A Vintage Affair

For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted a beautiful, huge, crocheted vintage-y feel bedspread in neutral. In May we visited Dullstroom, and one of the curio shops were selling gorgeous crocheted bedspreads, all in a delicious natural shade. Unfortunately, the quality of the yarn left much to be desired. I wanted something my children could inherit one day, and hopefully pass on their kids. So it had to be serious quality.IMG_20150530_172645

Once back from our trip I made up my mind to make one. Choosing a yarn was the easy part. I decided to use Eco-Cotton from Nurturing Fibres. Eco-Cotton is double knit 100% cotton yarn, deliciously soft, with a high twist and come in a range of beautiful colours. With 125m, 50g/cake one gets pretty far. The high twist is guaranteed to give hooky pleasure as splitting is kept to a minimum, a common problem with cottons. From experience I know that the thread is tough, so it will stand the test of time. It also washes beautifully, ensuring that the bedspread will remain as new for many, many years. Locally Eco-Cotton is available from In My Knapsak and if you want to get it online, visit Woolhogs.IMG_20150324_145329Choosing the yarn was easy. Finding a pattern to match the picture in my mind was a completely different story. I tried many different blocks, but nothing felt right. Then, in a moment of excellent serendipity, Beatrix from Btrix Designs, gifted me a copy of her stunning Karoo Bedspread pattern. It. Was. Perfect. The pattern is exceptionally well written, and I love the twist on the traditional granny square. The netting gives the bedspread a timeless, yet modern edge. I was in love. And bonus!! The pattern is so easy to do, it’s the absolute perfect in-front-of-the-tv project. (the only time I have to work on my own stuff. So it can’t be finicky)

Another bonus, the pattern works up really quickly. I initially thought that I’d be working on this for at least six months. I just saw on my Ravelry Project Page, that I started the bedspread on the 22nd of June and I finished it last night. Just three and a half months! I only worked on it at night and then only about 3 nights/week.  But enough of my waffling, have a look at the pics: (if you love this as much as I do, get your copy of the pattern here)

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Ps. I now have 2 heritage blankets my girls can inherit! The other one is the GREAT PATCHWORK BLANKET, although The Teen just informed me that she’ll be taking both after my eventual move to the hereafter. Because my sister can crochet her own…. *sigh*

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Blessings

Something special happens when a group of women come together to share in their love of yarn.  Two years ago, I’ve been in GP for a year, and not knowing a soul, I decided to start giving crochet classes, simply to meet other like-minded women. From one single girl, my class has grown to more than ten members. Each Wednesday morning, we get together. It has long ago seized to be simply a class. It has become a wonderful place to be. We’ve shared ups and downs, tears and tribulations. We’ve complained about husbands, bragged about children, shared our fears, hopes, dreams, worries. We support each other.

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Lots of making also happens:

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Most of the group couldn’t hook a stitch when they started. And I’m so proud of how they’ve grown.

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Over the last two years, my kitchen has become more than a place to prepare food. But, as with everything, we’ve now reached the end of an era. Yesterday was our last class. Three of my girls have grown beautiful strong wings.

From next week, we’ll be hooking at In My KnapsakThis wonderful yarn store will open next week Tuesday, and is the baby of one of our girls, Carlene. We are so excited!

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Corneli will be teaching beginners’ classes there on Thursdays (I’ll still be teaching on Wednesdays). And Salomé’s gorgeous handmade one-of-a-kind hook will be on sale.

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Exciting times ahead! It’s been so much fun and I’m really looking forward to this new phase with these amazing women!

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Cotton Tales

A couple of months ago, Anisa from Hello Hart approached me, asking if I’d be interested in a creative collaboration between herself and MoYa Yarns. The idea was to create a bohemian-styled, fun, funky long sleeve top for spring. Of course I said yes! Anisa provided me with the basic idea and Hester and Martine from MoYa sent me a whole bunch of glorious, happy colours in 100% cotton.

I was initially totally a bit petrified, as the design would look absolutely perfect with some knitting elements. It would’ve been a breeze to stick to an all-crochet design, but borders are meant for pushing, aren’t they? I’m so glad that I pushed through. The top looks great! Anisa spoke to the lovely folks over at Ideas Magazine, they loved it too, and it was decided to publish the pattern in the September issue of Ideas.

The magazine is finally out, so get your copy today!

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After completing the Boho Top, I realised for the first time ever how absolutely awesome it is to knit with 100% cotton. As I had some odds balls left from the Boho project, I decided to challenge myself and knit my first Top Down Jersey. What a fun experience!! I learnt such a tremendous amount from the project, I’m now well and truly hooked (needled?).

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It is fabulous to knit top down, and really not as intricate/difficult as it may sound. Best part… no seams to sew up! The pattern is After The Rain from Heidi Kirrmaier, available from Love Knitting, a perfect project for novice knitters. Her instructions are clear and easy to understand.

I made mine with short sleeves. Firstly, I didn’t think I would have enough yarn, secondly, I didn’t have a small enough circular needle. (I bought one, in the meantime, and can’t wait to do a jersey with long sleeves!) I don’t mind too much, this will be perfect for our spring which is just around the corner.
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Here and there are spots which I certainly could’ve done better, but as a first attempt, I’m pretty damn pleased with myself.

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This is going to look awesome paired with jeans and a pair of sky-high wedges. Come on, Summer!

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Have an awesome weekend!

Bxx

Memories

(Apologies for the photo quality of some of the pics – way back when, it was point and shoot!)

Whenever I hear a song I love, I’m immediately taken back to when I first heard it, and the memories associated with it. I’ll never be able to listen to a Bon Jovi song without being transported back to my teen years, when Bon Jovi played a huge daily part. The same with anything I crochet or knit. Whatever I’ve been doing/listening/feeling at the time, will always have a strong connection to the finished piece.

I fell in love with a pair of mittens Cornel from Hello Hart was making for her daughter, now starting her life in the UK. To me, this was such a beautiful act of love. When the pattern finally appeared in an issue of Ideas Magazine, I added it to my list of things to do.

Last week, I finally had some spare time. And, as explained above, I immediately associated the mittens with a mom’s love for her daughter. This is my daughter’s matric year. This year is filled with so many emotions. As I was making the mittens, it gave me an opportunity to work through my own feelings of having a daughter that’ll soon leave the nest to make her own way in the world.

It feels like yesterday when I first held her in my arms. She was small and squishy, and red and swollen (we had cortisone injections for an entire week prior to her birth… my husband says we were his ’round’ girls!)IMG_20150809_122319 IMG_20150809_121654

IMG_20150809_121757Our baby didn’t have the best start in the life. She was tremendously ill for her first 6 years, to the point that we spent more time at the hospital than anywhere else. From severe allergies, to two brain surgeries, she’s been through it all. Here’s she’s finally back home from her second brain surgery.

IMG_20150809_122207Her bravery always humbled me. She just took everything in her stride.

As with most things in life, this also passed. Our darling daughter grew up to be a beautiful young lady.

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And just like that… she’s all grown… with a licence and a boyfriend…

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As I was working on the mittens, my emotions hovered between elation, and panic. I’m so excited for her to start her new life next year. I’m also petrified to let go of my daughter. To send her into the world, all on her own.

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Each stitch were a reminder of how my little girl has grown. Each stitch reminded me of my own panic in seeing her leave.

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I know my daughter is ready. She’s ready to live on her own, taking care of herself. We have, after all, raised her to cope in the outside world. To be strong and independent. To be brave. To be self-sufficient. We’ve equipped her with values, morals, decision-making abilities, and a very strong will to succeed as she makes her way in the world. And I’m so very, very proud of her.

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A lot has been said about crafting and mental health. It is all true. The simple act of working on/creating a piece of crochet/knitting, is so cathartic in working through your own emotions. The rhythmic action of your hands helps to bring order to your thoughts.

(Ps. Next year, when our baby goes to matric, we do it all again!)

Bxx

Roadtrippin’

I don’t know about you, but I will die from boredom if I don’t have a piece of knitting or crochet on my lap when we travel. At the end of June we decided to visit Nottingham Road in the Kwazulu Natal Midlands. It took me about a week before to figure out what I’d take along, craftwise. As luck would have it, Simply Crochet added a blanket special to their new issue. I immediately fell in love with the Brighton Plaid blanket, and as I was in the process of destashing, this became the perfect project to get rid off all my odd balls of Vinnis Nikkim.Vinnis Nikkim

Simply Crochet Mag

Nottingham Road is a sleepy, artsy town in the middle of the Midlands, and well worth a visit. We stayed at a glorious little country house, The Bend. It is a 100-odd year old manor, complete with antique furniture, chandeliers and an obligatory coat of arms. Super cool!

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I would love to visit in summer, it must be magical to look out and see the hills covered in green. Our visit coincided with one of the coldest weekends every recorded. When The Man wears a beanie, you can be assured…. it’s fffffriggen cold.

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Plenty of coffee was needed (and wine!)!

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Nottingham Road is situated closely to the Nelson Mandela capture site. It was a highly emotional experience to walk through the museum, which depicts a pictorial tribute to his life. Video’s are played throughout, and I must admit, I was sobbing by the end of it. It was also incredibly humbling to see the magnificent piece of art showing his silhouette.

Nelson Mandela Nelson MandelaBefore we left, we obviously had to do a family selfie!

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Back home, back to reality. Brighton Plaid took another six weeks to complete. The ends alone will make a grown woman weep. I’m not so sure I want to do something like this anytime soon, but the end product is well worth the effort!

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Everytime I look at this blanket I will remember our magical weekend, and a very special trip.

Bxx

A tribute to the granny square

This is such wonderful ode to the humble granny!

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I’ve often wondered how the granny square was “born”.  It’s such a simple design concept yet, in my opinion forms the cornerstone of crochet.  In fact it’s so epic I believe it requires some praise.  I also often wonder how the formidable little square got its name “Granny”

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According to a 1946 article attributed to the Oregon Worsted Company, the thrifty women of early America would carefully save scraps of yarn and fibre unravelled from old sweaters and socks.  As these scraps accumulated, they were crocheted into small squares; the colours combined on the whim of the craftsman.  The squares were then sewn together to make a blanket which was both functional and colourful.  Because grandma was no longer up for manual labour, she was often the one to sew the squares together, thus they became GRANNY SQUARES.

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This colorful GRANNY SQUARE blanket was thought to resemble a Colonial-era rug, which was brought over from England, by way of…

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I might be knitting…

Some yarns just work better knitted up than crocheted. It is what it is. The Jenny Sock Yarn from Electric Carnation is one of those yarns. I initially tried to crochet a scarf, but it simply didn’t look right.

So I slowly backed away to my craft room where I fished out a pair of knitting needles from the darkest recesses of my cupboard. I was doing it. Moving over to The Dark Side. But it had to be done.

Once I started on the scarf, I couldn’t stop. It was tremendously enjoyable. The yarn just slid over the needles, creating this perfect rhythmic symphony. I think I’m in love.

The ombré just WORKS in stocking stitch.

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Next up was a border. I initially added fringing all around, but hated it. All the yarn was finished, so I couldn’t use that to crochet a border. I probably walked around for 2 – 3 weeks, mulling it over in the back of my mind. I knew how I wanted it to look, but just didn’t quite know how to get it there.

Yesterday I decided to sort out my craft room. When I found half a ball of Vinnis Serina in Silver, I just knew this is what I’ve been looking for.

I absolutely adore the way it turned out.

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Make your own scarf:

Use 100g sock yarn and 5.50mm knitting needles.

Cast on 3 sts. Work in stocking stitch throughout (one row knit, one row purl).

Increase one stitch at the beginning and end of each alternative row until you’ve used up about 50g of the yarn. Then, start decreasing one stitch at the beginning and end of every alternative row until you have 3 stitches left. Cast off.

I used Border no 19, Picot Leaves, from 75 Exquisite Trims in Thread Crochet by Caitlin Sainio, but any border pattern will do.

Enjoy!

Bxx

I have a Babette… finally!

It’s been a couple of years since the Babette was at its height of popularity, and its always been one of those projects that I will one day make. So when I tried to get rid of all my odd balls of yarn, I remembered this project again. And am I glad I did it!

It was so much fun to do. I literally couldn’t stop. I’m already planning other Babette’s in different colourways. And I LOVE how it turned out. It also made me look at colour in a different way. I’m very partial to muted colourways. Most of my hooky is fairly classical, muted tones, clean lines. This Bohemian blanket took me out of my comfort zone, made me make irrational colour choices (in my mind at least) and was. so. much. fun.  (Scroll to end of the post to see the list of yarns I used, and the link to this pattern).

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Yarns used:

Elle:  Pure Gold & Premier Cotton

I Love Yarn: Imagine & Protea

Yarn Stash PMB: Merino

Karoo Moon: Thirds (Mohair, Alpaca, Wool) & 100% Pure Wool

African Expressions: Harmony, Joy, Freedom, Adore

Katia: Merino

Adele’s Mohair: Merino

Hook used:

4.00mm

Pattern:

Kathy Merrick’s Babette. Buy the pattern here.

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Product Review : The Ilona Heritage Hook

The Ilona Heritage Hook is a proudly South African product, handcrafted by local artisans. It’s custom-made from rosewood, on order.

Each hook comes in its own special little wooden crate:
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Hilda, from Yarn In A Barn tests each hook before it leaves her shop. She includes the swatch with the hook:Ilona 3 Apart from the wooden crate, the plastic cover is probably the most important accessory. Wood is not a durable as plastic or aluminium. Your hook WILL break if you leave it unprotected and it falls. Ilona 4 Its delicately turned point, throat, groove and shaft is nothing short of a piece of art. The point slides easily through any type of yarn, including those that are prone to splitting. The groove catches the yarn effortlessly. The overall result is crochet stitches that are far more uniform, and a lot neater than can be made using a regular hook.Ilona 5 Ilona 6 This hook is certainly made for the discerning crocheter. It’s pricey, but well worth it. I had to adjust my grip completely, but after a couple of rows it started to feel natural, and I could see a distinct difference in the quality of my stitches.Ilona 7

Pro’s: 

  • It’s a thing of beauty. My personal philosophy has always been that I would rather do without something, than have an item that’s ugly. This fits right up my alley.
  • The Ilona Hook takes your crochet to a whole different level. Even if you were a very neat crocheter to begin with, this hook will definitely elevate your stitches even further.
  • It alleviates cramping and painful fingers. Once I mastered the different grip necessary, I was astonished to see how comfortable it became to hook for hours at a time, with very little hand fatigue.
  • The hooks come in a wide variety of sizes from 3.50mm up to 10.00mm, so you’re sure to find one in your favourite size.

Cons:

  • It breaks easily. BUT if you take care of your hook, if you don’t drop it, if you use your plastic cap and keep it in its container when not in use, you won’t have a problem.
  • It’s expensive. But then again, it’s in a class of its own. It’s artisan made, from Rosewood, and you’ll be the proud owner of something completely unique.

Conclusion:

I would really recommend this hook. If you’re serious about taking your crochet to a different level, this hook will help you get there. The small issue of price and sturdiness completely fades when compared to comfort and stitch quality.

The Ilona Hooks are exclusively available from Yarn In A Barn.

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(Disclaimer: I was not paid or compensated or asked in any way to do this review. The statements made here is based on my own experience.)

MoYa – Yarn Review

When it comes to picking a favourite fibre to work with, I almost always go with cotton. I much prefer it over merino, mohair or bamboo. It might be the texture that appeals to me, but I think it is mostly the fact that this is the one yarn I can work with all year round without it ever getting too hot. Don’t get me wrong, there are very few things as delicious as working with 100% merino. Unfortunately, living in South Africa with its spectacular (albeit hot) weather, for the better part of a year, merino is simply too uncomfortable to work with.

For a very long time, the only 100% cotton available were Vinnis Nikkim and two brands from Elle Yarns; Premier Cotton and Cotton On. Both excellent brands, but if you work with cotton as much as I do, everything you make start to resemble each other.

During 2014, a few newcomers arrived on the scene, one being MoYa‘s 100% organic cotton. I was thrilled, but were unable to get my hands on a ball, until our December holiday, when I managed to buy 4 balls at yarn shop in the Western Cape. The joy! The ecstasy! I immediately fell in love with the texture of this yarn and couldn’t wait to try it out. Unfortunately, the only shades I could find was variegated, and lovely as it is, variegated really doesn’t do it for me.

Imagine then my joy when Hester from MoYa contacted me to tell me they would like to send a couple of complimentary balls my way. Whoohoo!!  The yarn finally arrived and it was the most delicious, softest colours. Beautiful to look at and super soft to the touch.

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My brain worked overtime. I wanted to test the yarn sufficiently enough to be able to have a clear understanding of its properties, how it handled in the wash, how it blocked, how it behaved.

I felt that making a block or something small wouldn’t give me a clear indication of its quality. As I mostly make garments/wearables I decided to do a cardigan. This would really show if the cotton blocks well, and more importantly, wash well. (Full disclosure: As 5 balls aren’t enough for a garment I used it in conjunction with other cotton I already had in my stash.)

The result is this funky, fresh and fun little cardigan:

MoYa Yarn Review

Once it was completed, the first step was to wet block it to measurement. After it dried, I washed it again. It retained its shape beautifully. The colours didn’t bleed or fade at all. The pre-washing (post-blocking) and post washing size remained the same. There were no discernible shrinkage at all.

MoYa Yarn Review

It crochets beautifully. The yarn is truly a joy to work with. As it has a high twist, it didn’t split once. The stitch structure is quite solid. I used a 4.50mm hook instead of the 3.50 – 4.00mm hook suggested on the label. It gave a softer, better drape on the larger hook.

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MoYa comes in a range of absolutely delicious colours:

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The Nitty Gritty:

MoYa Yarn: Their tagline/slogan is Sui Generis : (Latin) meaning ‘a kind of its own’. This is quite true. No two balls are exactly the same, and each ball contain slight colour variations. It gives a beautiful mottled effect as opposed to solid colour.

Care Instructions: The label ask that the first time wash should be done separately as there may be slight residual dye. I know this is true for most hand dyed yarns, although not on every single ball. In this case there were no residual dye left at all. As per all other cottons they also ask that you dry the item on a flat surface and that you don’t tumble dry. I never tumble dry any item made with natural fibre, the risk of shrinking is simply too high. They don’t stipulate a specific washing temperature but I wash all my handmade items in cold water, anyway. Experience has shown that any item made with natural fibres and washed using higher temperatures, causes the article to shrink to some degree.

Suggested hook sizes: The suggested hook size is between 3.50mm – 4.00mm. This is spot-on, although it depends on the item being made. In this case I wanted a better drape and used  a 4.50mm. If I was making a more structured item, for eg coasters or even a pillow case, I would’ve used either a 3.75mm or a 4.00mm. It is best to play around to find the best ‘look’ for whatever you’re making.

Colour Fastness/Shrinkage: The biggest concern facing knitters and crocheters are probably colour fastness and shrinkage. Nothing breaks the spirit more than hours put into a project only to see it ruined after completion when the colour fades and/or the item shrinks. I only washed the cardigan once, but there was no bleeding, and definitely no fading. The cardi also kept its shape and the drape is exceptional. Both my pre and post measurements were exactly the same. No shrinkage here!

Potential uses: This is really a versatile yarn. By simply playing around with your hook, you can create fabric that either drapes softly (using a bigger hook), or fabric that remains sturdy (use a much smaller hook). The yarn would be perfect for everything from baby garments/blankets (it is soft enough), to household items such as coasters, placemats, bags, blankets and garments. A fabulous all rounder.

Availability: This is a major deterrent at this stage. Very few stores stock MoYa, and I truly hope this will change soon (I’m bugging my LYS at every visit). However, it is currently available online so if you can’t buy it locally, you don’t have to despair. Your own stash of MoYa balls are just a few clicks away from the comfort of your own home.

Here are a few stockists that I’m currently aware off (there may be more)

Online: 

Yarn In A Barn

Bricks & Mortar Stores:

50 Something in Vredendal

Knitter Knatter in Brackenfell

Contact MoYa directly: moya@theculinaryemporium.co.za

MoYa gets my thumbs up, for sure.  I’m very, very picky about the yarn I use, and I can honestly not fault this particular product. Time will tell if my garment stays as fresh as it is now, but my initial gut feel is that it will.

If you have used this product, let me know how it worked for you!

Bxx

(Disclaimer: I was not paid or compensated or asked in any way to do this review. This statements made here is based on my own experience.)