Specs appeal

Rosie H-W, Victoria Beckham, my mother-in-law. What do they all have in common?They all wear glasses and they all look great in them. Some people can wear anything and look amazing but before we begin this story, let me point out that I’m not one of them (not self-deprecating, just fact!) So, anyway, it all started 6 weeks ago when Iris decided to share her conjunctivitis with me ….. that was kind wasn’t it! ๐Ÿ™‚ A week of gunky, itchy, blurry eyes crawled by, during which time my normal activities were somewhat hindered by my lack of vision. But, that was ok because as soon as the gunkiness stopped then normal service would be resumed, yes? Uh ….. no! Normal service was not resumed, if anything my sight seemed even worse. Reading a book was proving a little awkward, watching television was definitely difficult (not that there’s much on anyway) and I couldn’t even see to thread a needle, let alone actually sew anything so there was only one option: take a trip to the opticians and get it sorted like a proper grown up. Or in my case, be practically dragged there kicking and screaming because in my own words “there’s nothing wrong with my eyes” (note that I said this whilst talking to a chair that looked vaguely like the outline of my husband ๐Ÿ™‚ #onlyjoking).

Anyway, I eventually made it to the opticians where they did their usual array of sight-related tests and I sat there smugly, thinking I’d get a prescription for eye drops and that’d be that ….. my goodness, I’m obviously not the little Miss know-it-all I think I am because I didn’t get a prescription for eye drops but a prescription for glasses! Turns out that having conjunctivitis was just a coincidence and my wonky eyesight was due to an undiagnosed astigmatism in one eye. Well I didn’t see that coming (excuse the pun). Now, if you’re a supermodel then I imagine that wearing glasses would be seen as cute and it’d add to your allure but I’m not sure I have a face you want to draw too much attention to, cue much talk from me of “I’m not wearing glasses, I don’t care what anyone says, I’m not wearing glasses” and then came the really bad talk. The talk of getting rid of my beautiful sewing machine, getting shot of my knitting needles and donating my books to the charity shop. That’s how determined I was that I wasn’t wearing glasses! If I only needed them for concentrating work then it was simple, I wouldn’t do any concentrating work. Only problem with that was, well, if I don’t do those things then I’m just not me. I knit, I sew, I read (avidly), I search for missing people and I code and I can’t do any of those things if I can’t see so ….. glasses it is!

My first day of wearing glasses and it’s amazing, I can see! ๐Ÿค“I may not have known that I needed them but I’m sure as hell glad I got them. Everything’s gone from a little blurry to crystal clear, plus, although it didn’t turn me into a supermodel, they actually don’t look too awful. Time to rock some geek chic!

My Mumma-in-law looking gorgeous in her specs!

 

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Isnโ€™t it ironic?

….. Or so said Alanis Morrisette and never has a truer sentence been uttered! A couple of weeks ago you’ll remember I wrote about losing my sew-jo and about my despair at my creativity seemingly vanishing. Well, it came back (hooray I hear you all shout!) but the irony is that there have been too many darn germs knocking about for me to do anything at all about the rediscovered love of all things crafty. Oh the sadness of staring at a Hobbycraft bag brimming over with goodies but yet you have neither the energy nor the motivation to get out of your sick bed and have a play ….. Not that it’s just my germs though, oh no, one of the joys of having school age children is that they bring home every bug going. If there’s an illness to be caught then mine will be first in the queue, just begging the germs to bring it on, like some weird dual and we all know who will win. So over the last couple of weeks, we’ve had colds, sore throats, headaches and the dreaded sickness bug which resulted in the youngest member of the Riley household sleeping on the bathroom floor. Just when I thought that perhaps the arrival of spring might herald a phase of being bug free, I also came down with what will now be referred to as ‘The Cold From Hell’ (I’d trademark that if it were a little more catchy). I swear that the common cold thinks I’m it’s mothership because when I get a cold, I really get a cold. Not just a little sniffle and some polite and discreet nose blowing for me, no, I go all out with my colds. A tsunami of snot takes over, my head pounds, my eyes run like a Justin Timberlake song (literally, Cry Me a River), my limbs ache and I sneeze so loudly they can hear me on the other side of town. Never one to do things half heartedly, it’s a case of ‘go big or go home’ or in this case ‘go big and go straight to bed’ ๐Ÿ™‚ So, my sewing machine will stay silent, my knitting needles will remain in their case and my crochet hook will think I’ve forgotten what it’s for. The quilt I was going to start will have to wait for another day and my list of projects will continue to grow but only in my head because for the time being the germs have well and truly taken over ….. send Lemsips, Lucozade and don’t forget to buy shares in Kleenex! ๐Ÿ™‚

Night night, I’m back off to bed!

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Anyone seen my sew-jo?!?

My sew-jo has got up and gone! It’s not just my sew-jo either, it’s my cro-jo (crochet mo-jo) and my kno-jo (knitting mo-jo) too and tbh, I’m at a loss for what to do. Normally I’ve several projects on the go at once – socks, jumpers, dresses, embroidery, cross stitch, crochet but at the moment, nothing! Nada! Absolutely sod all! ๐Ÿ™‚

Beyonce has singing, Laboutin has shoes, Elton has his piano and I have crafting. It’s my ‘thing’, always has been, always will be and without it I literally feel like somethings missing so why has all creativity made like Elvis and left the building?!?

Answers on a postcard please …..

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Bow-tiful hair bows!

I’m in the fortunate position of having 3 daughters, however this also means I’m in the unfortunate position of hearing the same cries every morning “I can’t find a hairbow…..”. Strange how we live in a house overflowing with glitter, unicorns and every other girly item known to man and yet we can never find a bow when ones needed. The love child of Columbo and Sherlock couldn’t solve the hairbow conundrum so are we going to A) run riot in Claire’s Accessories until our baskets are overflowing or B) make our own?!? Unless you’re new to craftymrsriley you’ll know that option A was never an option for tight-arse me so let’s get going with Option B …..

Ideal for using up scraps, these bows are simple to make, lovely to look at and they only cost pennies to make!

  1. Choose some pretty, contrasting scraps from your scrap pile. Poly cotton is a good choice but feel free to use practically any type of fabric, even denim or velvet would work well.
  2. Decide how big you’d like your bow to be and draw the corresponding rectangle onto some thin card.
  3. Draw another, slightly smaller rectangle also onto thin card and cut out both.
  4. Using a fabric marker, draw around the larger rectangle onto the wrong side of the first fabric. Do this twice.
  5. Cut around both of your drawn rectangles with pinking shears, leaving approximately 1/4″ seamage.
  6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 using the smaller rectangle and the contrasting fabric.
  7. Place the first two rectangles right side to right side and machine sew from the top left hand corner down, along and back up to the top right hand corner ensuring you leave one end of the rectangle unsewn.
  8. Repeat step 7 for the smaller rectangles of fabric.
  9. Turn both sewn rectangles inside out so they are right side out and hand stitch the unsewn ends together using the mattress stitch.
  10. Place the smaller rectangle on top of the larger rectangle leaving an even space all the way around.
  11. With a double threaded needle, find the middle of the rectangles and starting at the bottom sew a line of 4 or 5 large running stitches up to the top.
  12. Pull the thread taut so the fabric bunches up. Both rectangles should now be joined in the middle. Without cutting the thread and still keeping the thread taut, wrap it around the centre of the bow a couple of times and knot.
  13. Using the pinking shears, cut a narrow strip of contrasting fabric and wrap it around the middle of the bow, covering the thread. Secure the first end with a hot glue gun and then place another dab of glue to join the other end.
  14. The final step is to place a couple of dabs of glue onto an alligator grip and place the bow on top, remembering to press firmly whilst the glue cools.
  15. Ooh look, we made a bow and, as with all the best crafty work, the possibilities are endless! Ah, the final final stage is to pass it on to a little girl who needs a hairbow which in this house shouldn’t be too hard a task! ๐Ÿ™‚

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Pick Ups!

A couple of posts ago, we learnt all about Wrap & Turns which are super good when dealing with socks and anything else that requires a gentle curve, HOWEVER ….. the eagle eyed amongst us will notice that once you’ve completed the W&T’s there are tiny gaps between the stitches. To rectify this, we need to pick up the stitches and make them ‘live’ again. Here’s how ย …..

Picking Up Knit Sideย 

  1. With the right hand needle (working from front to back), pick up the wrapย 
  2. Immediately after, insert the right hand needle into the wrapped stitch as if to knit
  3. Knit both the wrap and the stitch together.

Picking Up Purl Sideย 

  1. Insert the right hand needle into the wrap from back to front
  2. Using the right hand needle, lift the wrap up and over the wrapped stitch on the left hand needle
  3. Purl both the wrap and the stitch together.

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Stretchy Bind Off

Imagine knitting a sock and finding that the cuff is too tight to get over your foot or knitting a jumper and finding you can’t get your arm through the end of the sleeve ….. a nightmare yes? This is where a stretchy bind off comes in useful so lets get going and learn how!

  1. Put the right hand needle through the back of the first two stitches on the left hand needle. Knit them together.
  2. Slip the new stitch from the right hand needle back onto the left hand needle.
  3. Knit through the back of the first two stitches on the left hand needle.
  4. Repeat from Step 1 until you have only one remaining stitch. Cut a tail long enough to weave in and pull it through the last stitch ensuring its tightly finished so it doesn’t undo.

Result? A wonderfully stretchy bind off and no more struggling to get your feet into sock tops that are just too tight ๐Ÿ™‚

Happy New Year!

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Wrap and Turn

Have you ever seen the term ‘w&t’ in a knitting pattern and thought ‘what the …..’ ? It’s not there because someone fell asleep with their head on the keyboard, it stands for Wrap and Turn which is the technique for working short rows. Short rows are a brilliant way of adding a gentle curve to knitting work such as socks or shoulders and if you knit you really should learn how to ‘w&t’ ๐Ÿ™‚

Wrap and Turn Knit Side

  1. Insert the right hand needle purl wise into the next stitch on the left hand needle.
  2. Slip the stitch onto the right hand needle and bring the yarn round to the front as if to purl.
  3. Slip the stitch back onto the left hand needle and bring the yarn round to the back. Turn the work ready to work a row of purl stitches.

 

Wrap and Turn Purl Side

  1. With the yarn already at the front, insert the right hand needle purl wise into the first stitch on the left hand needle.
  2. Slip the stitch onto the right hand needle and bring the yarn to the back as if to knit.
  3. Slip the stitch back onto the left hand needle and bring the yarn back to the front. Turn the work ready to complete a row of knit stitches.ย 

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Basic Patchwork

Oh the weather outside is frightful, but indoors is so delightful and as we’ve no place to go, then let’s sew, let’s sew, let’s sew!
I’m pretty sure those would have been the lyrics had Sammy Cahn been a fabric enthusiast ๐Ÿ™‚ Anyhow, the weather outside really is frightful (5inches of snow is way past frightful tbh) so what better way to pass the time than to start a quilt. Not only is it a good hobby but you can wrap yourself up in it afterwards ….. pretty and practical, how brilliant is this going to be?!?
Quilting can be simple but on the other hand quilting can be truly difficult which I’ll presume is what puts many people off of it in the first place. However, we all need to start somewhere right and the only way you can get to the top is to start at the bottom so let’s begin with a basic patchwork quilt …..

1) First step is pick your fabric. Cotton or poly cotton works best for a quilt so run (carefully mind, do you know how slippery it is) to the fabric store and grab some fat quarters. Alternatively, you can finally use the stash you’ve been hoarding for another day because lets face it we’ve all got one and it’s much better to use it than to let the dreaded moths get it!
My fabric of choice this time is the Birdsong collection from Dashwood Fabrics, a beautiful muted mix of trees, mountains and birds in a selection of pale greys, mustard and navy.

2) Now because this is a basic quilt we’re going to use a basic square as our template. You can draw it on anything but I find a cereal box is especially good and seeing as most people have one it makes sense to use it. Grab your box, flatten it out and draw a 5″ x 5″ square. Cut it out and voila, there’s your template!
3) One of the most simple rules of quilting is press, press and press some more. Pop your iron on a medium heat and press all your fabric until every crease is banished. Then we can set about cutting our squares.

4)Using a fabric marker (or a HB pencil, for this basic quilt it doesn’t matter too much) draw around your template on the ‘wrong’ side of the material being sure to leave a good inch or so between each square. When you’ve got a selection of squares drawn then carefully cut them out using sharp scissors or pinking shears. Leave at least a 1/4″ seam allowance all the way around the template.

5) Before we do any joining or sewing, the squares now need to be placed into an aesthetically pleasing arrangement. We can then begin to join the first squares …..

6) To join 2 squares together, place themย right side toย right sideย and carefully put a pin through the top left corner of the top square, through to the same corner of the underneath square. Once those corners are lined up, go along the same line with some more pins, checking that each one is also going through the same line on the underneath fabric. Using a small stitch on your sewing machine, sew along the pinned line (remembering to remove the pins as you go). It helps if you go back over the first couple of stitches as well as the last couple in the line so as to ensure the sewing is secure.

7) Continue the above process until you have joined all of the squares in your first row. Repeat for all of the other rows that will form your quilt top.

8) Remember step 3 where we spoke about ‘Press, Press and Press some more’? Well this is where that step really comes into play. Turn over one of the rows and using your fingers, separate the seams, then press with the iron until the seams are flat. Repeat for all seams in all rows.

9) The rows we’ve just made are brilliant but we can’t do much with them until we join all the individual rows to form a quilt top so working from the bottom of the quilt upwards, place the second to last row on top of the last row. Make sure they are right side to right side and put a pin through the top left hand corner using the drawn template as a guide. Follow the top line all the way long, pinning as you go, so that the two rows are joined at the top. Once all the pins are in place, carefully sew all the way along (removing pins as you get to them).

10) Repeat step 9 for the rest of the rows and voila, you have one amazing quilt top.

11) Now, you could leave it as it is but it simply wouldn’t be a quilt without some form of quilting. For the quilt in the example, I’ve done a simple but effective straight line design but you could try a more complicated straight line effect or even try your hand at free motion quilting (more of which we’ll cover at a later date).

12) Once you’ve decided on the quilting design, you need to pin your quilt top to your batting and possibly to the backing as well. It’s up to you whether you choose to sew through all 3 layers or instead through the top 2 and then join the backing afterwards. Use safety pins to join your layers before you sew as it’ll keep the layers together more securely than pins at this stage.

13) Binding ….. scared?!? ๐Ÿ™‚ Don’t be, it really isn’t as awkward as people claim. For this quilt I’ve used double edge bias tape in a contrasting shade of grey. To begin, start a couple of inches in from one corner of your quilt. Open the tape so the bottom inside edge is level with the edge of the quilt. Carefully pin in place until you reach a couple of centimetres before the next corner.

 

The underside of the binding tape

14) For this quilt I’ve used mitred corners because I feel they look nicer but you can use a butted edge if you prefer. To create a mitred corner, fold the unsewn binding straight up so that it is at a 45 degree angle and so that its bottom edge produces a diagonal line. Then fold the binding back down on itself so that the top of the fold is level with the top edge of the quilt. Pin in place and continue round to the next corner. When all corners are complete and when all the binding is pinned in place, carefully sew all the way around to secure the binding to the quilt. The line of stitches should now be hidden by the binding tape.

15) Now that one side of the binding is joined to the quilt, the next step is to gently fold the binding over the top of all 3 layers and pin in place. Although you could machine sew if you wanted, a better alternative is to hand sew using invisible thread and the ladder stitch.

16) The final stage is to give it another good press and check it all over for any stray heads that you missed as you were going along, then ….. Give yourself a round of applause because you’ve just finished your first basic quilt! ๐Ÿ™‚

 

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Seed Stitch

Probably my all time favourite stitch when it comes to knitting, seed stitch is one of those things that looks really complicated but is actually super simple. It provides texture and density to what could otherwise be a fairly bland pattern. Add to that that seed stitch is an incredibly versatile stitch, suitable for all sorts of projects and whats not to like?!? ๐Ÿ™‚

Wondering if you could work the seed stitch? Well, if you can knit and purl (I’m going to presume you can!) then the answer is yes! It’s as simple as this …..

  1. Cast on an even number of stitches.
  2. Row 1 – k1, p1 to the end of the row.
  3. Row 2 – p1, k1 to the end of the row
  4. Repeat until the end of the project.

The end result is a beautiful texture of little tiny bumps that look as though they were scattered by the wind.

Enjoy the seed stitch! ๐Ÿ™‚

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#socktober

A little late to the party with this one but it’s still October so it still counts right?!? ๐Ÿ™‚ Socktober is one of those things that has been slightly hijacked by Instagram so everyone could be forgiven for thinking that this is where it all began, however there’s slightly more to it than just flashing a picture of your latest woolly offering. Let me explain …..

Originally launched by Brad Montague four years ago, the aim of Socktober is to provide an easy yet effective way of helping the homeless by simply donating a pair of socks! Not just one pair mind, Socktober is not the time for stinginess, so the idea is to start a sock drive. Whether it’s at your place of work, your school or a group from your neighbourhood, the aim is to collect as many pairs of socks as you can, gather them all up and donate them to a local homeless shelter. This is where #socktober comes into play because these days nothing spreads something like wildfire quicker than putting a hashtag in front of it ๐Ÿ™‚ Instagram, Facebook, Twitter ….. go mad and share the love for Socktober on them all! Of course, people don’t just need socks (although they do help on a cold day), there are plenty of other items that homeless shelters could benefit from such as donations of toiletries, bedding, clothing and tinned / dried food but socks definitely help.

Sometimes it’s the smallest acts of love that help make a difference so whether you buy them or make them, donate some socks to this worthy cause and help make someones day a little nicer ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Visit the following sites for more details …..

http://www.happysocktober.com

http://www.soulpancake.com/socktober

 

  • For a list of homeless shelters in the UK …..

http://www.crisis.org.uk

http://www.shelter.org.uk

http://www.salvationarmy.org.uk

 

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