Saturday, 28 February 2015

Design a Crochet Granny Blanket :: Part One ::

A series of blog posts, which walk you through designing your own crochet motif blanket step by step.

Since I've just started on a crochet granny blanket this week, I thought I'd share with you the steps I take in planning my blanket, so that you can design your own crochet motif blanket too, if you like. Thinking about the type of yarn to choose, the kind of motif you want to use, how much yarn you'll need, the process of blocking, weaving in ends and finishing your blanket to a beautiful standard.
I know you can simply grab a ball of yarn, a hook and just get going, without doing any of this preliminary fussing and by all means if that works for you then go right ahead, however, for me, I know if I plan everything out from the beginning I'm more likely to end up with the result I had hoped for. Let's be honest a blanket of any size is no quick project, so if you're going to invest all that time into it, you want to be pleased with the finished result.

A series of blog posts, which walk you through designing your own crochet motif blanket step by step.

Yarn Choice :

The first thing you want to think about is the yarn you're going to use. There are so so many options available to you; what fibre are you going to use, what colours and what kind of price point? I am fully aware of how quickly yarn costs can mount up when making a blanket, I've jumped straight in to blanket making without any forethought only to realise on my 4th trip to the yarn shop quite how expensive the finished product was going to end up being. Obviously if you can afford to, I fully endorse spending all the money on the most luxurious yarns to create an unbelievably decadent blanket, but I know that that is rarely an option.

The fibre you hope to use is of course going to have an impact on your budget. A blanket made from a silk, cashmere blend is obviously going to cost you a lot more than one made from 100% acrylic, but cheap does not have to be acrylic, there are many budget options available in natural fibres.

Another consideration is obviously who is going to be caring for the blanket? Are they likely to shove it on a boil wash after it's first use, turning into a super thick rug for a borrower, if you use a delicate pure wool? If so then you'll probably want to think about using a robust super wash or acrylic blend.

Now for yarn weight, by which I mean thickness of the yarn. Again so many choices from fine lace to super chunky. Definitely think about how long you hope to work on this project at this point. I would never, ever dream of crocheting up a blanket in lace, I just do not have the patience, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't, a lace weight blanket would be so lovely and drapey and delicate, but for me a double knit or aran weight yarn is much more achievable.

A series of blog posts, which walk you through designing your own crochet motif blanket step by step.

For this project I chose DROPS Alaska, for a few reasons, firstly it's a chunky Aran weight (I know watching this blanket grow quickly is going to spur me on to the finish line) however it's not so chunky that it'll be stiff and too heavy. It's 100% wool, but it's not itchy or rough, in fact it's really quite soft and lovely. I would much rather use a natural fibre over acrylic, though would definitely have considered a blend. It's got a lovely thick twist on the ply, meaning the stitch definition is really nice and it's really very cheap! Currently on offer at Wool Warehouse, it's only £1.20 a 50g ball.
To start out I just ordered one ball in each colour that I liked the look of, just in case I decided against the yarn or the colour, I wanted to have a play with the yarn before I took the plunge and invested lots of money.

I chose 6 colours, plus white, as I plan to edge each motif in white when I join them together. I don't think you can have too many or too few colours really, it's entirely up to your personal preference. I use pinterest as a great source of inspiration when I'm thinking about colour combinations.

Motif Choice ::

Another big choice to make, what motif are you going to use for your blanket? A regular straight up granny square, a hexagon, a triangle, will it have a puffed, 3D centre? I use all sorts of sources for finding motif ideas, including books, pinterest and ravelry.
Once you've got your hands of a couple of balls of the yarn you intend to use, you can start playing around with ideas and swatching up some motifs. Initially for this blanket I was going to use a regular granny square, but after a little bit of swatching I decided on a circle centre, with a squared off edge. I took a pattern I found online, but altered the last round a little in order to square it off a bit more, as I wasn't happy with the original result. Definitely play around with ideas until you really find something you love, after all you'll likely be making a whole lot of them!

A series of blog posts, which walk you through designing your own crochet motif blanket step by step.

Once you've made these big decisions, you can work out how big you want you blanket to be and calculate how much yarn you're going to need. I'll cover these elements in part 2.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Dressing Babies in Merino Wool ::

It's probably no secret that I love wool. I use it a lot in my work and also my personal knitting and crochet. But probably my favourite wool both to work with and wear is merino. It's just so soft and warm and wears beautifully. It also has a host of other qualities that make it perfect for babies.

Why to dress your baby in merino.

  • Merino is one of the softest wool types available due to it's short, thin staples, making it less tickly than other yarns and meaning it can happily be worn next to the skin.
  • Because of these smaller fibres it's warm even when you're using finer weight yarn. Which makes it great for babies who don't really want to be in big bulky sweaters.
  • It's great at regulating body temperature. Perfect for babies as it keeps you warm without overheating.
  • It draws water away from the body, so if your little one was to get sweaty, the yarn would pull it away, meaning they can avoid being damp and getting cold as a result of that.
  • Merino wool also holds a lot of water and can do so whilst still keeping your baby warm. This would also make its great yarn for making nappy soakers.
  • In my experience it also washes well, especially the superwash varieties. Though I would rather handwash handknits (partly I think I just enjoy the process) so I don't have much experience with knits in the machine I have occasionally thrown a handknit merino sweater in the wash and they've come out unscathed.
Elizabeth Zimmerman's baby surprise jacket
My favourite cardi I knit for Effie using merino.

I could go on about the wonders of merino all day (but don't worry I won't) I really feel that dressing babies in natural  fibres is the way to go. Their little bodies are so precious they should be bundled up in the finest temperature regulating fabrics. If you're knitting for babies then you are in luck because you can buy all manner of gorgeous merino yarns (a cashmere, merino blend is probably my favourite) in all yarn weights and gorgeous colours imaginable and across a wide range of price points. However you need so little yarn for a baby project you might as well splash out!

benefits of merino wool

If you're not a knitter or crocheter, then you can find a wonderful variety of gorgeous baby clothes made from merino wool. Delicate Dream, do a range of simple, unisex baby essentials made from merino. We were sent this lovely snuggly cardi and trouser outfit from them to review and we love it. We've been using it as Effie's outside clothing, perfect for popping on over her existing outfit to keep her warm and snug in the pushchair without getting too hot if we're in and out of shops or if she's bundled up next to me in the sling. I love babies dressed in all the colours but there's also something especially darling about a perfect little baby dressed all in white.

You can shop the Delicate Dream unisex merino collection here.

**we were kindly sent these items to review but all thoughts are our own.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

How To :: Making Pom Poms ::

Make lots of Pom Poms quick and easily with this simple trick.

I am a big fan of pom poms, really what's not to love? Yes if you use the whole 'wrap yarn round cardboard circle' method they can be fiddly to make, but I've been making them using my hand as a template for some time now to much success. However last week I found myself needing to make a whole load of pom poms and reasonably quickly. My nephew had requested a magic yarn ball for his birthday after his sisters received one for Christmas a couple of years ago. Milo and I had a great time shopping for things to hide inside, then Milo hunted through his own toy collection for some extras to add in too. We wound it all up with white yarn. He had received a box of white pom poms as a christmas gift, which were disguised as snowballs so figured adding to this collection would be the best way of getting to all those goodies inside.
So after presenting Aston with his gift, I quickly set about winding yarn around my hand whilst he watched the ball of yarn waiting for treats to pop out. It soon became clear that this wasn't quick enough for a freshly turned 5 year old. So we had an idea to make multiple pom poms in one go, attempting to use various pieces of furniture, but realising they weren't quite right, we eventually got our hands on a wire coat hanger and came up with the method I'm going to share with you.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Half Term ::

Back at Christmas time, I promised Milo that we would go back to visit his cousins in Norfolk during half term. This all fitted in perfectly as my sister was due her fourth baby on Valentines day, which was the Saturday of the first weekend of half term. My sister had been told right from the outset of her pregnancy that she would have her baby early, since before Christmas she had been told at every midwife appointment, 'I don't expect we'll see you for your next appointment', so adamant they were she would deliver early. However as half term approached it seemed like we would make our back to Norfolk before the baby arrived. As much as I was looking forward to meeting the newest one, it wasn't going to deter us from spending a few days away and would mean I could help her out with child watching whilst she got some rest. As it was that baby obviously knew we were coming and made her way (very quickly) into the world at 12.30 am on Monday, we arrived at 5pm that same day, meaning we were lucky enough to meet her before she turned 24hours old and would get to spend the whole of our 5 days there cooing over the precious new baby.

We had a lovely time, as usual. Spending time with my Mum and sister and all my nieces and nephew. Milo loved being able to run around the garden with his only boy cousin, Aston and take long walks along the beach hunting for fossils.

The weather was fabulous whilst we were there too, lots of gloriously sunny days. All in all it was the perfect half term.

I've made a little video capturing some of loveliness we enjoyed as part of my Year of Creating Time Capsules course by Xanthe Berkeley ::

February Half Term 2015 from vicki brown on Vimeo.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

5 Months ::

OK please stop rushing by now!
How can my baby girl be sitting up, desperate to try some food, jabbering away, spouting teeth and generally being much too grown up and gorgeous for her own good?

 As far as sitting up goes, she's pretty much got it nailed, but still often slides to the side, especially if concentrating on chewing on something and once she's down lacks the skills required to get herself back up again. On the plus side she's going to have some spectacular abs with all the attempting to get herself up she's doing. 

Teeth are coming, but slowly. One appeared a few weeks ago, I swear it was definitely there, I felt it in all it's jagged sharpness, but it seems to have since retreated. Meanwhile she's drooling bucketloads and chewing on everything. Current favourite things to rub between her gums are her little Sophie la Girafe and my gorgeous necklace from Chapter One. Teeth can be felt, oh so, close to the surface around her entire mouth, so I'm hopeful we'll see some soon, but I know they can take forever.

I very much wanted to wait to 6 months for weaning, preferably longer really. Having finally had the breastfeeding success I missed out on before I'm not really ready to start introducing the prospect of 'other' food, but Effie has other ideas. I will do baby led weaning, without a doubt, so I need her to be a little better at sitting yet, but she really wants to start NOW! She watches so intently when you eat or drink and has begun swiping at your food or hopefully lunging forward open mouthed. We've been having her sit in her high chair at mealtimes with us this last week and providing her with empty cup and spoon, which she does enjoy but I'm certain she knows she's missing out on the good stuff.

She is so much more aware and interested in what's going on, she seems to recognise familiar people now, though she's very much a people person anyway. Travelling to and from Norfolk over this past week she made so many friends on the trains with all her smiles and 'talking'. She loves blowing raspberries and taking sharp intakes of breath which make you worry she's struggling to breath!

She's pretty good at sleeping at night these days, going down sometime between 8-10 and sleeping through until 7-8, occasionally waking once in the night but going straight back down after a feed. Daytime naps aren't quite so regular, she usually manages one long one at some point, but we don't really have any routine yet, I'm trying to establish one, but finding it super tough, because I'm too much of a softie to leave her to cry.

Generally everything is great, we had a visit to the doctors this month, because I noticed she has one pupil massively different in size to the other, only really in artificial light, but it is very obvious, especially as her eyes are still pale blue. The doctor wasn't sure as she'd never seen anything like it before but the paediatrician reassured us it's perfectly OK, just one of those things some people have.

Can't believe she'll be 6 months soon enough, halfway to 1 year. It's been such a wonderful 5 months so far, she really is a fabulously, delightful baby.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Sophie la Girafe Cosmetics :: A Review ::

Effie received her Sophie la Girafe toy in her stocking at Christmas. She was a little slow on the whole hand to mouth coordination required for it for a while. She loved the idea of putting it in her mouth and glared open mouthed at it hopeful that I would pop it in for her when presented with it. However now she's got the hang of it she quivers with delight upon seeing it and will actually reach out to take it from you, wherein it will go straight between her squeaky gums for a good old chewing.

So when I was asked to review some of the Sophie la Girafe bath products I jumped at the chance.

Effie absolutely adores bathtime now. She either uses her little chair, which fortunately fits perfectly inside our bathroom sink, meaning we can avoid the backache associated with leaning over the bath, or she comes in with me. She loves both, though now she can sit up, she finds lying down in her a seat a challenge and constantly attempts to sit up. I do think she enjoys sharing more, imagine having a bath the size of a swimming pool! She splashes and kicks and provides the most heart warming smiles.

It took us a while to get into much of a bathtime routine, in the early days we probably managed a bath a week, but we're much better now. I started popping a little bubble bath in a month or so ago, preferring to stick to plain water on her delicate skin in the beginning and she usually gets a little massage in coconut oil after. 

I was sent the Sophie la Girafe Cosmetics bubble bath and the baby oil to review and they smell heavenly. Just the right level of fragrance for little ones. The bubble bath is thick so you only need to add a little to create a beautifully smelling bubbly bath. I won't lie I'm loving using it too and also add some to my bath when I'm not sharing with Effie.
We've been using the oil for after bath massages for a while now and really liking it. I'm very sceptical about putting cosmetics on babies and as I said we were using pure coconut oil before, but as this product has passed the Eco-Cert testing I feel happy that it's safe for Effie's skin. The oil is a lovely consistency, not so thin it flows right off your hand like some I've used in the past and it smells wonderful. I can't really tell you what the scent is exactly, but it smells like babies should somehow! It is divine and Effie is even more delicious after it's application.
Everything about this product is lovely, from the simple, sophisticated packing to it's gentle nature, down to its wonderful scent. It does come in a little on the higher end of the price spectrum for baby products, but their body mass is so small they use so little and their skin so fragile and new that they are definitely worthy of such luxury!
You can see more of the Sophie La Girafe Cosmetics here
We were kindly sent these products to review but all opinions are our own.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Little Crochet Rings :: A Pattern ::

Whip up a selection of gorgeous, colourful, crochet rings with this quick and easy pattern.

I've been whipping up loads of these little rings over the past couple of weeks. They are the perfect little craft for me right now, quick, simple and full of colour!
They are great little accessories for me right now too with the babe, as they are soft and I don't have to fear catching her on any sharp edges.

Whip up a selection of gorgeous, colourful, crochet rings with this quick and easy pattern.

You can stack them up, wear the whole rainbow or keep it simple, whatever takes your fancy, though you'll most likely end up with a stack of them as they're so addictive to make. 

Whip up a selection of gorgeous, colourful, crochet rings with this quick and easy pattern.

If you fancy having a go yourself here's how you do it ::

Ingredients ::
4ply/fingering weight mercerized cotton yarn. I used DMC Petra 3 and 5 (holding 5 double for thickness).

2.5mm hook

Tapestry needle

Abbreviations ::
ch - chain
dc - UK double crochet
dcBLO - UK double crochet through back loop only
sl st - slip stitch
st - stitch

Whip up a selection of gorgeous, colourful, crochet rings with this quick and easy pattern.

Method ::
Chain 13 (now this may not be the right size for you so pop the chain around your finger to give you an idea if it will work. I found 13 to be good for me, but also made some with 12 and some with 14 too so I had a mixture of sizes, play about to find the best fit for you) join last ch to first ch with a sl st to form a large ring.
Rnd 1 : Ch1, 1dc in each ch to end of rnd, join to top of first st with sl st, do NOT turn.
Rnd 2 : Ch1, 1dcBLO in each St to end, join to top of first st with sl st.
Fasten off.
Weave in ends.
Told you it was quick!

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Gro Hush ::

A couple of months ago Gro kindly sent us the Gro Hush to review. I was thrilled because I adore the Gro company and have had a love affair with their products since Milo was a baby.

We always used their sleeping bags for Milo and in fact Effie has just graduated to one of their sleeping bags herself after deciding swaddling was for babies. I also have their temperature egg, which has been in constant use for almost 6 years now and still going strong. Knowing the exact temperature really gives me peace of mind when it comes to knowing how many layers are needed and I love that a quick glance in the night can give me an idea of the temperature because of the colour coding. Even if sometimes, when the heating fails whilst you're away for Christmas, it doesn't provide you with the best news!

The Gro Hush arrived the morning of Effie's 2nd set of immunisations, perfectly timed to be put to the test, later that day. 

Fortunately Effie wasn't especially put out by the jabs but did need a few extra cuddles that evening so I was thankful for the Hush to help calm her down. I was surprised by how well it worked. If she was tearful I put it against her ear and the effect was almost instant, calmness ensued, even if it was only temporary.

The Hush is a clever little machine, with a lovely shape, making it easy to hold with the help of the strap on the back, and hold baby, so you can hold it next to your babies head, whilst it plays white noise. You can choose from 3 different sounds, rain, waves and heart beat, Effie seems to prefer the rain setting. It's deliberately set to a volume safe for your baby's little ears and cannot be altered, so you can feel confident that the sound level is correct. I know you can get all manner of apps which also play white noise, but I'm not sure I feel confident having my phone too close to Effie that much of the time. With the Hush you can put it right next to your baby's ear with confidence.

All in all I think this is a fabulous little piece of equipment, one I wish I had, had from Effie's early days, I imagine it would be an absolute god-send for those first few weeks. It would make a great baby shower gift or gift for a Mum to be. I'm also finding it super useful at the moment, whilst Effie is struggling with teething and not so keen on naps! It can sometimes take a few moments for her to notice it if she's very upset, but I find that once she does it certainly has an impact and stops her crying for a little while.

You can find the Gro Hush available to purchase over on the Gro Company website.

**we were kindly sent the Gro Hush to review but all thoughts are our own.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Resolutions ::

I know that in theory I'm a month late, but the last couple of years I've decided to start my new year of resolutions, ambitions and plans in February and I'll tell you why. Mostly January is just too depressing, it's long for a start, no one ever has any money, the weather is mostly dreadful and then there's the post Christmas blues. We're also, always so busy over Christmas and new year, that by the time January 1st rolls around, the house is a mess, there are mountains of dirty washing to catch up on and it's just all too difficult to make a 'fresh start' with all the not so freshness.
By starting a fresh in February I can use January to clean and tidy, sort and organise so I'm truly ready for all that hope and anticipation that accompanies the new beginning of the new year.
There are already signs of spring, the daffodils and the hyacinths in my garden are starting to appear through the frozen soil and it's light past 4.30.
It all just works out so much better for me this way.

So here area  few of my resolutions for 2015 ::

  • Fitness :: It's the age old cliche, but I would like to be fitter in 2015. I can't really think too much about 'dieting' at the moment, breastfeeding just makes me much too hungry for all the food. But I am thinking about exercising more, which shouldn't be too difficult! I started running off and on a few years ago, but I've never really been fully committed. However with a little encouragement from the lovely Bex I'm finding it much more rewarding. We've been going 3 times a week for almost 3 weeks now and I'll tell you this, having a running buddy makes the world of difference. I can't just decide not to go, because if I do I'm letting more than just myself down. Plus it's much more fun and more of just a trip out of the house for a bit of a gossip than anything to do with exercise. Bex is already muttering about 'mud runners' and 'race for life's'. I'm not sure about that yet, but we'll see...

  • Organised :: Oh for a life of organised tidiness. I'm never going to be amazingly good at this, it's just not in my nature, but I could certainly have a go at improving. I'm currently giving the house a complete overhaul, it's requiring quite a lot of reshuffling of furniture, but I'm getting there slowly. Reading this book by the tidy obsessed Marie Kondo, seems to be helping. 

  • Documenting :: In lots of ways I'm already quite good at this, but I'd like to be better at documenting our lives. I'd like to get photos printed and to to create photo albums. I got myself a 'One Line a Day' journal and I'm loving filling it in so far, I just hope I can keep it up! I'm also taking part in Xanthe Berkeley's 'Creating Timecapsules' the aim of which is to create a video each month for the whole year. I'm really enjoying it so far.
I think that's it and really that's quite enough anyway, wish me luck!

Sunday, 1 February 2015