Tuesday, 30 December 2014

2014 in Review

I came up with a blog name "meo my crochet" in 2012 and created a profile of sorts but did not finish the layout or start posting until January of this year. It was my daughter's new website and blog Sweet Maple Photography that inspired me. If she could set up a business website and blog while pregnant and taking care of a busy toddler then I should be able to figure out Blogger. 

As it turned out, getting started was the hardest part. Once I created a colourful blog banner using PicMonkey (free) and configured a simple layout, the ideas started to flow. Writing takes time and lots of tweaking yet I love the whole process. 

I set myself a goal of writing one post per week. That seemed manageable considering I work full time. I am absolutely amazed to see I surpassed it. This year I have written 63 posts and have almost 17,000 views. Blogger stats are cool, I'm just not sure how I feel about them. I'm trying to look at it as a positive form of feedback without falling into the trap of comparing my numbers to more popular sites. 

I blog because I enjoy writing so will carry on posting in 2015. Over time I have added a few cool features: "SEARCH THIS BLOG", "FOLLOW BY EMAIL" and "TRANSLATE". In 2015 I might experiment with adding pages. I think it would be nice to list all my favourite pattern links on a separate page where they are easy to find. 

Check out this series of collages providing a visual overview of 2014 at meo my crochet. As you can see it was a busy and productive year. 

 January (getting started)

February (Boulder trip with my Mom, lots of baby crochet)

March Break Boulder trip, meet granddaughter, more baby crochet

April (Easter crochet and blog business cards)

 May (Mother's Day and more crochet)

June (synchronicity, divine intervention, son's high-school graduation) 

July (biking to work and summer crochet)

August (motivation month, 2 guest posts, son moves into residence)

September (my grade 8 grad reunion, weekend trip away and crochet)

October (family visit for Thanksgiving)

November (ripple crochet, faery door and more)

December (Christmas and crochet)

I was struggling with how to create these collages and spent a few hours working on various methods until I found a post by blogger Nicole at The Pixel Boutique. Her instructions were clear and easy to follow. It still took many more hours to go back over my posts and decide what to include but was worth the effort as it's exactly what I had pictured when I first decided to write "2014 in Review". 

I hope it brightens your day to read about my adventures in crochet and in life. All the best to you and your families in 2015. 

Be the first to comment - click on No comments: below.

Monday, 29 December 2014

Christmas Wrap Up

Christmas this year was much like other years with the focus on family, fun and food. In an effort to simplify, we have scaled back on gifts but still have plenty under our tree. 
My parents and son join us for breakfast and our Christmas morning is off to a good start with capuccino, biscotti and gifts. 
After breakfast and before starting dinner, we hike to the Sifton Bog Boardwalk. Last year it was cold and snowy, but this year it's mild and clear, a perfect day. 
Our dinner is relatively easy with everybody contributing. I cook the turkey, broccoli and brussel sprouts. My parents make a huge pot of mashed potatoes, my sister-in-law makes crockpot stuffing and my mum-in-law makes gravy, trifle and lemon pie. With so much help, we are able to relax with drinks and more gifts while dinner cooks.
Our family Christmas dinners include lots of laughs, lots of fun and lots of food. We all save space for my Mum-In-Law's Santa-adorned trifle. It has become a favourite family tradition.
We all had a bit of fun with a magnifying glass from my Christmas cracker this year. Who can resist making googly eyes? Funny how we all picked our right eye to enhance. I wonder what that says about us?
So to wrap up our Christmas this year, I have to say it was truly wonderful. Of course we missed our daughter and her family but I am happy to hear they are enjoying themselves in Brazil. I feel lucky to have such a fun and loving family both at home and abroad.

With such a simple Christmas, I managed to fit in lots of crochet time over the holidays. I am working on both a cowl and a big fluffy blanket. 

I decided to finally use some luxuriously soft and expensive hand painted yarn I bought a couple years ago. I am making a cowl using this pattern but my yarn is finer so the cowl is too short to loop around the neck.
I love the colour and can't wait to see how it turns out. I might make another in the grey/green colour only longer for looping next time.

I plan to keep going until all the yarn is used up. As you can see there is quite a bit left so I think this cowl will be warm and cozy once it's done. I'll be sure to share a photo but it might be awhile yet because I also started working on a big fluffy blanket this week.
On Boxing Day I couldn't resist buying Lion Brand Homespun Thick and Quick yarn on sale at Michael's for $7.99 a ball, a significant savings from the original price of $12.99. I bought 6 balls each in Dove and Pearl to make a fuzzy ripple blanket for my son. I don't enjoy working with chunky yarn as it tends to snag and stitch details are lost in the fluff.

My son loves fluffy blankets so that's why I'm doing it. I decided to follow the same ripple pattern I used to make my Cosmic Rays Ripple. It looks completely different but still very nice and of course totally cuddly with such chunky yarn.
I'm hoping to finish this blanket by Saturday but I also want to write a year end review and I'm running out of time. Wish me luck.

Be the first to comment - click on No comments: below.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Crochet Christmas Balls

I was not planning to crochet anything for Christmas this year until I saw this free pattern for Crochet Bauble Ornaments posted by blogger Kate at Greedy For Colour. It's a perfectly quick and easy project. I call these ornaments Christmas Balls. I think Bauble is a term more commonly used in the UK but I may be wrong about that. 

I was especially pleased to find a use for the sparkly gold crochet cotton thread received a couple years ago from an elderly friend who no longer crochets. For the crochet balls, I am using both DK and worsted weight yarns and a 3.5 mm hook. For the top pieces, I am using sparkly crochet cotton thread and a 2.0 mm hook. 

You can see one completed ball and one half finished ball on the hook in my yarn bowl below. I tend to make a few balls then a few top pieces before sewing them together.
I decided to make one in every colour and have been slowly working on them for over a week now. I seem to have a lot of distractions these days so my progress is slower than normal. Still I have managed to make about a dozen so far, more than enough table favours for Christmas.
The tiniest pink Christmas Ball looks great hanging with the stars on our wreath in the dining room window.
As I work on a few more Christmas Balls this morning, this is the view from my crochet corner by the fireplace. I have my usual cappuccino and little booklet to check off row counts, both close at hand. The sunshine, crochet and cappuccino make me smile today.
My view looking straight ahead also makes me smile. I don't mean the messy basket of yarn, I'm referring to our cat. She has taken to resting in our Christmas napkin basket. 
It's funny because it's two sizes too small. I tried to discourage her but she persisted and sleeps here for a bit everyday after fluffing the napkins. I'll warn our guests but I don't really mind wasting a few napkins. I'm sure cat lovers get it. Who doesn't love to see a comfy contented cat?
I hope this peek into my quiet Saturday morning brightens your day just a little. Now I must get moving and get shopping. I would like to finish our errands so we can squeeze in a bike ride before dinner. Wish me luck. 

Be the first to comment - click on No comments: below.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Whipped Shortbread Cookies

One of my favourite Christmas cookies just happens to be Whipped Shortbread. Not just any old shortbread, Whipped Shortbread, and it has to be homemade. Since our son is home for the holidays, I decided it would be a good time to bake a batch of my favourite cookies. 

I can't remember the last time I baked but this recipe truly is very easy. I gathered all the ingredients together: flour, icing sugar, butter, vanilla and corn starch. 

OK, I thought I had ALL the ingredients but was missing one thing, cornstarch. I always substitute arrowroot powder so asked my husband and son to get some while out shopping. Not surprisingly, they couldn't find any. I decided to go ahead without it. 

The instructions said to whip all the ingredients together until the dough resembled whipped cream. I think that looks about right.
Drop spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets and bake for 12-15 minutes at 325 F. I tried parchment paper on one tray but it wasn't necessary. With 1 lb of butter in the recipe, these cookies do not stick.
I had hoped my son might take an interest in baking but both he and my husband stretched out on separate sofas. Late nights and shopping must be tiring. It's so nice to see my son making use of my Cosmic Rays Ripple blanket. I couldn't resist snapping a couple photos while the cookies baked. My husband was aware enough to say 'no' to photos but my son was sound asleep and blissfully unaware. Doesn't he look comfy and cozy? 
The cookies turned out perfectly despite having no arrowroot powder. I even sampled a couple just to confirm they taste as yummy as they look.
Three whole plates from this batch. The recipe said it should make five dozen but I think I used a bigger spoon so ended up with a few less. No matter as I'm sure they won't last long enough to count anyway.
Now that you've seen the pictures and heard how easy these are to make, I bet you want the recipe. You won't be sorry if you make some, they are positively melt-in-your-mouth delicious.

Whipped Shortbread Cookies (my favourite)

1 lb butter (softened)
3 cups flour
1 cup icing sugar
1/2 cup cornstarch (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix all ingredients and beat until dough has consistency of whipped cream. Drop by spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. Decorate with cherries, etc. if desired. Bake at 325 F for 12-15 minutes. Makes 5 dozen. 

Note: I omitted cornstarch but added 1.5 tsp of baking powder.

In case you're wondering, before I baked, I rode my bike outside today. I did my favourite 35 km loop West of London through Delaware. It was wonderful and a welcome change from riding indoors on the trainer. I'm hoping the weather cooperates so I can get out again tomorrow. We have just over a month to get ready for our bike trip in Cuba. Counting down to both Christmas and Cuba, how exciting is that?

Be the first to comment - click on No comments: below.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Crochet Christmas Card

This year I decided to crochet a Christmas card to distribute to friends and family by email and social media. 

My inspiration came from blogger Lucy at Attic24I was impressed with this card Lucy made two years ago and then this one she made last week. I love Lucy's work but wanted to make my own design. 

I decided to keep the background simple in shades of grey (no reference intended) then crochet a colourful Christmas tree to sew on top. I gathered my buttons, yarn from my Sweet Summer Ripple Blanket, hooks, yarn needles and scissors. I didn't have a pattern but I had a plan. 
I think it worked out beautifully. What do you think? I placed it on my Cosmic Rays Ripple Blanket to take a photo. I love it but think it needs blocking as the edges look a bit wonky.
So upstairs I go to plug in the iron, fill it with water, pin the piece in place and 'block' it. Always remember to never touch crochet with a hot iron, just steam it with the iron hovering above. Steaming does a great job of relaxing the yarn and setting the shape.
Blocking makes it better, not perfect, but definitely better. The dark grey yarn at the bottom is finer than the mid-grey yarn. It's different enough that the bottom will not relax into a perfectly smooth edge. I don't really mind though as it adds authenticity to the handmade look.
I took a few more photos with different backgrounds. I liked this one on our kitchen tablecloth. Very festive looking, don't you think? Then I took a closeup to remove the wonky edge and see how it would look as a Christmas card. It's perfect and just what I had in mind.
My husband got out his good camera to take a photo. He used Photoshop to crop it. Can you see how much better it looks in his version below? 
I used his image to create our card using MS Word, saved it as a pdf then converted it to a jpg to send to friends and family by email.
So what do you think of our first Crochet Christmas Card? I love the way it turned out and I hope our friends and family don't mind getting a 'virtual' card this year. I also hope our son doesn't mind me using his cutesy name. I just couldn't resist rhyming. 

For family members who either don't use email or prefer a proper card, I created a 'real' version using MS Publisher. Handmade cards are just so much fun. 

Here is a picture in case you're interested. Just two folds make a proper little Christmas card. I can't decide which I like better - virtual or printed? Both look great to me but I think I do prefer the printed one.
You may be wondering what I am doing with my original crochet block. I decided to incorporate it into our Christmas decor. I pinned it to a blank canvas (8"x10") from Dollarama then took photos of it propped in different places around the house trying to decide where it looked best. 

The chair is no good because our cat likes to sit there. It would soon be covered in hair.
The mantle is fine but really rather crowded already so it won't work.
I love it on this little table in the kitchen. Isn't this just the perfect spot?
From this angle you can see the canvas. I think canvas works well for displaying decorative crochet blocks. I could make blocks for every season and celebration. I will be sure to share photos and details if I do.

Crochet Christmas Card How To:

For this project, I did not follow a pattern and did not record exactly how I did it. This was a free flowing, creative effort. I can describe roughly what I did though in case you might like to make something similar. So here goes ...

Stitches used (Canadian terms):
ch - chain stitch
ss - slip stitch
sc - single crochet
scfl - single crochet front loop
scbl - single crochet back loop
dc - double crochet

For the background, I started with dark grey.
Chain 31
Row 1 - sc in back bumps of chain across starting with 2nd ch from hook (30 sc)
Row 2 - turn, ch 1, sc in 1st sc, *scfl in 2nd sc, scbl in 3rd sc**, repeat across, sc in last sc
Row 3 - repeat Row 2 for 6 more rows, switch to light grey
Row 8 - repeat Row 2 for 2 rows (light grey), switch to dark grey
Row 10 - repeat Row 2 for 2 rows (dark grey), switch to light grey
Row 12 - repeat Row 2 for 2 rows (light grey), switch to mid grey
Row 14 - sc across
Row 15 - repeat Row 14 for remainder of background (approximately 30 rows)
My goal was to make a rectangle approximately 8"x10" in size.

Next make the tree and assemble it before attaching to the background.
Tree top (aqua):
Row 1: Ch 13 and sc in back bumps across (12 sc)
Row 2: Ch 1 and turn, skip 1st sc and sc across (11 sc)
Row 3: Ch 1 and turn, skip 1st sc and sc across (10 sc)
Continue until only 1 sc for tip of tree then finish off

Tree bottom (aqua):
Row 1: Ch 25 and sc in back bumps across (24 sc)
Row 2: Ch 1 and turn, skip 1st sc and sc across (23 sc)
Continue for 8 more rows (ending with 15 sc)

Tree middle (light teal):
Row 1: Chain 20 and sc in back bumps across (19 sc)
Row 2: Ch 1 and turn, skip 1st sc and sc across (18 sc)
Continue for 8 more rows (ending with 10 sc)

Tree trunk (red):
Row 1: Ch 7, sc in back bumps across (6 sc)
Row 2: Ch 1 and turn, sc, scfl, scbl, scfl, scbl, sc (6 sc)
Row 3: Repeat Row 2
Row 4: Repeat Row 2
Row 5: sc across and finish off
Leave yarn ends long enough to attach trunk to background

itty bitty crochet star (white yarn) - follow this pattern

To assemble tree:
Hold bottom and middle together with front sides facing
Using white yarn sc across joining bottom section and back loop only of middle section
Straighten 2 joined pieces and turn
Crochet into exposed front look of middle section to make scallop
Ch 2 in 1st stitch, dc in 2nd stitch, ss in 3rd stitch (1 scallop made); repeat across

Repeat same process for middle and top section, leave the front loops of top section open for scallop edge

Add scallop edge to bottom of bottom section

Once the tree was assembled, I decided the background needed to be a bit longer so I added three rows of sc to the bottom in dark grey

Simple Border:
Row 1: sc around with 3 sc in each corner (dark grey)
Row 2: sc around with 3 sc in each corner (light grey)
Row 3: sc around with 3 sc in each corner (white)

Final assembly:
Attach trunk (sideways) using yarn ends, leaving enough space above for height of tree 
Attach tree and star using a long strand of white yarn and running stitch around the edge of the tree
Using another long strand of white yarn attach colourful beads or any other decorative embellishment you like.

For best results, remember to block your square. I like to pin it in place then use a bit of steam to 'set' the edges straight.

I hope you enjoy making a Crochet Christmas Card too. Remember to send me a photo if you do. I'd love to see it.

Be the first to comment - click on No comments: below.