Book Review: Crocheted Birds by Vanessa Mooncie

I have been given a newly released book to review! How exciting is that?! The publisher, GMC Distribution sent me Crocheted Birds by Vanessa Mooncie. Have you seen her crochet taxidermy book too? It’s amazing and I knew this one would be just as good. It’s the sort of book where I mostly just enjoy looking at the pictures rather than actually make something from its pages. But do you know what? To write a proper review I felt that I had to make at least one thing from it. That seemed like the right thing to do.

I decided to make one of the smaller garden birds because I thought it’d be a bit quicker than the giant swan or magnificent barn owl. As it’s Christmas, it was the robin that had to get made. He was probably not the best choice for speed; lots of colour changes make it a fiddly project but I gave myself some quiet time to do nothing but crochet this birdy. If I’m going to do amigurumi, I need complete and utter silence. There is a lot of stitch counting!

I kind of messed up the tension; the head is tighter than the body because it’s worked in the round and not in rows (the body is worked in rows). The book has a whole page on tension and says it’s vital check gauge. I should have done was I was told. I didn’t. I never do.

I’m not certain that checking gauge would have made much of a difference anyway because I wasn’t necessarily looking to make a life size bird and definitely wasn’t looking to buy more yarn. Therefore I made it in some dk I had in stash; not the 4ply I was told to use (don’t worry, there are dk patterns in this book as well as 4ply projects).

A couple of times I was confused by what colour went where but this book has charts as well as the written patterns. Whenever I got in a flap I just consulted the chart and it sorted out any confusion. I am deffo a fan of using a written pattern and chart simultaneously.

What I will say is that you do need a lot of extras. You’ll be no good with just your hook and some wool. I seemed to be OK on that front as I’m a massive craft hoarder and thankfully had poly fibrefill to stuff a plump bird, wire for strong legs and black beads for inquisitive eyes. I didn’t reinforce his tail like I was supposed to as I’ve lost my fine wire. It’s somewhere, I’m just not entirely sure where that somewhere is.

One thing I’d quite like to know more about is how to display the birds once they’re done. They look beautiful in the photo set-ups but I wouldn’t be certain about how to recreate that at home. Perhaps a page on that would have been useful. I did spot glass dome wotsits in Ikea the other day though!

I can see that with practice, I could make really amazing ornithology following the patterns here. Vanessa’s birds look so beautiful and mine just looks a bit stressed/mildly anxious.

What do you reckon? Are you up for making a flock of birds? I’m gonna make the budgie next! I can tell you that I’m glad there isn’t a seagull here. I was walking through town yesterday, minding my own business and one of the cheeky sods swooped down and nabbed the croissant I’d been enjoying. I won’t tell you what I shouted at it…

Check out some pictures from the book below. And watch episode 44 of my crochet podcast (watch from 25.35) because I chat about my robin quite a lot.

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Crochet Yourself an Amigurumi Easter Egg. Video Tutorial & Pattern

Doesn’t it feel like Spring already?! That means Easter is just around the corner. You may recall that last year I came up with a cute little design for crochet Easter eggs. The surprisingly awesome thing is that it has been a really popular pattern (mostly thanks to Pinterest, not anything I’ve done). To accompany the written pattern I thought that it would be useful if I did a video tutorial. And not just any old video tutorial… my first ever video tutorial! So, it’s apparent that I need to perfect my video making skills somewhat, but you’ve got to start somewhere!

The written pattern is super straightforward and quick to do. The video is probably best viewed as a companion to the written instructions. The video also demonstrates how to embroider the stitches, which the written pattern does not (the time stamp for the decorative bit is 18.25). If I’d been more YouTube savvy I could have made two different videos but I didn’t think about that until afterward!

If you fancy having a look (afterall, Easter is coming up pretty soon) then please click on this picture to take you to YouTube! And then let me know if you’ve made some!! I would absolutely love to see. X

How to crochet an amigurumi Easter Egg video

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Happy Hallowe’en!!

colourpopcraftswapI put my name down for a  #colourpopcraftswap on Instagram a few weeks ago. The name says it all. It’s a craft swap. You make something for someone, someone else makes something for you. I have no idea if my recipient got my present (they haven’t posted any pictures of it) but I got my gift! It was very exciting to receive a surprise parcel in the post. Boo!

colourful-halloween-garland-for-bright-o-weenI made a garland with pumpkins, stars, bats and one of my spiders.

garlandIt was impossible to take a good picture of it. Maybe it was just a terrible garland. I hope that’s not why the person didn’t share a picture! I made it with pastels  and some glittery yarn. It was supposed to be bright and colourful.

halloween-crochet-spiderI love my spiders! The purple one made a home in the garland. I don’t know where the grey one is. Does anyone else fancy making one? I’d love to see. I posted the pattern a few weeks ago. It’s over on my free patterns page but you can also just jump straight to it.

DIY Halloween tiara.I made this last year. It was a rush job. I remember hastily cobbling together some grainy photos of the process. My tiara post is here.

Halloween altarThe tiara was made as part of my fancy dress costume for a Hallowe’en party. I’m still not sure what I was.. a witch, bad fairy? I think I wore green wings.

Halloween amigurumi collectionMy little Ami Halloween Collection made their first appearance. You can read about those here and find the pattern on Ravelry.

tufted crochet granny owl. free pattern.And here’s a tenuous one. Owls can be Halloweeny. The pattern is a downloadable pdf. That could do with a redesign too (what was I thinking?!). The pattern itself is good but I went a bit over the top on the graphic design. I had help but it was me who wanted all the green!

Just sharing these old pictures tells me how much my photography has improved (the current ones for this post aren’t much better actually, so maybe I shouldn’t comment!). I know that some bloggers go back and change dodgy old blog posts but a lot of mine are dodgy; it’d take an eternity to rectify! Part of why I blog is to record my creative progress and I think it’s all part of the process. I’ll keep it all as it is.

 

 

 

A Crochet House Spider. A Free Pattern for Hallowe’en.

free-crochet-pattern-little-crochet-house-spider

I’m a little early but I couldn’t wait to get stuck into some Halloween crochet! Wahaha. This pattern is so speedy, it really only takes a few minutes. You could make an army of crochet spiders, it’d be brilliant! These guys are so much better than real spiders, which intefere with your telly watching (out of the corner of your eye, there they are stomping across your sofa, on their way to eat your face whilst you innocently watch Bake Off).

I’m a little disappointed that this spider pattern didn’t become part of last year’s amigurumi Halloween collection but I hadn’t thought of it when I designed that lot. This pattern is a great partner to all the other spooky creations from that collection though…

[Edit: New for the summer of 2017 is a YouTube tutorial!! If you’d rather watch me make a spider on film, then pop over and take a look! Thanks]

Anyway here’s what you’ll need:

3.5mm hook (you could go up or down a hook size if you want), DK acrylic yarn, darning needle.

For the eyes you’ll need some sewing thread, a fine needle and little beads.

step-one-of-crochet-spiderCrochet House Spider

(I’ve written it in US terms, that’s what I’m used to with amigurumi).

  1. 6 into a magic ring [6]
  2. Increase around [12]
  3. Sc around [12]
  4. Decrease around [6]

Fasten off leaving a tail of about 50cm. Stitch the hole closed with a darning needle, looping through the 6 front loops. Pull closed and secure. Do not cut yarn, you’ll need it for sewing on the legs.

starting-headChoose where you want your head to be. Get a slip knot on your hook and attach the yarn with a slip stitch to the body. I put my hook on/behind row 3. (The pictures above are two different angles of the same thing. It’s just demonstrating where I’ve put my hook and where I’ll be making the slip stitch).

making-the-head-iittle-crochet-spiderNext, make a puff stitch. To get a nice plump head, yarn over and pull through 4 times (you’ll have 9 loops on your hook). Chain 1 and join back to the body with a slip stitch in the same place. Fasten off and sew in the head ends.

crochet-spider-legsMake four chains for legs: 1. ch18, 2. ch20, 3. ch22, 4. ch24.

Before you snip them short, pull the legs really tight to make sure they won’t become undone. This is why it’s best to use acrylic yarn, it’s less likely to break off when you pull.

Using the tail from before, thread through the middles of all the legs and stitch to the underside of the body. Shortest legs nearest the head.

attaching-crochet-spider-legsStitching the legs on is really simple. When they’re secure, thread the yarn out through the spider’s bottom.

stiching-on-the-crochet-spiders-legsPass the yarn through the ends of the two back legs.

crochet-spider-pattern

There is now a spider… where there wasn’t one before!

purple-red-eyed-crochet-spider

Little beads make great eyes. I went in from underneath with the thread, going in and out a couple of times to make sure it wasn’t going to go anywhere.

This sparkly, purple job has too many eyes but I wasn’t really concentrating. Most spiders have eight eyes if you want to go for accuracy!

And it’s as easy as that! A happy Hallowe’en house spider!

Crochet-Spider.-Free-Patter
I made one with t-shirt yarn too!

This is a free pattern that has been designed by me (Zeens and Roger). Please don’t sell the pattern or finished product. They’re all mine! Tis personal use only. Thanks very much. X

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Amazing Crochet Techniques That’ll Knock Your Socks Off!


amazing-crochet-secrets-thatll-knock-your-socks-off

One of the great things about crochet is that there is constantly new stuff to learn. I’m always completely bowled over when I stumble upon a new technique, pattern, colour combination… all the other things.  Actually I think what astonishes me most is that it still has the ability to surprise me!

I learned to crochet six years ago (Nanna tried to teach me when I was little; I didn’t get on with it). After six years I still love crochet and I still love it when it teaches me something new. A lot of it is probably my childish pride but I don’t care, it makes me happy. It makes me squee when I accomplish something that’s new to me. I’ve found a hobby that continually delights me! And that’s the point, these things are new to me but they might not be new to somebody else. They’re discovered by somebody and we’re lucky enough that these crochet tips and tricks get shared for us all to find and gleefully enjoy.

I’ve recently found a few fabulous crochet techniques and I thought it would be a really good idea to collate them all together. It also got me thinking about the ones that blew my mind in the past. So they’re here too. Some are more common knowledge than others but I didn’t know them at one time, maybe you don’t either. Let me know what you think and let me know if there are some crazy crochet secrets that I’ve missed.

Circle in square crochet blanket. Free pattern.

  1. The Standing Start.

Check out Moogly for how to seamlessly start a crochet project without “ch3 (counts as first stitch).”

2. The Chainless Foundation.

I love this. As this tutorial at Steel and Stitch says, there’s more elasticity using this method. And miraculously, you do away with fumbling over a foundation chain.

3. Stop your Chains Twisting!

If you want to chain the old fashioned way, here’s how to stop the twist! You’ll need it for a project like an infinity scarf. I haven’t tried the chainless foundation for something which is joined together (an infinity scarf) so I don’t know if it’d work. Sometimes the old method is a good method.

Amigurumi Easter Eggs. Free crochet pattern.

4. The Invisible Decrease.

Planet June has great amigurumi tutorials for techniques that create wonderfully neat crochet creatures. The invisible decrease is ace; it’s one of my favourite amigurumi secrets.

5. Finishing off your Amigurumi.

This saved me from having lots of stuffed toys with ugly bottoms. Quite literally for this fawn (not that you can see his bottom in the picture below). Have a look here (at the technique, not fawn’s bum).

6. The Perfect Crochet Circle.

This can be done in a couple of different ways. It’s all about mixing up the stitches or as this tutorial demonstrates: you don’t always have to work in a continuous round for amigurumi. Interesting…

amigurumi fawn. a bit dusty now

7. Work under the Bumps.

This one, I learned near the beginning of my crochet obsession and I still think it’s fab.  I used to go into just the one loop of each chain, which felt like cheating. And trying to work in the top of a foundation chain is just asking for trouble, so under the bumps it is (unless, you know, chainless…)

8. Get Tidy Edges.

I only found this one a few days ago so I haven’t tried it yet. It looks great! My edges tend to look messy even when I make an effort to be extra neat. Felted Button has a great tutorial to rid you of unsightly borders.

9. Lose the Granny Twist.

Why are my Granny’s twisty?! Cherry Heart will tell you. So simple yet I never thought of trying any of these at first.

working on the border

10. The Continuous Join as you go.

Not to be confused with the Join As You Go method, which still results in lots of ends to sew in, The Continuous has only two ends to sew in and it’s really easy! Honestly, if you haven’t done this before, it’s life changing. I’ve tried a couple of different methods and the one over at Patchwork Heart is the best.

11. The Fancy Continuous Join as you go.

I really really want to do this. You can save time and be pretty! It’s the Continuous Flat Braid. Same as above, but fancy!!

12. The Neat Granny Border.

If you’ve gone to the effort of stitching all your granny’s together, the least you can do is make sure they get a beautiful border too. Too many clusters around the edges can cause a bit of a ruffle. Pop over to Bunny Mummy’s guide for how to crochet a flat border.

crochet blanket enjoying the autumn sunshine.

And that’s it for now. As I’ve been writing  this, I’ve spotted more but do you know what? I reckon I’ll have to do a sequel!

autumn-colours-crochet-blanket

Me You and Magoo
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So Many WIPs…

cat-crochet

I have a silly number of Works in Progress at the moment. Here is the cat, sleeping on one that I left on the sofa.

workings

She’s sleeping on this; the never ending half circle I’m trying to work out. I think I’ve mentioned before about trying to work out patterns and how it’s done. My method is Trial and Error because I know no other way. So, with that in mind, I have, in fact frogged several rows this morning. Too many stitches were causing it to get ruffled. I don’t know how/where to increase the stitches in a nice, even way at the minute. Too many, not enough, blahhh. Whatever I try, it doesn’t want to mirror the initial semi circle of colour. I’m tempted to bin it. Bin the idea and move on. So. Much. Frustration!

hand-made-wooden-handle-bag

Anyway, this is more like it. An actual finished item. Woot! I loved making this. It was so quick and easy. I didn’t follow a pattern, I made it up and was surprised at how speedy the process was. If I were to have another go, I’d make the fabric pieces wider. I think there’s room for expansion. I took a load of photographs as I made it;  I’m tempted to write up a tutorial. I might also buy a new pair of handles and have a second attempt.

first-go-at-tunisian-crochet

New skill alert! I’ve tried Tunisian Crochet this week. A little bit addictive actually. I’m slow and not sure what goes on if I drop stitches but I did order a set of bamboo Tunisian crochet hooks so I can get properly stuck in. This hook is one I got from my Nanna. I keep meaning to ask her if she ever used it. Anyway, it’s slightly too small. And the freebie I got from a magazine is slightly too big.

bad-colour-changes-for-tunisian-crochet

Yesterday I struggled with colour changes. I really want to make pictures in crochet. It isn’t as easy as I thought it’d be. It’s mucked up the tension, making it skewed. Poo. I think I’ll benefit from some practise but I also think that Tapesty crochet might the way to go instead. Any advice?

ami-balls

This is part of my Brightoween ColourSwapCraftPop on Instagram. I’ve done a bit more on this project than this picture suggests but I’m still not quite finished.

new-ideas

Whilst messing about with the Brightoween and Tunisian projects yesterday another idea popped into existence. I had to try it immediately.

new-idea-progress

I’ll try and get this finished for next week although I’m well aware that I say that sort of thing quite often. I’ve got a crochet pattern/tutorial in handwritten scribbles that I’d said I’d publish this week. That’s really not going to happen. Not yet anyway.

linen-stitch-in-the-round

This idea is a lot more simple than the other not-yet-ready pattern. I think it’ll be a fun one so stick around for a future blog post.

another-wip

Then there’s this, which is related to the c2c geometric square cushion I made recently. I really hope this one looks like my imagination tells me it will look.

And now I need to go and make dinner before collecting Eldest from Judo. I really hope that some of these WIPs will actually be finished at some point soon. Today is not the day.

 

Amigurumi Easter Egg! Free Crochet Pattern.

Amigurumi Easter eggs. Easy crochet pattern.

I’m fairly sure Easter only exists still because of chocolate. And since Easter has my favourite sort of chocolate, I am here to celebrate it with a little bit of crochet. Mini eggs and creme eggs are both very good reasons to look forward to Easter but neither truly beat a large Cadbury’s Dairy Milk (or other Cadbury) egg that has been put in the fridge for at least two hours. When I was little I used to drink milk out of half a chocolate egg. The other half used to get cracked into a mug and ruined with hot water to make some kind of bad hot chocolate. I don’t waste it like that now, I shovel it in my face whilst hiding behind the fridge door. Mostly I hide because the chocolate doesn’t belong to me. When I’ve finished mine I’m then stealing from the children. Anyway, I shall move on…

Pretty amigurumi Easter eggs. Free crochet pattern.I came up with the pattern for these at Christmas. I was trying to design a Father Christmas head/hat combo but whatever shape I tried looked like an egg. I binned the FC idea but out of it came these so I can’t complain. I think they’re cute but I’m not really an Easter celebrator (chocolate aside) so dunno where they’ll go.

Easter egg displayThey did look quite nice sitting up by themselves. The children like throwing them around and I know the cat would too if she could get her mitts on them.

Cute crochet Easter eggs. Free pattern.It’s rather telling that I don’t have any egg cups and I had to use shot glasses.

Happy Easter! Cute amigurumi Easter eggs. Free crochet pattern.Here is the pattern. As with most amigurumi patterns, it is written in US terms. I used Stylecraft Special DK and a 3mm hook. I even found a use for Duck Egg, a colour I reeeally don’t like. Which makes me ask myself why I bought it in the first place. Huh.

If you would like to support my crochet adventures, please consider supporting me on Patreon. It would mean the world. Thank you. x

Amigurumi Easter Egg.

Round 1: 6sc into a Magic Ring.

Round 2: 1 Inc in each stitch around. [12].

Round 3: 1 sc in next stitch, 1 inc in next. Repeat around [18].

Round 4: Sc around. [18]

Round 5: 1sc in next 2 st, 1 inc in next. Repeat around. [24].

Round 6-7: Sc around [24]

Round 8: 1 sc in next 3 st, 1 inc in next. Repeat around [30].

Round 9-15: Sc around. [30]

Round 16: 1 sc in next 3 st, 1 dec. Repeat around. [24].

Round 17: 1 sc in next 2 st, 1 dec. Repeat around. [18].

Round 18: 1sc in next st, 1 dec. Repeat around [12].

Fasten off leaving a long tail. Stuff firmly. Using a darning needle thread through the front loops only. Pull tight to close the hole. Stitch in and out a few times to fully secure and then snip the end neatly.

(Go HERE to see what I’ve done with the pattern for 2018!!)

Amigurumi Easter Eggs. Free crochet pattern.Decorating is relatively quick and easy. I went in through the bottom of each egg and then made french knots for the flower centres and a few chain stitches for petals and leaves.  With a poke and a prod from the darning needle, the snipped ends can be hidden inside. Hey presto!

EDIT: For 2017 I’ve added a video tutorial on YouTube, which also includes how to decorate with pretty embroidery. Please go here! Cheers.

This is a pattern I’ve designed myself and belongs to me. It can be used to make decorations for yourself or for gifts for friends and family but not pinched or mass produced. Thanks very much. Feel free to say hello and you can even follow my blog to get more patterns and, dare I say, inspiration. Cheers!

In an egg cupHappy Easter!!

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