Sunday, 4 January 2015

Making a merrier world

I'm generally big on setting goals and making lists.  I like having an aim, plotting my course and tracking my progress.  The trouble is now that I stop to think about it that approach hasn't always served me well.  Sometimes it works; it's great for big projects at work and for things like planning holidays or big things like that.  But so often it's sucked the joy out of things for me, dried them out and made them unpalatable.  This year I have no plans to make and stick to new years resolutions.  There are things I want to do, sure, but I don't want to sacrifice the present moment to them.

What I'm getting at is that whilst goal setting is valuable and sometimes the only way through, when over-used it can mean pushing aside the good stuff in your life right now to the back of your mind, in favour of focussing on something that's yet to come.  So what I've pledged to myself for 2015 is to re-learn how to enjoy what I have in my life now.  That could mean simply dwelling in the moment and enjoying it to the full, or making the best use of the things I have instead of rushing out to buy something newer or just different.  I do love the simple things in life but I think, like most people, my thoughts drift ahead too much and I end up either wishing my life away as I look forward to something, or else I worry myself sick over things that may not ever happen.

I love the quote at the start of this post because I really believe it's true; focussing on the simple joys each of us is lucky enough to possess brings such happiness, even in the midst of hard times.  I know this from experience and it's a lesson that's deeply enriched my life, and always will.

Friday, 2 January 2015

Celestarium revisited

In April 2013 I took on quite an ambitious knitting project, the Celestarium shawl.  I made an earnest start then put it down in favor of easier projects, occasionally picking it up again before getting fed up and abandoning it again.

Such is the way of knitting.

A couple of days ago I picked it up again as I was bored of all the fun but mindless knitting and crochet I'd been doing.  I longed for something more in depth and the part done shawl came to the rescue.  Since then I've spent hours at a time pouring over the chart, knitting, hooking beads into place and watching it grow.  I have been totally absorbed in the process, I've been in the "Just one more round" mentality where I havn't wanted to put it down, and when I have I've been eager to get back to it.  In short, I'm in The Zone.

If you're a maker or a doer of any kind you'll know what I mean:  It's that project where everything comes together, your mood matches the task perfectly and your skills and attention are just what the project requires.  It. Is. Bliss.

I've fallen in love with this shawl all over again and once again find myself wondering how anyone was insane/clever enough to create a chart for knitting the stars of the Northern Hemisphere as a circular shawl.

Now, I wonder if my next post about Celestarium will be me finishing the shawl or me picking it up again in two years time?

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

10 reasons to do your 2015 gift shopping now

  1. Sales:  The most obvious reason is that you’ll get gifts way cheaper now than if you wait for Winter 2015 to roll around again before you start.  No explanation necessary for this one!

  1. Cunning timing:  You can wait out the sales for the sweet spot later in January when many retailers cut prices further.  Take Boots for example; I’ve been in and got the premium, quick selling gift sets that I really wanted to get, but in a couple of weeks I’ll be going back for gift sets which weren’t so well put together (cheap looking packaging, stingy contents etc) and if they’re well reduced I’ll get some to take apart and recombine to make better ones.

  1. Time to think:  Hit the shops now and you have time to drift around with a list of people you want to buy for, as well as some gift ideas (see below) and decide if something’s a good deal before buying it; no paying through the nose in a panicked spending spree for you in 2015

  1. Ideas:  Christmas is a good time to pick up killer ideas for next years gifts.  I had no idea my Mum loves the Soap and Glory range of cosmetics but this Christmas I picked up enough info to bang it right to the top of my gift list for post-Christmas shopping.  If you noticed Grandma wistfully admiring the slippers you bought for Mum  now’s a good time to get her a pair while the idea’s fresh in your mind.

  1. Value:  Every year I see gorgeous things that I’d love to treat my loved ones with but which are out of my budget...that year.  I make a mental note to check them out in the sales and if they’re marked down I snap them up with the happy feeling that I’ll be able to deliver that lovely thing after all.

  1. Children:  Kids toys and clothes are pretty insanely expensive but they’re also pretty insanely fashionable, so as soon as Christmas is out of the way the shops what to get rid of them fast to make way for the new season’s toys.  Since it would be a spoilt five year old indeed who would be upset by getting a 2014 Dr McStuffins doll in 2015, it’s great way to plan ahead.

  1. Budgeting:  I find it useful if I can get most of my gift shopping done in January because that’s almost all my gift spending accounted for from one month’s pay packet.  I’d rather divert some funds from my savings now and know where I stand for the rest of the year.

  1. Less pressure:  Next November and December, when others are wondering how they’ll cover gifts, food and social occasions you’ll have at least one of those covered.  Try to keep your smugness to yourself and look sympathetic though!

  1. Better gifts:  Instead of buying something lame at the last minute you’ll be able to take your time and give a gift that the person you’re buying for will be genuinely glad to receive.

  1. Handmade:  If you’re planning on making gifts for people in 2015 buying your materials now could save you an arm and a leg.  You’ll also be able to get nice gift boxes, bags, tissue paper etc super cheap, so you can present your handmade gift in the beautiful wrapping it deserves.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

The good, the bad and the homebrewed

There's been success and failure in making things today.  Here's the summary:

1)  Quilted table mats: Bad.  Measuring and cutting took me ages and in the end I got it wrong anyway.  Then I sewed seams of varying widths, bunched up my fabric and generally made a dog's dinner of it.  I ended up snatching some usefulness from the jaws of defeat by using them to practice quilting on.  No pics as they're just too awful!

2)  Gluten free Christmas cake:  Good.  I used a free Dove's Farm recipe from Holland and Baratt.  There was a slight hiccup when I got asked for ID when trying to buy the brandy; Mr CB had to go back in and buy it for me *blush*.  It's looking good, a little flatter than a cake made with wheat flour but that's not unusual. Once it's cool I'll wrap it up and 'feed' it with brandy once a week until Christmas.

3) Covered diary: very bad.  I followed these instructions and made sure I got a spray glue that could be used on fabric but it soaked through the cotton and is a right mess.  Needless to say I won't be giving this as a gift after all and will just use it myself.  I might try making a sewn cover next weekend instead (once my confidence has recovered after this week's sewing fail).

4)  Homebrew:  I started a demi john of rose wine off and it all went smoothly but with homebrew only time will tell.  It came from a kit though and they're usually reliable.  It's sitting by the radiator next to the cat begs, looking like a new pet.

5)  Socks:  Good; socks are always good.  I've cast on a new pair which I'm making out of left over odds and ends from my sock yarn stash.  I've knit socks in this way before and they're fun to make because I never know what the finished socks will look like.

6)  Fish curry:  Good.  Not made by me, this was Mr CB's idea when he spotted some cheap cod in a supermarket bargain bin yesterday.  He cooked it in curry paste and yoghurt and mixed in lots of vegetables so we've got enough for lunch tomorrow.  Just as well as it was delicious.

On top of that lot me and Mr CB finally cleaned the yard up.  It's the first chance we've had to get out and clear away the old plants, sweep up the leaves and cover the bench.  I can't put too much garden waste in the bin otherwise the bin men kick off, so I'll have to wait until next week to throw away the rest of the plants and pull up the weeds.  Still, it's a vast improvement.  

All in all a busy Sunday.  Fun though, because I love to be making things and trying things out and if something goes badly all I've ever lost is time and some cheap materials.  Worth it for when things do go right and more fun than sitting around watching TV and doing some thumb twiddling.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Upcycled Patchwork: Progress

Last Winter I decided to have a go at patchwork, something I'd wanted to do for ages.  I decided to stick with the best of the tradition and only use upcycled fabric.  By December I'd made loads of hexagons and was joining them together (here) then calamity struck and my hand got too painful to do anything much so the whole project went on hold, bundled into shoe boxes under the bed.

This brings me to last weekend when I did some machine sewing and got bit by the sewing bug all over again.  I've been doing more Reiki day to day recently and also learning about crystal healing so I put it to the test by doing Reiki on my injured hand every morning and evening and using a magnesite crystal on my hand every night too.  I've been blown over by the result; my hand's gone from stiff and painful to nearly back to how it used to be, just a little soreness if I do a whole evening of hand sewing.  I'm delighted and my patchwork is back on track.  Here's how it's looking at the moment (but less blurred in real life):

I've used a sleeve from ten different second hand men's shirts so far and have three more to chop up.  There's so much fabric in a men's shirt!  As you can see I've got loads of each fabric left for future projects.  The hexagons between the 'flowers' are made of two old sheets which cost £3 altogether and I havn't spent more than £1.50 each on the shirts.  Several of then came from Mr Crafty Blueberry's side of the wardrobe when he lost a few stone and happily gave them to me to chop up.

It's good to be stitching again!

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Quilted Coasters: First Attempt

If there was ever a day for a rainy day project it was yesterday:  heavy rain all day, cold and unappealing, no reason to leave the house.  I've been wanting to have a go at quilting for ages so, using this pattern as a guide, I made a set of 3 quilted coasters.

I cut out 3 5 ince x 5 inch squares of leftover Christmasy fabric, 3 of plain red and 3 of batting.

For each coaster I laid the fabric pieces with right sides together, laid them on top of the batting and sewed the sandwich together,

I then turned it right side out, sewed the open edge together and sewed all around the edge.

Then it was time for the fun bit:  Quilting!  I freehand quilted wavey lines back and forth, which gave a finished effect that looked more complex than it was (bonus!).

After securing the loose threads I had three wonky but festive coasters.  

They're all different slightly different sizes and are a definition of the word 'bodged' but I'm happy with them.  I enjoyed having a go at quilting and want to make a set as a gift next.  I'll be more careful with cutting the fabric and should be able to make them neater next time.  I'd rather have a go and make a mess than never try something new though.  It's important to put our inner critic aside and have a go, regardless of how imperfect the results may be.  There are so many people who won't try anything new, however small, because they're scared they won't get it perfect.  Worse, there are plenty of critics who are happy to mock people for making something bodged and wonky who won't have a go themselves!  Lets show them; go make something, bodge it if you have to and have a great time in the process.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Homemade Christmas Gifts

I've been trying to come up with some creative gifts this year and here are the first two of my home made gifts for Christmas 2014.

The stocking is the first of three I'm working on for the little people in my life.  Knitting a big Christmas stocking rather than the usual humans sized ones made me feel like I'd shrunk.  It was fun to make, a good project for on the move and I enjoyed adding the pompoms.  I've just bought a set of pom pom makers (a copy of the Clover ones) and I can see myself adding pom poms to everything in sight.  Poor Mr Crafty Blueberry, he may be living in Pom Pom Hell within weeks.  Anyway, the stocking was dead straightforward:  I cast on 76 stitchess with double knitting yarn on 4mm needles, knit until the leg was long enough, turned the heel as usual then knit the foot until it was in proportion to the leg.

The next gift is a sweet hamper.  I liked the look of the retro sweetie hampers around the internet so decided to make one of my own.  I bought the sweets from Aldi, who do great versions of all the branded sweets which are at least as good as, if not better than the real thing.  I transferred the sweets into little cellophane bags I had from last Christmas and tied them with ribbon.  For the box I saved and washed one of the plastic tubs that mushrooms are sold in and wrapped it in paper.  I topped it off with some lolly pops.

I'm working on two more Christmas stockings at the moment and there are some other things I want to try making over the next couple of weeks, so I'll be posting my progress here.