Everything is beautiful

This year I made a resolution to use up my existing stash of wool before buying any more. I wasn’t holding out much hope of making anything spectacular. I was left with a lot of what I considered to be really dull colours, many of which had been passed down from my Grandma, remaining unused since they had been bought in the seventies. Beiges, browns, pale greens and yellow – I thought the only thing to do would be to pair them with brighter colours left over from my granny square blanket and hope for the best.

So I am surprised at how much I like the resulting blankets. Which goes to show that anything can be beautiful when presented in the right way.

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Tips for a frugal Christmas

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At this time of year we’re bombarded with advertising trying to convince us that a special Christmas is dependent on us spending a lot of money. It’s easy to get sucked in and lose sight of what Christmas is really about. Having a frugal Christmas is about saving money, but it’s also about making time and space to connect with family and friends, and to cut down on the massive amount of waste that gets generated each year.

Presents

I think I’m quite lucky in that my family have always valued time spent together over expensive gifts. I’ve never felt the pressure to dip into my overdraft to make Christmas happen. The first step towards having a more frugal Christmas is to discuss your present expectations. One year, my Mum set the rule that gifts had to be from a charity shop or home made. I often make agreements with friends that instead of buying presents, we’ll put the money towards going out for drinks together and catching up. This year, my school friends and I have a secret Santa arrangement which means we’re each buying one present (with a price limit) instead of six.

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Cards and wrapping presents

When it comes to cards and wrapping, my mantra is: re-use, re-use, re-use. At the start of December I did a count of all the Christmas cards I had left over from previous years and worked out that I didn’t need to buy any more packs. Some of these cards I’ll be sending as cards, and I used the rest to make gift tags for presents. For the wrapping paper, I ripped out pages from an old magazine. I decorated these with ribbon and bows that I had left over from last year, but you could also make your own bows out of paper.

Decorations

My mantra for decorations is also re-use. Actually, it’s pretty much my first thought for any occasion: what do I already have that I can adapt for this purpose? You could make paper honeycomb decorations from old magazines or junk mail. Paper chains are perhaps the simplest decorations to make: just cut strips of any kind of paper and staple them together. This year, I’m using beads I don’t want for jewellery to make tree baubles and foliage cut from my grandparents garden to make wreaths.

Please leave your Christmas re-use tips in the comments.

How not to crochet a rug

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I started this project so long ago I had look back through the blog archives to find out when it was. 10 July 2012, as it turns out.

Momentum inevitably slowed after I moved from the home I was creating it for and stopped speaking to the man I was creating the home with. I wondered if I would always associate the rug with a period in my life that merely turned out to be a classic example of trying to settle down too young with someone inappropriate.

But actually I’ve fallen in love with the rug again: it’s random colour combinations, untidy joins and decidedly un-straight edges. It’s a mess, but it’s my mess and is an appropriate enough symbol for my twenties as anything else.

Even so, there are things I would do differently next time. So I’ve created a how-to-not guide, based on everything I’ve done. If you want to crochet a nice looking rug, ignore every single one of these.

  1. Have a flash of inspiration and start working right away, without experimenting with thickness of fabric strips.
  2. Have a wholly unrealistic idea of how much fabric you will need.
  3. Accept any kind of scrap fabric from friends and family – pay no attention to colour or weight.
  4. Don’t stitch the fabric together – tie in large messy knots that are uncomfortable under foot.
  5. Go over your internet data allowance by 700% because you’ve decided you need to watch every series on Netflix while crocheting.
  6. Spend time cutting fabric strips before work, so you have bits of pink fabric all over your tights.
  7. Start and stop, often leaving for months at a time.
  8. Show everyone who comes to your house the rug you’ve started making. They will keep asking how it’s coming along and you’ll have to admit how lazy you are.
  9. Don’t count the number of stitches in each row, and keep forgetting which stitch to start in on a new row. The result, uneven edges as the rug get’s wider and narrower over time, means you have to hide the side under your bed and wardrobe (see image above).
  10. Keep going until you have cramp in your hands, an aching back, and a deep dread of the amount of work it will take to be as big as you wanted.

Paper ball decorations

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Is there any better way to spend dark rainy days than with paper, glue, scissors and numerous cups of tea? I think not.

Lately I’ve been making these paper decorations. The first two were trial runs for a friend’s wedding. They’re made from tissue paper so are slightly more delicate than the third, for which I cut up a junk mail magazine that came unwanted through my letter box. I quite like the magazine version, especially as it’s re-using material that would otherwise we going straight into the recycle bin, and might be making a lot more for Christmas.

I used the instructions on Mr P’s blog, which you can find here: http://blog.mrprintables.com/how-to-make-honeycomb-pom-poms/

The summer in granny squares

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Back in April I decided to start a new crochet project. I didn’t know what I was doing, only that I was bored of cowls (and presumably so was everyone I keep making them for). I bought some obnoxiously bright wool and started making granny squares.

As anyone who has spent any time with me since then will tell you, I became a bit addicted. I have not been able to put it down. I’ve been crocheting at work, at friends houses, at other peoples houses, in the pub, on the train… you get the idea. I’ve basically spent the last five months with yarn around my fingers and cramp in both hands.

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But what I’ve learnt is that it’s amazingly therapeutic. As I got used to being a single person again, what started as as a something to do in the evenings that wasn’t sex or having an argument with someone about how to cook a risotto (what kind of deviant wants to put all the stock in at once?) soon became my way of unwinding after a stressful day and quieting all the thoughts buzzing through my brain.

This bloody blanket has defined my summer. When I look at it I remember what I was doing, what I was thinking about, who I was with or what rubbish TV I was watching when I was making each square. It’s taking so long to finish (almost there now…) a lot of things have happened.

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While I was crocheting:

I get over that breakup.

I revel in my independence and resolve to be single for a long time.

Andy Murray won Wimbledon. I even put the crochet down for long enough to watch it properly.

My Mum convinces me to do some gardening. I discover I quite like it.

I move to a new city.

I have my nose pierced. I get blood on the yarn.

I stop hiding under a duvet and make some new friends.

I realise that I’m never going to be a good cook, but that I’m fairly capable of feeding myself.

I turn 25. Despite insisting I don’t want a fuss, friends turn up with tea, chocolate, wine and body shop cosmetics (they know me well). I also treat myself to some new yarn.

I have a fringe cut. Mainly to hide to spots that have erupted as a result of my newly blossoming social life.

I meet somebody who makes me question my resolution to be single. Progress on the blanket slows as I have some text messages to reply to.

A friend asks me to be her bridesmaid. I put the blanket down for long enough to try a dress on.

I discover I like black pudding.

I realise I’m perfectly capable of finishing a bottle of wine by myself (while crocheting, and wailing along to Adele). I resolve to not have wine in the house again.

Family visit from Texas. I try and explain the difference between crochet and knitting to my male thirteen year old cousin by comparing them to baseball and hockey. “That’s just stupid,” he says.

I visit York and go drinking with old friends. I reacquaint myself with Evil Eye cocktails and cheesy chips on the way home.

I move house again.

I meet some people in Oxford who I don’t work with.

It starts to get dark earlier and I suspect summer might be over.

Which brings me to now, when I’m sat on the floor under a pile of crochet, still unable to put the wool down. 

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On value and shoddy upcycling (in which I cut up a pair of high-tops)

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After my last pair of canvas shoes fell apart, I decided to mix it up a little bit and try a pair of high top shoes. I thought it would be a good idea because I could wear proper socks without hooking them back over my heel. It turned out to be not such a good idea because I just didn’t like how they looked (with shorts, with skinny jeans, with dresses) and never wore them. As a bit of a minimalist, I started to resent owning something I never used and started to feel guilty every time I saw them at the bottom of my wardrobe.

“Why don’t you just cut the tops off them?” said my Mum. Could I? Could I really? Just destroy a perfectly good pair of shoes because they weren’t quite what I wanted.

Yes.

I realised that things only have value if they are actually valuable to us. Despite paying more than I usually would for these shoes, they had no value for me while they remained unworn. Sure, to some people they might be less valuable now that they’ve been shoddily chopped of and left to fray, but I’ve worn them more in the last week than I have in the last two months since I bought them. So I’ve actually increased their value to me.