24 January 2014

A Rug Story

I have recently moved house and that alone suddenly changed the whole dynamics of my WIPs (Works In Progress). "Wearables" (such as a pesky poncho I've been working on since last summer) were pushed back down into the project basket, along with stalled granny square bags and lone amigurumi limbs. Suddenly, I only dreamed of cushion covers, blankets, cute baskets, lampshades, and so on. Anything to make my beige, drab flat a little cosier. I spent days turning ideas into my head, flicking through my crochet magazines, looking through crochet blogs online and pinning like there was no tomorrow on Pinterest. There is so much inspiration online, like this one, by A Creative Being (with a great tutorial here!):

Or this one, by lacasadecoto:

So gorgeous, so colourful, so scrummy! I could eat them (well, almost).

So, for a while, I toyed with the idea of making a round crochet rug from a back issue of Simply Crochet magazine, which involved the sweetly named Zpagetti yarn, the big chunky yarn made of cut-up T-shirts:

But I actually found Zpagetti quite elusive in various stores and shops, and I don't like buying yarn online if I've never seen it before, since colours on screen can be ridiculously deceptive (trust me, I've made that mistake before and the resulting balls of yarn are now waiting to be turned into a dog's tophat, which probably even won't happen - that's how ugly they are).

Soooo, if I couldn't get Zpagetti, I would get the next best thing: super chunky yarn. And I would get acrylic yarn, so I wouldn't feel too guilty every time I stepped onto my creation. So when I next went to my favourite haberdashery shop, I decided I would come out with the yarn for a my own handmade rug. And that I did, after about an hour of feverishly lining up balls of super chunky yarn in the shop itself. The choosing process bordered on the excruciating. But I made it. The yarns I chose are pictured above. I also got some black yarn, but never used it in the end. Oh well, that's one for the Stash, then.

Next came the design process. I have a confession to make. For the life of me, I cannot remember how I came to choose the final design. What I know, though, is that it was based on this one by Sofie Kay, from here:
Yep, a hot water bottle cover. Ever since I discovered it on Pinterest a few months ago, I've been smitten with it. I absolutely love the combination of trebles and double crochet stitches, not to mention the uneven striping effect. It was quite different from a rug, I'll grant you that, but I figured that using super chunky yarn would simply "blow it up", and if there weren't enough rows, I could always repeat the pattern. So I confidently proceeded. In a slightly naughty move, I didn't buy the pattern but figured out the succession of rows and stitches by studying the photo closely. *slaps herself on the wrist*

I bought a 9mm crochet hook especially for the project. The yarn I'd bought required 10-12mm hook sizes, but I wanted slightly tighter stitches for the compact feel of a rug, hence the smaller hook size. 9mm is still pretty big to me, though. I had never worked with such a big hook before. In the picture below, you can see the "beast" next to a 3.50mm crochet hook that I'm more accustomed to using.

It felt very awkward at first, and dare I say, slightly painful, but it soon became easier and the stitches started to flow off my hook. In no time at all - that's the beauty of super chunky yarn - I had completed a few rows and was ridiculously pleased with the way it looked.

But I then ran out of yarn. And it being early December, it was time to tackle the sizeable list of handmade gifts for family and friends.

Three scarves, one bag, and one French Christmas later, I ordered the remaining yarn online and went back to the task. I have to say it was sheer pleasure to hook up this project in the heart of winter. As it grew and grew, it got reassuringly heavy and wrapped me up like a blanket, keeping me both snuggly and busy! Having yet to work on a crochet afghan or blanket, this project really made me want to try it, and I feel I will soon take the plunge into one of those year-long projects.

Anyway, I soon came to the end of the stitch combination borrowed from the hot water bottle cosy, and although I'd thought at first I would simply repeat the pattern from the beginning, I realised this project called for complete randomness, and by then I felt confident enough to follow my own inspiration, and before I knew it, I'd reached the desired length. I was almost disappointed that I couldn't carry on! It was time to weave in the ends.

I was so THRILLED with the end result I spent a good half hour perched on a chair taking pictures of it. I absolutely loved it. I just couldn't believe that little old me, who'd always been all thumbs, had managed to make this! Woohoo!

For a while, I wondered whether to leave it like this, without a border. I very nearly did, but then I thought: "Let's see what it looks like with a border. I can always undo it if I don't like it" and started crocheting a white border of double crochet stitches all around it. By the way, I followed a crochet edging tip once found on Pinterest (but nowhere to be found today, I'm afraid): work a row of slip stitches all around your piece, then a double crochet round (US single crochet) in back loops only. The stitches in the selvedge (the side of the rows) look much more even that way. The newly completed white edging looked very good indeed and again, I very nearly left it like that (cue missing photo of the rug with its single white border, I'm sorry!). But when I'd decided on a border a few days earlier, I'd envisioned it going from faded pink to dark purple, and I thought I'd give it a go, knowing, again, that I could undo it if it didn't look right.

But it did look right, and I immediately felt the project was complete when I worked the last purple stitch. I was so pleased with it that I laid the rug by my bed for a couple of days before I actually wove in the last remaining threads. And when that was done, another chair-perched photo session ensued, complete with a cameo appearance courtesy of my faithful slippers:

Oh, it's so lovely to feel its thick softness under my feet every morning, and simply looking at the colours makes me happy and warm inside. I must confess I did lie down on it a couple of times. I simply couldn't resist! I even strongly considered using it as a blanket rather than a rug.

My first home decoration project, and it was sheer delight. If all projects for the home are as feel-good as this one, I can't wait to start the next one!

One last pic for the road ;)

23 January 2014

The Yarn Problem

Yarn is beautiful (well, most of it, anyway), I'm sure you'll agree. So many colours, so many textures. It's eye candy.

The problem is, and I'm sure you'll agree too, just like with candy, you can't really get enough of it. Your stash then grows out of all reasonable proportions and starts flooding your abode, like the prettiest, most colourful wave there ever was. It grows so much that it needs to be capitalised: the Stash. And when capitalisation occurs, chaos soon ensues. The Stash becomes alive. It controls you rather than you It. Whenever you come back from the shop with a new addition or whenever you need the one ball that's hiding at the bottom of the pile, the Stash has to be roused from its sleep. And it never takes it very well. It rolls over, tumbles down, coughs and splutters or unleashes the dreaded Yarn Monster.

Soon, your once carefully arranged Stash ends up like this:

This is not the worst mine's ended up by far, but it's messy enough.

The solution? Organization. Reorganization, even. On a constant basis. So, the other day, as I had made some free time, I proceeded to reorganize my Stash. I cleared all three shelves of the yarn balls, project baskets and sewing tins and laid out the yarn on the floor, roughly by colour. IT looked so scrumptious in its rainbow arrangement, that I couldn't help take quite a few pictures, one of which you have seen at the top of this post. I also got some help - of sorts - while I was proceeding:

The Cat and the Stash, a long-standing love story. Not one that I always look too kindly upon, but I have to say, this one time, there was no drama.

So once everything was out on the floor, it was time to put everything back in. By then, I'd had an idea. You may have noticed the empty shoe rack in the picture above. Well, said shoe rack has been sitting there, more or less empty, since we moved in three months ago. So why not use it to store my WIPs and non-yarn material? That would free one shelf on the standing shelving unit. A whole shelf. Luxury!

Shoe rack first, then:

And once the shoe rack was sorted, it was time to tackle the Stash. After a quick decision to use the newly freed shelf for black, white and neutral yarn, I proceeded to the task. After much more or less careful and gentle prodding and pulling, this is what I ended up with:

Not perfect by a long shot, but much better anyway. My next ventures will be to get some transparent dividers/mini shelving to maximise the space offered by the shelving unit, and to get a yarn winder in order to standardise the shape of my skeins a bit more. The ultimate goal would be to arrange my yarn like this, a truly GENIUS idea, but unfortunately this is not an option at the moment. One step at a time.

What about you? How do you store your yarn?

20 January 2014

A New World

Exciting times, new beginnings! Not so long ago, I discovered a world that was completely unknown to me, a world that hasn't stopped filling me with delight ever since: the world of crochet. It started off with clumsy attempts at wobbly, wonky chains and, quite unexpectedly, evolved into an actual way of expressing my thirst for colours and creativity. My yarn collection is rapidly getting out of hands these days, as is the number of my ongoing projects, which I'm sure most crocheters and knitters among you will have no problem relating to! Through this blog, I hope to share with you my various crochet adventures and spread the love of this incredible craft. Looking forward to seeing you along the way! :)

Here's a little preview of my largely overflowing project basket!