Thursday, 27 February 2014

Awesome Amigurumi

I think Amigurumi is Awesome. As I mentioned in my first post, my daughter suggested I make crochet toys. I was reluctant until I found a Paddington Bear pattern posted by blogger Yellow, Pink and Sparkly here. As it turned out, this bear was just the start. I soon discovered the world of amigurumi.
  1. amigurumi
    Web definitions
    1. Amigurumi is how Japanese call the trend of knitting or crocheting small stuffed animals and anthropomorphic creatures. The word is derived from a combination of the Japanese words ami, meaning crocheted or knitted, and nuigurumi, meaning stuffed doll. ...
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amigurumi
After the first Paddington Bear, I altered the pattern to work in the round following the amigurumi style which omits the seam created by "joining" each round. I made a few bears before I found a cute free bunny pattern here.  The first bunny I made was grey. I called him Dudley and mailed him to California along with a yellow hat made from Paddington Bear's pattern and 6 crochet Easter eggs. I found an Easter egg tutorial by Greedy for Colour here. Dudley's hat doubled as a basket for the eggs. He was a big hit with our grandson who was 1 1/2 years old at the time. 'Hide and seek' for eggs became a popular game.    
Dudley Bunny

After making the bear and then the bunny, I found all sorts of free animal patterns I was eager to try. Before long, I had completed a bunch of Awesome Amigurumi for our grandson. Check out the photos below. The caption provides a link to each individual pattern.
Boyington Bear
Buttercup Bear
Tootsie Bear
Tiny Bear
Bonnie Bunny & Benny Bunny
Curious George
Baby Elephant
Mouse
Spike the Dragon
Alby the Baby Snow Dragon
I finished all these toys then decided to write a story for our grandson featuring each one. I wrote the story then my husband and I spent a lovely summer afternoon in my parent's garden getting just the right photos to illustrate the book. It was a lot of fun to make and even more fun to see our grandson's face when our visit brought his 'book' to life.

I have used some of the book photos in this post but here is a link to the book if you would like to take a look. There were four copies printed: 1 for our grandson, 1 for us and 1 for each of our parents. 

I have to confess I missed one typo on the front cover. I credited my husband for the photography but mistakenly called him "Gandad" instead of "Grandad". I truly did not see it until my daughter pointed it out. Oh well, I corrected the on-line version. Our grandson did call my husband Gandad before he could say Grandad properly. He used to call me 'Mimi' but now says Grammeo very clearly and I love to hear him call me that.


Saturday, 22 February 2014

Baby Headbands & Yarn Shopping

This morning after my morning cappuccino, I started working on a crochet baby headband. I wanted it to be stretchy and stay put so I decided to incorporate a hair elastic into the design. My daughter prefers headbands that are on the 'skinny' side without huge embellishments. I really like the way this one turned out so will make more in a variety of colours. 
Baby Headband
Instructions to make baby headband (14" to 15" circumference):

Band - Bernat Satin in White
Flower - Bernat Softee Baby in Flannel
Hook size - 3.25 mm
Button (from my stash)
Hair Elastic

Attach yarn with a slip stitch (ss) to a hair elastic
Chain 1 and single crochet (sc) around to cover the elastic 
Chain 40 and attach with ss to sc on opposite side of elastic being careful to not twist the chain loop (increase number of chains for larger finished size)
Chain 1, turn and sc into back bump of chain stitches until back at the beginning sc
Join with a ss to beginning sc on hair elastic and finish off leaving long tail ends
Weave in tail ends under sc around the hair elastic and join sides at middle of elastic to form a figure 8 (this will be used to attach the flower and button)

I made the flower following a free pattern from blogger Crochet With Raymond here. I used just one colour for the flower since I planned to cover the middle with a big, bright button. Doesn't it look cute on the teddy bear? I think it will look adorable on our granddaughter as well.
Fits 14"-15" comfortably
Following a productive morning of crochet and cappuccino, my husband and I decided to head to the gym to get some much needed exercise. On the way, we stopped at the local Len's Mill Store to pick up a couple things. As usual, I got carried away in the yarn department. I LoVe shopping for yarn. Check out my purchases in the photo below. I ended up buying 12 balls in assorted colours and 5 yards of 5 different decorative elastics. I have so many creative crochet projects in my head, I can hardly wait to get started. 

Yarn shopping LoVe
But first I want to finish a few more headbands. It's so much fun having a new baby to decorate. I'll make a couple more like the one I made this morning then I'd like to make a few using this lovely decorative elastic. Since I have 5 different kinds, I can make a nice selection in different sizes. I think my daughter will love them. I know I'm excited to see how they turn out. I plan to crochet a variety of flowers and I'm certain they will be super cute. I've got a little less than 2 weeks before we leave which should be plenty of time. I'll be sure to post some photos once they are finished. 
Variety of decorative elastics  for Baby Headbands

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Thursday, 20 February 2014

Baby News & Photo Props

Since I got back from Boulder over a week ago, I've been busy making baby photo props for my daughter's photography business. My main motivation is to get cute photos of our grandchildren but also provide items that might work for clients. 

I decided to start with a doily. The pattern is free and can be found here. Doilies like the one shown below can be draped over a baby posing bean bag and layered with coloured blankets for a cute photo. I made this one with Bernat Handicrafter Cotton yarn in off-white using a 5 mm hook. It measures 22" across so should work well for babies. 
Baby Prop 'Doily'
I've also made some cute hats and a diaper cover. The hat pattern can be found here from blogger Repeat Crafter Me. I used the base of her puppy hat pattern with ear flaps and braids but did not add the face or puppy ears. The teal hat with orange trim was made using Bernat Satin in "light sage" and "goldenrod". I used a 5 mm hook and the pattern instructions for size 0-3 months. The grey hat was made using Bernat Softee Baby yarn in "flannel" and a 4.5 mm hook. Bernat Softee Baby is a lighter yarn, so I followed the pattern instructions for size 3-6 months and the hats ended up about the same size. 
Baby Hats (side view)
The larger orange hat shown below was made using Bernat Satin in "goldenrod" and using the pattern instructions for size Toddler/Preschool. I'm hoping my daughter can use these hats in a Little Sister/Big Brother photo. I chose these colours to match the logo on her website Sweet Maple Photography.
Little Sister and Big Brother Hats
Baby Hat and Diaper Cover
To match the grey and white hat, I made a cute diaper cover following a free pattern provided by blogger Annoo's Crochet World here. I altered the pattern slightly by omitting the ruffle and adding a white trim with a grey tie. 

Instructions for the white trim
Row 1: chain 1, single crochet (sc) in each sc and each chain space around, join with a slip stitch
Row 2: chain 3 (counts as first half double crochet (hdc) and chain 1), skip 1 sc, *hdc + chain 1, skip 1 sc **, repeat * to ** around and join with a slip stitch to second chain
Row 3: chain 1, sc around and join with invisible join

Instructions for grey tie
Chain 108
Row 1: sc in back bump of each chain stitch (see here for explanation)
Weave grey tie through holes created by row 2 of the white trim
Add a white/grey fringe to each end of the grey tie to match the fringe on the hat braids

I made these items while waiting for news of our grandchild's birth which took patience as the baby was overdue by a week. I am happy to say she arrived Tuesday, February 18 at 5:04 p.m. Boulder time weighing 8 lbs 11 oz and 21.5" long. My daughter sent me a cell phone snapshot showing her new baby wearing the little owl hat I made last summer. My daughter will be posting proper photos on her website soon so I won't share any baby pics. Although I will tell you, I think she is beautiful and looks just like her Mom.
My 50th Birthday in July - showing off a little hat for our 'granddaughter'
I remember I made this hat (pattern by Repeat Crafter Me found here) and announced to our family I thought our daughter was pregnant and having a girl. I think they all thought I was joking. Turns out I was right about the pregnancy AND right about her having a girl. I'm so looking forward to visiting again in March and finally meeting this little one.

I can hardly wait to see my daughter's first photo shoot with this baby. I better get busy and make some more "props". I think a headband with flowers should be next on the list. 

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Baby Blankets

My last post covered crochet blankets and now I'd like to showcase baby blankets. When I found out our daughter was expecting her first child almost 4 years ago now, I immediately got busy and hand quilted a baby blanket. My grandmother taught me how to quilt when I was a teenager. I have quilted a few panels over the years, nothing sewn from scratch but still nice. This baby quilt was the first thing I made for our grandchild and I was really quite happy with it. My daughter loved it too. She sent me this photo of the quilt in use and apologized for the the pink wrap. All the blue and green wraps were in the laundry that day.
Hand quilted baby blanket for our grandson
 After our grandson was born and I rediscovered my love of crochet, I found some beautiful crochet patterns for baby blankets. One of my favourite free patterns was called Ruffles and Dots Baby Blanket posted by blogger Maybe Matilda here. The first version I made was green with a blue ruffle and a row of white in between. It was meant to match our grandson's room in California which was painted green on the bottom 2/3 and blue on the top 1/3 with a white stripe in between. Our daughter selected the colours and my husband painted the room when we visited.

First version made for our grandson
I loved the look and feel of this blanket so much, I made a few. One for a friend who was having a baby, another for my grandson (in Mod Ombre not shown) and two more to have on hand for gifts as needed. These blankets measure approximately 36" square and were made using two large balls of Bernat Handicrafter Cotton yarn plus a bit for the ruffle trim. I think I will stick to solid colours for future versions as it makes a less 'busy' backdrop for baby photos.

My math for this bobble baby blanket: Starting Chain 104 (13 bobbles) and 3 rows of single crochet (sc) before first bobble row and between each bobble row. 3 sc before first bobble and after last bobble, 7 sc between bobbles. Every other bobble row has 7 sc before first bobble and after last bobble (12 bobbles on these rows). Note - the bobble rows are offset from each other. Bobble = pull through when 5 loops on hook, see explanation here. Frill border R1 - sc around, R2 - 2 double crochet (dc) in each sc around, R3 (optional) alternate 2 dc and 1 dc around. I used a 5.5 mm hook with worsted weight cotton yarn for these blankets.

Neutral yellow made for friend at work


Two spares in Beach Ball Blue Ombre and Tumbleweed Ombre
I saved my favourite baby blanket pattern for last. I love the interplay of colours in this blanket made with Lang Jawoll Magic Superwash Sock Yarn and another comparable yarn. Sorry I honestly can't remember the name brand of the other yarn. I couldn't find the yarn recommended on the pattern so I chose sock weight yarns in colours I thought would work well together and look similar to the photos of the pattern. It took me over a year to finish two blankets as I was working on many other projects in between each square. There were 9 squares for each blanket plus a sizable border. Each blanket ate up 6 skeins of yarn. I bought the yarn for ~$17.00 per skein from The Yarn Factory Outlet. I felt lucky to have bought it for $17 as I saw the same yarn in London for $22. 
This version adorns our orange leatherette sofa in home gym

This is my favourite colour combo

Close up of stitches
I kept both blankets and like to tell people they cost $150 each ($22 x 6 + 13% tax) but they really only cost me ~$115 each. That still sounds like a lot for such a small blanket, doesn't it? Oh well, I love the look so much it was totally worth it.

You may have noticed this blanket is displayed on my blog banner. I truly do love the look. If you would like to make one too, the free pattern can be found on Ravelry here. It is called Chameleon Baby Blanket and was created by Tracy St. John. Have fun with it.

With all this talk of baby blankets, I've neglected to mention my daughter's baby update. She posted a comment on Facebook yesterday "It's official... I'm going to be pregnant forever..." that means we're Still Waiting. 

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Crochet Blankets

It is very cold here in Canada this winter so I thought it might be appropriate to discuss crochet blankets.

I love crochet blankets. There are so many choices for patterns, styles and colours that I never get tired of them. I think my very first blanket back when I was 10 years old and learning to crochet was a purple Phentex granny square which grew and grew over the winter until it was large enough to be called a throw . I added a long fringe and gave it to my Mom. I'm pretty sure she still has it on display in their basement spare bedroom.

When I rediscovered crochet 3 years ago, I also rediscovered my love of crochet blankets. The first free pattern I chose was called a "Dorm Throw" and can be found here. I used Red Heart Light and Lofty yarn in Pheasant and Cafe au Lait. I altered the pattern to make a slightly bigger blanket by changing the number and spacing of zig-zag stripes. Actually, I made a mistake and, as it was difficult to rip out mistakes (fluffy yarn tends to snag and tangle), I just altered the pattern to make it look intentional. I must confess it was challenging working with fluffy yarn because the individual stitches are more difficult to see and it's hard to know where to place your hook. All-in-all though, I think it turned out rather well and is used regularly at our house especially with this cold weather.
Fluffy "Zig Zag" Blanket
I made this pattern again last fall but used a different yarn which gave a totally different look and feel. I wanted to make a throw for my daughter and, since she prefers light teal colours, I selected Bernat Roving yarn (soft chunky acrylic/wool blend) in Low Tide and Rice Paper. Bernat Roving (#5) is less bulky than Red Heart Light and Lofty (#6) so the blanket was quite a bit smaller. I picked up the yarn at The Yarn Factory Outlet in Listowel on route to our friend's cottage near Tobermory. This blanket was a perfect project to start at the cottage on the long weekend.  I was even able to finish it the following week at home. I like the way it turned out and my daughter was very happy with it. Now that she is in Boulder, she makes use of cuddly blankets too.
Crochet at the Cottage complete with dog, wine & snack. Good times.


Finished Zig Zag Afghan for our Daughter

Zig Zag Afghan in Bernat Roving Yarn
Another fun blanket I made for my daughter was a queen-sized patchwork crochet quilt. I started working on the motifs in the summer and finished by November in 2011. My biggest project up to that point with 146 motifs and a border around the whole quilt which mirrored the border on the individual motifs. The motifs consisted of a Grecian Tile square. This pattern is available for free on Ravelry and includes both the motif and the blanket border. I still love purple and manage to fit it into a lot of my projects. This quilt was made using Bernat Handicrafter cotton in three different colours; Country Mauve, Natural and English Lavender. I joined all the squares using a single crochet join which gives an interesting effect on the backside of the quilt. In California, this blanket adorned the spare bed. In Boulder, it forms part of the 'nest' our grandson prefers to sleep in these days on the floor beside his regular bed. 
Patchwork Crochet Quilt
I apologize for the lack of pattern details and photos. When I first started crocheting, I took photos to show my daughter but did not intend to start a blog and share publicly. Once I catch up with past projects (still quite a few to go), I will be sharing more current projects with better documentation. At least that is my intent.

I started another crochet afghan a couple years ago called "Crochet Bumble Berry Pie Afghan". It uses Bernat Mosaic Yarn which produces squares of various colours with just one yarn selection. This project was moving along quite nicely until I laid it out on the dining room table for joining. It took some time to lay out the squares in a pleasing diagonal pattern making sure all were right side up. Since I had multiple projects on the go (common practice), it sat on the dining room table for over a week which was long enough for our cat to "up chuck" on it and the table cloth underneath. Luckily only a few squares required washing but I had to pick up the whole thing to remove the table cloth. Since then it has sat in a box waiting for me to have take the time to lay it out and finish properly. I promise I will get to it one day soon and share plenty of photos when I do.
WIP - Bumble Berry Pie Afghan
I also love crochet baby blankets but I think they deserve a separate post. I was trying to take a break from "baby talk" as my daughter's due date was yesterday and we're still waiting but I can`t resist sharing this photo she posted of her 40 week belly. All I can say is WOW and I think she is beautiful - baby belly and all. 
40 weeks and counting
I`m hoping my next post will reference my daughter`s birth announcement. Surely it can`t be long now.


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Friday, 7 February 2014

Still Waiting

Since we’re in Boulder and still waiting for the baby to arrive, I thought I would share a few photos of crochet items I made for this little one. I started way back in July before our daughter announced she was pregnant. Even though I was ready to start a blanket, I had an urge to make a little pink owl hat and announced I thought Natalie was expecting and going to have a girl. Turns out I was right about the pregnancy but we’re still waiting to find out if it’s a girl. Almost everybody else thinks it will be a boy. Luckily, the hat can be used as a prop for my daughter’s new photography business Sweet Maple Photography if she ends up having another boy.
Owl Hat and Tiny Owl
Both the owl hat and little owl patterns were posted by blogger RepeatCrafterMe here and here. The bunny used to model the hat is not for the baby. I’ll post a link to that pattern in a later post covering crochet toys.

Our daughter loves crochet bunting so I got busy and made a long bright colourful bunting. I got a bit carried away making 23 big bunting triangles with colourful buttons sewn on the tips. The pattern was just a single crochet increase at the beginning and end of every second row starting with 2 chains. I also added a single crochet border and joined all the triangles before deciding to add buttons. I blocked the triangles to make them lay flat and had them ready for our daughter when they visited in October.
Bunting Before Adding Buttons
Once our daughter was back home, she decided this bunting was too big for the baby room but was perfect for our grandson’s room.  She sent us a photo of it in place. I must admit it matches perfectly with his name decor our daughter made from buttons and wooden letters. They also hung an Ikea tent with colourful circus bunting around the top which coordinates beautifully.
Mavid's Bunting (photo by Natalie at Sweet Maple Photography)

Ikea Bunting Tent
Our daughter requested I make a smaller bunting for the baby in colours to match the crib set so I set about doing just that. For this bunting, I got my inspiration from a pattern posted by Lucy at Attic 24 here. Since it is much smaller, it is a much better fit for the baby room.
Crib Set

Baby Bunting to Match Crib Set
I've always liked the look of jellyfish so I made a jellyfish mobile in matching colours following a pattern posted here. To hang the jellyfish, I used two black space saver multi-clothes hangers strung together at 90 degrees with a jellyfish hung on each of the four end hooks and one in the middle.
Jellyfish Mobile
Previously I shared a post on the brown bears made for the baby. The bears are currently sitting on the mantle waiting for baby cuddles.  The rest of the crochet items are stored in the baby room.  The baby room will be decorated later as the baby will spend its first few months in Mama and Dada’s room.
Brown Bears on Mantle
Our daughter also selected a baby blue crochet blanket from my stash. I've not taken a picture of it yet but will at some point and share more details including yarn and pattern link in a post specifically about baby blankets. I’ve made a few different baby blankets so I think they deserve special attention.

This afternoon, as I was drafting this post, our daughter was busy cleaning the house - vacuuming, picking up toys, dusting and doing laundry. I offered to help but she insisted on doing everything herself. I wonder if that can be considered ‘nesting’ behaviour? If so, it might not be long before this baby arrives. I'd love it to happen before we leave on Sunday. Time to send a little prayer before bed and keep my fingers crossed.


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Monday, 3 February 2014

Travel Talk

I have to tell you all about our trip to Boulder on Friday, January 31st. It was a long day of travel for my Mom and me but we had a terrific time together. My Dad took us to the Robert Q station at 9:30 a.m. to catch the 10 a.m. bus to Detroit. This bus was scheduled to get us to the airport with lots of time to kill but was recommended in case bad weather or potential problems at the border made us late. 

Our bus ride was fun. The weather was good, the roads were clear and the driver was very friendly. He assigned "co-pilot" duties to the nice young man who sat in the seat next to him. We sat behind the driver and thoroughly enjoyed talking to our "co-pilot", Tony Autin for the length of the drive. Tony travels to London from Louisiana frequently as he works for InnoSoft Fusion which specializes in Recreation Management Software. He is also a foodie and made us both hungry telling us about various southern recipes and restaurants he enjoys. He is into "nose-to-tail" cuisine which I think is healthy. I can hardly wait to try grilled bone marrow now that I've heard about it. He was also telling us about an infrared oil-free deep fryer which sounds interesting. 

We had no weather delays but we did have a bit of excitement at the border. Everybody had to get out of the bus and line up for luggage inspection outside in the cold. At least we were able to watch as they went through our luggage and nobody failed so we were soon on our way. The bus got us to the airport right on time at 1:30 p.m. We were quick to get in line at the Southwest luggage counter but were turned away as it was more than 4 hrs until our scheduled departure at 6:25 p.m. Since we couldn't check our luggage, we sat and had our first snack of the day.
Mom waiting patiently for check in time
At 2:25 p.m. we got in line again and checked our luggage then headed over to security to wait in another line. Mom was very pleased to discover her Business Select ticket came with perks almost worth the extra cost. She enjoyed a short line, got to leave her boots on and collected a coupon for an alcoholic beverage on the plane. I went through the long line, removed my boots and sorted my stuff into bins. My backpack was stopped and I had to wait while they swabbed my jar of nut-ball mix. Who knew you weren't allowed to bring any type of nut butter through security? Luckily my jar passed the swab test and the nice young security officer allowed me to keep it. Phew, almost lost my yummy snack full of expensive organic ingredients. On the other side Mom was waiting all relaxed and pleased about keeping her boots on.

We checked out our gate D21, wandered to the end of the terminal checking out restaurants and headed back to the Coffee Bean for a cappuccino where a nice young lady took our photo.
Cappuccino at DTW
 After enjoying our cappuccino, we checked out some shops then decided it was time for an early dinner at Ruby Tuesdays. We asked an airport employee how to access the free internet and learned you have to go to boingo.hotspot.com for 45 mins free wi-fi. I was able to connect and chat with my daughter while we had dinner. My time ran out just as we finished our meal so we moved on to our gate and used Mom's laptop to Skype Dad. Their chat was cut short to start boarding. I love the Southwest boarding system where you get a spot in line and can pick whatever seat you like once you get on the plane. It's very efficient. Mom's Business Select ticket got her the first spot A01 so she was able to pick a really good seat by the window.
Selfie on the airplane
Our flight was smooth with only a very little bit of turbulence at the beginning. We sat with a nice young man who had been in Detroit for an interview. He finished Med School in L.A. and is currently looking for a residency position. We wished him luck with his search. He sat in the aisle and was very patient as I must have bugged him at least 3 times to get up and use the toilet.

We landed in Denver with about 50 mins to find baggage claim and figure out where to catch the Airport bus to Boulder. We followed signs to find the shuttle to baggage claims. Luckily, we are not shy about asking directions as it was a bit confusing. Also Mom's Rogers phone did not work in the US (bit of a surprise that she'll sort out when she returns home). Luckily we were able to borrow a nice young man's phone to call both my daughter and her hubby but nobody picked up. Oh well, we decided to head to the airport bus station with our luggage. At baggage claim we talked with a man who was also taking the bus to Boulder so we knew we were in the right place when we saw him chatting on his phone. He even let us borrow his phone to try calling again. This time we reached my daughter and told her what time we expected to get in. The bus arrived at the airport right on time at 8:43 p.m. We sat in the front, took another Selfie and then talked with the driver all the way to Boulder. 
One more Selfie on the airport bus to Boulder
The driver was very entertaining and nice so we enjoyed our trip even though the weather was terrible. Apparently, environmentalists have convinced Boulder area to use no salt on the roads. Once we left the airport road, it was slippery and there was an accident every couple of miles all the way to Boulder. Our driver was very competent so we made it to the Boulder bus station safe and sound and my son-in-law arrived right on time to pick us up.

When we arrived "home", our grandson heard us and asked to come greet us even though it was 10 p.m. and well past his bedtime. He came downstairs and gave us both a big hug and a kiss. It was a perfect end to a long day of travel. We were both exhausted but very, very happy. 

Congratulations if you've made it to the end of this post. I know it's a long one but I want to keep a detailed record of this trip with Mom as we have not traveled together since I was a young teen which is a very long time ago. 

Our week is going famously although there is no baby here yet and it is already Monday. We'll have to take my daughter out walking or something if we hope to see this baby before we leave. You can read my daughter's post on our arrival and fun first day on her photography blog here