Friday, 28 February 2014

Crochet: A Beginners Guide // The Kit

As mentioned previously on this blog, I am fairly new to crochet. I started the craft just over a year ago now and have been addicted ever since I first picked up my hook and yarn. When starting out it was a little daunting, with so many questions and things to think about it was hard to know where to start and who to ask.

I'm going to start a little series here of my own experiences as a newbie crocheter and talk you through what I found really helpful and how I got started.

To kick things off I'm going to start with the basics - your kit.

First of all you will need a hook. Crochet hooks come in sizes (I'm stating UK sizes) ranging from 1mm to 15mm (or bigger!). The size of the hook will depend on what you are going to make so the best thing to do is to find a pattern and seen what that advises. A good place to start when building your kit is a 4mm hook - to be honest I use 4mm for the majority of my projects.

When I started I bought a set of three hooks from a company called Pony which was very affordable and it came with a 4mm, 5mm and 6mm hooks. I have bought additional hooks of the same size but in different materials; hooks are generally made from plastic and these tend to be cheaper to buy but can come in aluminium or wood, some have gripper type handles on too. I've tried most types of hooks and I tend to stick with plastic, although I recently bought a bamboo wood hook which is lovely. I think a lot of it will depend on your hand mobility - if you have dexterity problems, something with a gripper may help with any pain or discomfort you may suffer from.

Yarn...oh how I love thee! I remember always walking past and looking into the window of my local yarn shop, captivated by the colours and textures but not having a clue what to do with them.

Yarn comes in many different colours, fibres and weights. There is a lot of information on the internet about this, weights in particular so I won't go into it too much. As with hook sizes, I found the easiest thing to do when choosing yarn is to first select your pattern as this will determine the yarn you will buy. It's easy to be drawn in my pretty colours but there's no point buying a yarn that you'll never use just because it looks pretty! I've always found this table very useful

USA UK Australia Suggested needle (mm)
Laceweight 1 ply 2 ply 1.5–2.25 mm
Fingering 2 ply 3 ply 2.25– 3 mm
Sock 3 ply 3 ply 2.25— 3.25 mm
Sport 4 ply 5 ply 3.25— 3.75 mm
DK/Light Worsted DK 8 ply 3.75— 4.5 mm
Worsted Aran 10 ply 4.5— 5.5 mm
Bulky Chunky 12 ply 5.5– 8 mm
Super Bulky Super Chunky 14 ply 8 mm and up

Once you know the type of yarn that is required from your pattern there are is a whole world of resources to buy your lovely yarn from. Most local towns have a craft or haberdashery shop or even a Hobbycraft (if you're in the UK). I went to my local yarn store and sought their advice, but then discovered online stores such as Deramores, and Wool Warehouse which offer a larger range at more affordable prices.

Other items that come in handy are a small pair of scissors, a darning needle which helps to sew in lose ends, a tape measure, some dress pins (not essential but I always find them handy to have generally), and stitch markers. Please buy stitch markers before doing anything that involves going around in a circle; I found out the hard way that these are essential unless you want to keep counting stitches for every round!

I find having a pen and notebook close by at all times very handy. I suddenly have waves of ideas that I have to jot down so I have one at work and one (or three) at home and a pen always in my kit. This way I can remember all my ideas as well as any yarn I may have seen when out and about or a website for a free pattern. Alternatively you could use your phone if your a modern tech-person!

Crochet guide book

This isn't something you'd want to be carrying around with you all the time but having one close by at home is really handy. I got this one as a Christmas present when I first started and it was brilliant in helping me with all the confusion I  had about certain stitches etc. Even now I still have to refer to it for certain things, I'm always learning! There are lots of different guide books out there for beginners but this is in a Q and A format which seems to cover all the main questions I had/have. Of course, there is the internet for searching queries but if you're like me, I find it easier sometimes to have something clearly stated - in black and white - on paper - in front of me.

I hope this first segment of my newbie guide has been helpful. If you have any questions please pop them in the comments below and I will endeavour to answer them! Check back soon for the next segment in this series.

Betty xXx

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Desktop Saviours // Beauty

Working in an office all day, in front of a computer (and a pile of paperwork) can get a bit claustrophobic and stuffy. With the weather in the UK being particularly cold we've had the heating cranked up so this can add to the stuffiness; mix that with heading out into the cold/gale force winds/torrential rain, my skin feels more dry and dehydrated.  I have a selection of beauty items on my desk to help me through the day and give me a 5 minute break from staring at the computer screen...

1. Soap and Glory Hand Maid: Touching a keyboard and phone etc all day I like to keep as germ free as possible, so using this anti bacterial hand gel really does the job. It smells gorgeous and is quite cooling so a apply this throughout the day especially before I'm about to have lunch.

2. Soap and Glory Hand Food: As well as keeping my hands clean I like to moisturise after washing my hands as they can get quite dry. This is a mini version of the S&G hand cream and I find it really nourishing. It contains shea butter and macadamia oil so my hands instantly feel soft.

3. Lip Balm: I can survive without lip balm, whether I'm at work, home or out and about. I don't have a set one that I use all the time, usually if something is on offer I'll pick it up but I tend to have a few on the go. Right now I have a choice of three: Bobbi Brown, Lush, or Nivea.

  • Bobbi Brown Lip Balm: I bought this for my birthday as a treat - it costs £15 which I think is quite pricey for a lip balm. It is nice but I find that it has a bit of a dry (?) consistency; it just doesn't seem to moisturise my lips very well and I find I have to keep reapplying it more often that others. I don't think I'd repurchase.

  • Lush Honey Trap Lip Balm This was part of a birthday present from my bestie and it is lovely! It smells a-m-a-zing and is so moisturising. You also only a small amount so despite its small size it will last quite a while, plus it is packed with nourishing ingredients (all very natural) such as almond oil, honey and white chocolate(!) Definitely recommend and will be stocking up when it runs out!

  • Nivea Essential Care Lip Balm: Despite its basic appearance this little lip balm is super moisturising, containing jojoba oil and shea butter, it lasts ages before you need to reapply. The great thing is its really cheap, price wise and can be picked up everywhere. I always have one squirreled away in my desk drawers.
 4. Face Mist: Not something I use all the time but if I'm going out after work or during the hot summer months I'll spritz this all over my face to give me a refreshing boost. I haven't got one on the go at the moment but I recommend the Body Shop Vitamin E face mist

5. Body Spray: I usually have this in my bag as apposed to having it sitting on my desk but I like to keep a body spray on me to keep fresh and smell sweet! Sitting down all day doesn't exactly work up a sweat but as I've mentioned it can be quite stuffy so having a quick spritz of a nice body spray can refresh you and put you in a better mood. I love the Body Shop ones (they call them body mists) which come in a variety of scents - link here

Hope that's given you some ideas to keep you going through the day, beauty-wise. Do you work in an office? What are your tips for survival?

Betty xXx

Monday, 24 February 2014

Brunch Snacks // Mini Omelettes

When at work I often find myself really hungry come mid-morning. I try to be healthy and not tuck into the biscuits (until later!) so finding something to fill the hole until lunch time can prove to be tricky, especially when you don't want to have something really sugary.

A while ago, Gemma posted a picture on Instagram of her mini omelettes as an easy snack idea, so I thought I would give it a go. Now, I don't want to be patronising and tell you how to cook eggs but here's what I added to mine:

Ingredients (makes around 8):

4 Eggs
Dash of milk
Vegetables - I added chopped fresh tomatoes and peppers. Of course you can add what you like
Seasoning - This is to your own taste, I added pepper, garlic granules and smoked paprika
Chedder Cheese - optional
Small amount of oil

You will also need:
Muffin Baking Tin
Whisk or fork

What to do:

1. Preheat your oven to around 180C/Gas Mark 4
2. Take your oil and dab it on some kitchen towel and wipe each section of the muffin baking tin
3. Crack 4 eggs into your jug and and a dash of milk and beat eggs with your whisk or fork
4. Add your vegetables and mix in
5. Add your seasoning and again mix
6. Now carefully pour the egg mixture into each of the muffin sections about two thirds of the way -    they do expand/rise slightly
7. Pop them in the oven for around 15 minutes
8. After 15 minutes, take them out of the oven and if you are adding cheese, place a small about (or more if you like!) on top of each mini omelette. Put back in the oven on the grill setting for about 5-10 minutes depending how you like your cheese melted.
9. Let them cool down and they can either be eaten warm or cold. I stored mine in a Tupperware box and kept them in the fridge.

Have you tried this recipe? What are your favourite brunch snacks?

Betty xXx

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

#Crochetmoodblanket2014 // Update

Things have taken a back seat on the old mood blanket front. I started with every intention to work on it whenever I could but unfortunately life takes over and I've been coming home from work wanting to do nothing but veg out in front of the tv! It now sits in my yarn corner looking a bit lonely....

I kind of wish I stuck to the original plan and did the patchwork idea. At least making a little square every other evening would feel like I'd accomplished something. Now I'm faced with a choice of frogging the work I've done so far, or just carry on!

I'll keep you posted of any progress!

Monday, 10 February 2014

Lazy Sunday's

I love Sundays. They are by far my favourite day of the week but also tinged with sadness - by the time it reaches 6pm I feel like the weekend is over and I have to start thinking about work on Monday morning!

This weekend was particularly lazy. We went to Homebase (DIY store) to look at exciting things like tiles and paint as we're getting our kitchen done soon. I think we've decided on the colour scheme and layout, and I'm really looking forward to all the new accessories I can buy! As well as picking up a paint sample booklet I purchased three mini Cactus. I've always loved Cacti and reminds me of one we had when I was little, I would be fascinated with the spike y-ness of it!

I received yet more yarn to add to the ever growing collection! This is Rico Creative Cotton Aran in Light Green, Sky Blue and Orange. The red shade is from James C Brett Cotton on DK (shade 15). These lovely bright colours are earmarked for a project for my Godson who's birthday is in March. 

 I also picked up a copy of this month's Inside Crochet magazine. I usually buy Simply Crochet each month but fancied a change. The adorable camper van on the cover just grabbed my attention and I'll definitely be having a go at making that soon! I've had a quick flick through and I really love this magazine; the photography is amazing and there are so many projects, big and small to do.

So that was my weekend! I'll leave you with some pictures of our cat Toby who loves to look out of the window at the birdies. Hope you all had a lovely weekend and didn't get too wet in this awful UK weather we're having.

Betty xXx

Friday, 7 February 2014

Crochet Projects

As with many crochet lovelies I have a millions of ideas rolling around my head all.the.time! It gets a little frustrating as I don't always have the time or effort to crochet in the evening after work. I took a break from it for a couple of weeks and now I'm back in the swing of things.

I recently bought a whole load of yarn for future projects which include:

Kitty Cat Cushion...I love cats and all things cat related...its getting to the point where I feel like one day I might be that crazy cat lady! This is another amazing pattern from Annabooshouse sold through Etsy. Her patterns are lovely and super easy to follow. Check out my Instagram feed to see my attempt. This will be a birthday present for my sister-in-law but I think I might have to make one for myself! 

A cute little crochet car for my godson who's birthday is coming up in a month or so. He will be 2 years old so into everything, especially cars! I thought this would be a nice addition that could be displayed on the shelf in his bedroom - or played with if he wants to! For the free pattern, click here

Linking with the car theme I'm going to make some car bunting using this brilliant pattern (link here). I'm planning to make bunting with his name on and these little cars in between each letter.

And for my last little project I'll be making this cardigan for our friends who are pregnant and due in May. If you read my previous post you'll know I've already made this cardigan for my husband's 2 year old cousin as a Christmas present, but Sarah from Ball Hank 'n' Skein has made the pattern easily adaptable for smaller baby sizes by changing the hook and yarn size. This pattern can be purchased from Etsy (link here)

Lots of things to be getting on with! I'll keep you updated on my progress as the weeks go on. Have you got a whole list of projects on the go?

Betty xXx

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Wonderful Weddings // On a Budget

My first wedding anniversary is coming up later this month (23rd February) so it's getting me all nostalgic, thinking about our day and what I was doing this time last year....panicking - sheer decent in to a panic ridden spiral!!

We got engaged in December 2011 and started planning more or less straight away as we had already said we didn't want a long engagement (we'd been together for 9 years by then so talk of weddings had come up from time to time!). I knew I didn't want to spend a fortune on a wedding, for a number of reasons:

  1. We aren't rich!
  2. A wedding is just one day - it's the marriage I would rather put all my efforts into
  3. I believed that you can have a wonderful day and not get into debt by spending above your means
  4. I'm a crafty person so wanted to make as much as I possibly could!
I thought it might be helpful to share my experiences of the build up, where I sourced things, how we kept to a budget and what it was like to be a bride! So I'm starting a little series looking at all the planning and hopefully sharing some tutorials along the way. I'll be starting off with the basics of planning a wedding, so check back soon to read my tips!

Betty xXx

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Scrapbooking // 29

I have now reached the grand old age of...29 (booo!) To document the last year of my 20's and to remember what it was like to be young I have decided to make a scrapbook. As part of my new year resolutions/plans for 2014, I also decided that this year I wanted to do lots of fun things and take more pictures, actually getting them printed out instead of letting them store on my hard drive (remember the good ol' days when you went down to Boots to get your photo's developed, not knowing how they'd turned out?!).

I've never made a scrapbook before - well, maybe when I was about 5 or 6! After spending ages searching through Hobby Craft's website I found a really cool looking scrapbook by a company called La De Dah. They not only do lovely scrapbooks (they call them creative journals) but they also have washi tape, sticky notes and lots of other accessories!

I went for the blue scrapbook (I don't know if the different colours have different themes in terms of the paper patterns but this one seems to be travel orientated?). It comes with 42 printed pages, a dual ended pen and glue stick, and four pocket pages. It is also a ring binder so you can move the pages around and add more to it. I purchased some cute washi tape with bicycle and bunting print, polaroid frames, some sticky notes and pastel coloured Sharpie markers.

I've been hording little things to stick in like tickets from Venice and will be printing my photo's from January. The plan is to document each month with pictures and any other little trinkets that hold memories. Luckily additional paper can be bought for the scrapbook/journal, which I think will be needed! Did you know its really hard to find an online printer that does 3x3 sizes?! I've looked everywhere! So I'm going to print them at home for now.

Have you made a scrapbook?

Betty xXx