Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Christmas Books: Kevin McCloud's 43 Principles of Home

Here is my final Christmas Book, by Kevin McCloud of UK Channel 4's Grand Designs (amongst other things).

I thought that this was going to be a lightweight, "eye candy" kind of book, but I was wrong. Pictures are good, but are few and far between.

He is very interested in "good" design and architecture, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that the book is heavily into sustainability.

Here are some of the pictures from the book.

If you saw Grand Designs then you will recognise this next picture as the home of Ben, the charcoal maker. Ben lives in a wood in Suffolk, coppicing and tending the forest and making charcoal. Previously he lived in a variety of temporary caravans and tent-like treehouses, but eventually he got almost unheard of planning permission to build a house in the wood. He cannot sell the house or pass it on, and if he stops working the wood, he has to demolish the house.

Grand Designs has many very expensive houses built to huge budgets. Turns out though that this is Kevin's favourite. In the TV show, Kevin asks Ben about the price of the house, and claims that it is a very cheap house because the budget is only something like £23K. Ben replies something like - that is a LOT of money for me. He gets friends to help him build the house, paying them in hospitality and sustainable building skills training. When Kevin goes back to visit him a year or so later, the house is complete, and a wife and little baby have arrived in the wood. Everyone loves this house, and it is easy to see why.
All in all, a great book, but not if you are looking just for eye candy.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Cornishware Crochet

A "Cornishware" crochet pot for a little avocado seed.

Although this colour scheme is new, I make these little pots a lot. They are also good as little vases made by covering jam jars. This one has a plant pot in it, so I've wrapped it in a poly bag to keep the water in.

The "pattern" is the following:

All in DC (UK), SC (US), each round is joined up with a slip stitch to the first stitch of the round. Make a flat circle like this:

Magic loop to start (or chain 4 if you prefer and slip stitch together into a little loop).
Round1: 6 DC
Round2: 2 DC into each stitch from the previous round (so you have 12 stitches).
Round3: repeat: 2 DC, DC, all the way round (18 stitches)

You are trying to get the size of the base. If you need to make it bigger:
Round4: repeat 2 DC, DC, DC all the way round 
Round5: repeat 2 DC, DC, DC,DC all the way round

(you see the pattern here - add another DC each round)

Then when it is big enough, start making each round just DC all the way round, joining with a slip stitch at the end of the round.

To make the "Cornishware" alternate colours every 3 rows.

Now I just need to figure out how to make the "Domino" Cornishware pattern - a little more difficult I think, lol.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Crochet Ball Chain

My house is looking really plain now that the decorations are down. Here in the north of the UK, there is generally not much light in the winter so a few pops of colour to cheer us up work well.

I've very happy with the new blankets. Not sure where they will end up, but they are on a chair beside the fireplace today.

Here are the little crochet balls, threaded on a piece of wool, with a crochet chain at each end to tie on. They are quite fiddly to make, so this week, I have only made a little chain, but I like how they cheer up the fireplace.

Homemakerstales asked me whether I used Farrow and Ball paint. I've used "Blackened" for the fireplace , which was previously orange pine, and "Pavillion Gray" for the cupboard in the top picture. I've yet to use F and B wall paints but look forward to choosing some when I'm ready to paint the walls.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Vintage Granny Square and Vintage Granny Spiral

Here is the first Armstrong's blanket: the vintage granny square. The colour combinations are truly shocking, but it has been made well, in complete squares with each square finished off before the other one began, and all of the ends sewn in. Here is a close up showing the colour in its full glory.
And here is the vintage granny spiral. Not a square after all. The person who made this was not that skilled: they just crocheted round and round till they ran out of wool or felt like changing colour. The ends are not joined but knotted and cut (aaarggh!) but it is a nice looking blanket anyway and it hasn't fallen apart yet so I'm sure it will be fine.

There is a lot of green and grey in this blanket, but that is accidentally exactly what I need for where it is going to go.
Here it is hanging on the line outside in the snow. You can see the large green square. I suspect whoever made it thought that they would make a plain green and grey blanket and was surprised that they ran out of wool so quickly. These blankets do take a lot of wool.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Armstongs: Vintage Clothing Emporium

Armstrongs is an Edinburgh Institution: Armstrongs Vintage Clothing Emporium. This is the Newington Branch, the smaller of the two I visit. Haven't been there for a while - they were getting a bit expensive, and I got fed up with them. But after being worn down by chain store high street homogeneous clothing, I have returned.

I wasn't looking for anything in particular, and in my forties, I'm aware of not looking too studenty, so don't buy nearly as much here as I used to. Well worth a visit if you are in Edinburgh. Their Grassmarket shop is much bigger than this one. Be warned though - it truly is second hand/vintage, and you have to be careful about what you buy.

Here hanging on the railings outside the shop is my bag containing 2 crochet blankets and a little blue spotty 1960's shift dress. Crochet blankets: £12 and £8. You know that IKEA sale advert where the woman in the car goes "WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOW" - that's what I was doing in the shop when I saw them (except mercifully with my sound turned off!). Little blue dress £16. It does have a little stain on the shoulder but I thought I'd risk it - it will probably wash out, and if not, I'll make more bunting.

I've never actually bought a crochet blanket before, but when I saw them, I just couldn't resist. I've seen similar "vintage" blankets for sale in Cath Kidston for 40-60+ pounds before, and wanted to buy them but coudn't bring myself to pay that much.

So, to whoever crocheted them, don't worry, your blankets have gone to a very good home. Once they are washed, I'll post some pictures of them in all their clashing colourfulness.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Little Crochet Balls Pattern

Pattern is not mine - found in lots of different places - I found mine here

Start with a magic loop (or a little chain of 4).
Each round is joined with a slip stitch to the start of the round.
Round 1: 6 double crochet (I'm using UK terms here - if you are in the US it is single crochet)
Round 2: 2 DC in each stitch, repeat all the way round till you have 12 stitches
Round 3: 2 DC in first stitch, 1 DC in next, repeat till end, when you have 18 stitches
Rounds 4,5,6: DC in each of the 18 stitches

Then you should have a little mini beanie hat. We are going to start to decrease next. It is inside out at the moment, so you need to turn it and put some stuffing in soon. You decide when. I usually wait another round or 2. I stuffed mine with cotton wool, but I think that you should really stuff with some toy stuffing, but I'm making do with what I have.

Round 7: DC 2 together, DC, repeat until end, when you will have 12 stitches. Don't forget to turn and put in stuffing. This is probably your last chance.
Round 8: DC 2 together all the way round, you will have 6 stitches.
Round 9: DC 2 together, leaving 3 stitches, which you can finish off, and poke the end through the ball and finish off.

This picture shows the scale. They are made with double knitting wool, the little ones with a 5.5 hook (I) and the big one with a 6.5mm hook (K) and two strands held together. Tension and size are not important though. This is ideal to use up any old bits of wool.

Three made so far, a lot more to go.

Enjoy your weekend. It has started to snow again here in Edinburgh, so with any luck I might get snowed in and have to spend the weekend crocheting.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Christmas Books : Farrow and Ball Living with Colour

My mum says "You cannot just get books for Christmas". What is "just" about books? I say. If I could only ever buy one thing, it would be books.

Here is one of the latest, from the paint manufacturer Farrow and Ball, a UK paint maker who make eco (expensive) paints.

Look at this lovely belfast sink. One day I might get my Belfast Sink plumbed in. I've only owned it since 1996, unplumbed in, after all.

And talking of books: a big coffee, a box of chocolates, and I could happily sit in that chair for a day or three.

I've been looking for a big station clock like that for years. The hunt goes on.

And look at this lovely patchwork - makes me want to go get my sewing machine out of the attic. I love that zig-zag pattern.

And a lovely wood burning stove.

This is my dream bedroom - books, a high bed and a stripey blanket. I've always liked a little room, like a cabin on a ship.

The book overall has some delightful pictures, but if I have any criticism it is that most of the rooms look too rich to really get ideas from. Most of the rooms are very large and contain lots of expensive furniture and accessories. It is not really "crafty" enough for my make do and mend philosophy. Lots of nice pictures though.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Mini Crochet Bunting

You can never have too much bunting in my opinion. Here is my mini crochet bunting, made this afternoon.

The "pattern" if you can call it that is very easy. Chain 2, double crochet twice into the first loop of the chain. That is your first row. Turn it round, chain 1, then double into the hole at the base of the chain1 you just did. The double along to the end, doing an extra double in the end. That is all there is to the pattern - once you get over the first row, its chain1, double in the same chain, then double across and make an extra double in the last chain.

Then sew in the ends, always a bit boring, and chain them together. I did - chain 11 - then single crochet across the top of the first bunting, then chain 5 in between then join on the next one until they are all attached.

Here is a close up, and check out the big green pepper - £1.50 in my local charity shop. I saw it on the shelf, and shouted to my long suffering sister. "I'M GETTING THAT". I was so excited - I think the woman in the shop thought I was a bit demented. As my dad says "You hide your intelligence well". "Thank-you very much" I say.. Hmmm. Maybe it wasn't a compliment :)

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Christmas Books : Kirstie's Homemade Home

New Christmas books on my desk - Kirstie's Homemade Home is a favourite. It had mixed reviews on Amazon, but I've enjoyed reading it.

I love that yellow Cornishware milk jug on the back cover.

The book starts off by describing her approach to decorating of individual rooms. Here is a picture of someone's dresser in their kitchen. Look at that woolly bunting! I'd like a dresser in my kitchen but my kitchen is the smallest in the world, so I have a little shelving unit instead.

And here is a picture of her very individual Sittingroom in her Cornish house. I was a bit disappointed to read elsewhere that this is not really a family home: she rents it out, but otherwise it is very nice.

The book then goes on to give an overview and easy examples of various crafts. Here are some little lavendar bags:

And here is an introduction to Mosaic tiling - this is Kaffe Fassett's front door - that mosaic is fantastic.
The crochet pages are not very inspiring - practical, but dull colours. She makes a little storage box, but she makes it flat and then sews it all up which is not the easiest way to do this. Also, she says to use hessian string, which is not really a beginner's yarn - it is extremely tiring on the hands to crochet with.

All in all though, her speaking voice comes through in the book, and it is an easy read, with at least a few good ideas for everyone.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Cornishware and Le Parfait Jars

Our kitchen is being remodelled at the moment. Mr Prim is patching in a few new cabinets and upgrading the worksurfaces. It is looking great so far. I'm a big fan of storage jars, and have been buying these Le Parfait jars in John Lewis for some time. They are good quality, good value, made in France, and you can buy replacement parts, so with care they last forever.

So imagine my horror when I went shopping for more today, only to find that they have been replaced by some Made in China inferior quality copy, selling for what I believe is more expensive than the originals. Now, I may be Mrs Prim, but I'm not quiet when I'm annoyed. "LOOK AT THIS RUBBISH!" I hollered to Mr Prim, who tried to pretend he was not with me. "MY (note "my") JARS HAVE BEEN REPLACED BY SOME CHEAP COPY AND THEY ARE MORE EXPENSIVE". Enough of the uppercase - I'm sure you get the picture. I've nothing personally against China, and I am not racist. It is the replacement of a good quality product with tat that I am against. It is not as if John Lewis are now selling them cheaper. They are buying in a cheap copy, selling it expensive, and keeping the money. Maybe good business sense if no-one notices.

Another casaulty of this race to the bottom has been my favourite Cornishware. The new management say that it is no longer economical to make them in the UK, so they make them in China. What they mean is simply that they can make a bigger profit by making a cheap copy in China, and hope that no-one notices.

I don't like being made a mug of and I'm not paying a premium price for something that used to be made by craftspeople that is now made in a factory possibly by children, and the original owner just pockets the money, and doesn't seem to have any pride in what they are selling.

Oooh - what a negative post today, rant over :).

Here's a picture of a nice little tree I bought today in the bargain bucket, reduced because it is no longer Christmas. He makes a very nice air freshener - my kitchen truly is Pine Fresh.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Second Day of the Year

The little ducks on the frozen pond needed some bread and leftover sausage rolls, so the grandfather and grandchildren obliged.

We walked in the woods but the paths were very iced over so it wasn't a long walk - just enough to get a bit of fresh air in the lungs.

And on the way home, we spotted this grey Heron in the burn. It normally lives in the pond, but must have migrated up to the woods because of the ice.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Happy New Year 2011

Happy New Year to you, and Best Wishes for 2011.
We are here in Pitlochry in the heart of Scotland, in Highand Perthshire. The snow is melting on the hills above Pitlochry but it is still very cold and there is not much light here at this time of year : by 4pm it will already be dark.

Look, the High Street seems quite busy and there are no cars: it is Pitlochry Street Party.

Scottish Country Dancing to music from the band in the temporary bandstand and the Vale of Atholl pipe band, complete with bagpipes.

Soup, sausages, popcorn and soup served up by local businesses with the donations going to charity.