are you a growing guru or do you struggle like me? I would be glad of any advice you can give me on easy plants to start with and what would grow well in containers.
Here are a few of my favourite flower photos from the last few weeks.
Lately I have been taking some courses from the fabulous Makelight on how to improve my photography for instagram and blogging. It is an amazing, supportive community full of lovely, creative people from all walks of life and I have learnt so much from them all. Having been inspired to add some props to my photos I decided to try my hand at dyeing some beautifully soft muslins using natural dyes and food colourings. It was soooo much fun. I cleared a space on the kitchen island (not an easy task in this house as everything seems to get plonked on there), gathered together whatever I had in the house, which turned out to be some strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, turmeric and food colourings and set to work. The food colourings were easy as that just meant adding a few drops to the water and letting the muslin steep in it for a short time. I then rinsed it out under cold water, wrung it out and hung on the line to dry. I tried out gel colours and liquid colours and I would have to say that I definitely got a more even result from the liquid colours as the gel seemed to leave darker spots on the muslin where it hadn’t quite completely dissolved but I quite like the effect anyway and will definitely use it.
The food colourings were easy as that just meant adding a few drops to the water and letting the muslin steep in it for a short time. I then rinsed it out under cold water, wrung it out and hung on the line to dry. I tried out gel colours and liquid colours and I would have to say that I definitely got a more even result from the liquid colours as the gel seemed to leave darker spots on the muslin where it hadn’t quite completely dissolved but I quite like the effect anyway and will definitely use it.
Next I got started on the natural dyes. I put the fruits in different pans on the hob and covered them with a little water and let them boil until the fruit started to break down. At this point I mashed them down a little to get more colour out and let them bubble gently for a few more minutes before straining the liquid into a bowl, making sure to squeeze every last drop of juice out of the fruity pulp in the sieve. I added the muslin to the bowl and allowed to steep for a short while before rinsing under cold water, wringing out and hanging on the line to dry.
If you look at the pictures below you can see my results and from left to right they are pink gel colouring, blue liquid colouring, raspberries, blueberries, turmeric and strawberries. If you look closely at the pink food colouring one you can see the darker spots.
I am very happy with the results. I think my favourites so far are the food colouring ones as they gave a softer colour but I really like the purple shade from the blueberries and the deep yellow from the turmeric as well. I had a blast experimenting and I will definitely be doing it again. I am wondering what would give me a dreamy lime colour and a lovely grassy green.
I’ve been trying to organise all my photos on my new computer which is taking forever. I so wish I had kept them organised better over the years, it would have saved me so much time now. I have just reached 2009 and I’ve come across a few photos of something I had completely forgotten – I once had a digital scrapbook layout published in a magazine!!! Can you believe that – I can hardly believe it myself. It was a layout of a couple of photos of our last trip to Walt Disney World and I called the layout ‘Winnie the Pooped’.
I haven’t done any digital scrapbooking for a while now and finding this has really made me want to get back into it again. I have a computer full of great digiscrapping resources and they are going to waste if I don’t get back in there and start using them. Some of my favourite designs come from Weeds & Wildflowers, but I’m slightly biased as I was on the CT there until the designer took a break to concentrate on family life. I also love the designs of Kate Hadfield and she often has a freebie on her site too. If you haven’t tried digital scrapbooking and you want to give it a go there are plenty of free resources out there that you can use to see if it’s for you or not, just pop it into google and Hey Presto! I use Photoshop Elements and you can try it out with a free trial to see what you think. Here is a Getting started with PSE guide I wrote a few years ago. It is for an earlier version of PSE but it should help you get the gist of it. Do you digiscrap? If you do or if you decide to give it a go I’d love to hear how you get on.
I don’t know if you are like me, but I have real problems trying to come up with crochet patterns for blankets etc. that use random stripes of colour. I start off so well but after a few rows it quickly becomes obvious that I am creating a pattern and the colours are not random at all. I know that makes me a bit OCD and I’m OK with that but it doesn’t help me get my pattern created. So I asked my lovely computer whiz other half to come up with something to help me do random stripes and he has created a fab little program for me that I want to share with you all.
Since I mostly use Stylecraft Special DK in my blankets, STRIPE-IT (that’s what I’m calling it) is based on the Stylecraft Special DK colours, or at least quite a few of them. All you have to do is choose your colours, choose how many rows in each stripe and the total number of rows in your pattern and hey presto – random stripes. I am so happy with this program and he has promised he will do the same for other yarn colours and turn it into an app for me. I am going to get him to do the Scheepjes Colour Crafter next.If you would like to use my STRIPE-IT random stripe creator you can find it HERE If you like it follow my blog or facebook or Instagram for updates when new versions come out.
Since I finally learnt how to crochet in 2015 I have been a big fan of the brilliant Attic24 blog. I am such a fan of Lucy’s use of colour and the beautiful patterns she creates. I have so far managed to crochet four of her blanket patterns and a few of the lovely little flowers and birds on her blog as well. If you haven’t discovered Attic24 yet then do go and have a peek, I’m sure you will love it and find so much inspiration there. This week I finished the Moorland Stripe blanket and I love it. The colours are fabulous and I love how Lucy got her inspiration from the moors near her home. Most people find that the sewing in of all the wool ends is their least favourite part of their crocheting but I find it quite relaxing in a way because you don’t need to think too much or concentrate too hard on it. Some people like to sew the ends in as they go along and some, like me, leave them all to the end. Are you a sew them in as you go or a leave them till the end girl? I am sure the answer to that question must say something about our personality types, but perhaps it’s better not to know 🙂
So now that I have finished my Moorland Blanket journey what next for my hook? Well, since you ask, I just happened to be browsing Wool Warehouse the other day and would you believe it but the Hydrangea Blanket kit just hopped on in to my basket (oops how did that happen!) so that is what I will be crocheting next. The colours are beautiful – very soft and definitely reminiscent of hydrangeas. If you want to see the pattern you can find it HERE on Attic24.
What are you crocheting, or knitting, or sewing at the moment?
Although I haven’t been here in quite a while I have been very busy creating lots of lovely things, though to be honest mostly for myself or as gifts for friends rather than to sell. I have been trying to work out how all the ideas in my head for creative ventures all fit together and in the end have decided that I can’t work it out myself as I’m too close to it so I need to step back and get some external insight. One of the things I have decided to do is to sign up for membership of Makelight and take their Bloom branding course. After just one lesson I find that I am starting to focus more on what direction I want to take in my creative journey. I am excited to see what Emily and Stef have in store for the rest of this course and know I will gain loads from it.
One of the things that Emily does is give Makelight members a word a day to inspire them to take a photo. Today’s word is DRINK so here is my morning latte without which I just can’t function.
Has the countdown begun in your house? I know it has in mine. Only 14 days left until the end of the school year here in Northern Ireland and I for one can’t wait. I have always loved this time of year when I look forward to two months of no school lifts to do, no homeworks to check, no uniforms to wash and iron, no lunches to make and when unplanned days of just going with the flow lie just around the corner. I have always loved having the kids at home for long, lazy days in the summer and now that they are older and like to do their own thing I kind of miss not having any little ones to take to the park or the movies or even just to be in the house playing games and making the place feel busy and alive. Our house was always full of their friends in summer and there was always the sound of laughter and chatter as they jumped on the trampoline, swung on the swings or played in the paddling pool. Now I tend to hear music blasting out from their rooms and they only appear when they want fed lol. One of my other favourite things about this time of year has always been choosing a present for their teachers. I usually tried to get something a little different as I know that teachers are inundated with sweets and smelly stuff at the end of term. Quite often I made things myself which would mean something to the teacher. At the end of my son’s first year I made a cross stitch sampler for his teacher of things that they had done during the year and a personalised card to go with it. Another year the girls helped me make a salt dough plaque of children in their school uniform. When the head mistress was retiring I organised the whole school to make a massive quilt. Each child in the school designed a square and then fabric painted it. Myself and another mum then stitched them all together and I cross stitched all the childrens names around the edges. Although my kids are too old to do teacher presents now I thought I would like to design a printable that could be framed and sit on a desk or go on the wall. This is what I came up with – it’s printed on linen blend fabric using some fab fonts from Kimberly Geswein and framed in a 5×7 frame. I think it’s cute – what do you think? Are teacher presents an end of year tradition where you live?
With the fantastic weather we are having at the minute I am inspired to create a new crochet blanket that reflects my love of the beach. I love the colours of the sea and sand, the sound of the waves, the smell of the salt in the air and the fresh breeze that you just don’t get anywhere else but at the beach. One day I will have by beach side summer house so I can enjoy it all the time but until then I will just create a new blanket that brings to mind lazy summer days by the beach. Not as easy a task as you might think since there are just so many shades of blue to choose from! For a bit of help and inspiration I have been using a great colour tool from Sherwin-Williams called ColorSnap. It takes any picture and shows you the colours that make it up. It is based on their own paint colours but you can use it for inspiration for wool colours too, which is what I am doing. I have been looking at pictures that really say summer and sea to me and I have loads of inspiration to choose from now – the hard part will be narrowing the colours down so I don’t end up with a mammoth blanket. Anyway here are just some of the colourways I love, which would you choose?
We had a fantastic day at a local craft fair on Saturday in Knockbreda Parish Church. It was the first real outing for RecklessHen and the support and comments we received were amazing. We worked into the wee small hours for days beforehand but it was all worth it. We were in the company of a great selection of our mega talented local crafters and surrounded by so many pretty things it was hard to know where to look next. We just love a real craft fair where the beautiful items on the stalls have been lovingly created by the stall holder and where you can see their love of their craft when you chat to them. There was also a great brass band playing as people arrived, delicious scones and traybakes and a mouth watering BBQ to be had. Add in the facepainting, games and puppet shows and all in all a great day. We will need to sleep for days now but we can’t wait for the next one 🙂 Here are a few photos to give you a little taste of the fabulous crafts on offer. Now to get our etsy shop up and running!