Saturday, 31 January 2015

Finished make :: Crochet tea cosy

colourful crochet tea cosy ||

So my aim during my 'craft of the month' is to learn new things related to that craft. I'd never made a tea cosy before starting this project so I was learning as I went with this make.

After being given a plain white teapot for Christmas I decided to liven up a bit, I had no particular pattern or design planned out before I started - I just started stitching and picked the colours and stitches as I went..

I used the same colour palette as the crochet circles mat but isn't interesting how omitting the cream gives a totally different effect?

Anyway here's how I made it ...

First of all I measured the circumference of the teapot around it's bottom. I then created a crochet chain to that length. I found that was a bit too stretchy so reduced the length by a few chains. My experience with making a coffee pot cosy shows that the cosy will stretch over time and I didn't want it starting off too baggy.  I ended up working with 80 stitches all the way up to the lid as my teapot has straight sides (If your teapot has curved sides - this tutorial explains how you would approach fitting to the curves.)

After working a couple of rows of basic stitches I then started working in more fancy stitches mixing and matching these with basic stitches.

I kept measuring my work against the teapot until the point where the bottom of the handle and spout joined the teapot. At these points I put my work round the teapot and used stitch markers to mark the width of these. Again I took a few stitches off these measurements to give a snug fit.
For the next few rows I worked the cosy in two parts (one for each side). I kept measuring against the teapot until I reached the join between the top of the spout and the pot. At this point I started working in one continuous pieces (still leaving the gap for the handle.
When the piece reached the top of the handle I chained the correct number of stitches to bring the work back to 80 and started working in full rounds again.

The next stage was in reaching the top of the pot. At this point you have to start decreasing the number of stitches in the rounds you are working. I divided 80 by 10 and therefore the repeat I worked was 8 stitches then stitching 2 together in repeat. On the next round I worked 7 stitches then stitching 2 together in repeat. I continued this until I had a small circle that fitted snugly round the lid handle.

I finished off round the spout, handle and lid holes with stitches to cover the end of the rows.

I love the colours - they really brighten up a plain white teapot and I'm really proud that designed this myself especially as I learned about the construction as I went had to work out how to fit the different stitch patterns in to keep the stitch count at 80 all the way up.

Elephants :: Wood

This month's elephants are ... inspired by the lovely little elephant toy I brought my 1 year old niece for Christmas from Hema (not available on their website so may no longer be in stock).

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Craft I love :: Crochet

my love affair with ... crochet ||

With crochet being part of my craft of the month series I cast my mind back to when I picked up a hook for the very first time ...

How I learned the basics
It was 2007, I'd just learned to knit and for Christmas a friend gave me a copy of The Happy Hooker by Debbie Stoller*. 

Facing a Christmas stuck in my home town I packed my book, some yarn and crochet hook I'd picked up from my local craft store. 

I followed the instructions in the book and could pretty quickly form a chain. It took a bit longer to figure out how to make the second row but once I'd cracked that there was no stopping me. 

It's a shame it was only a few weeks between learning to knit and learning to crochet because although I love to knit the speed of working up a piece of crochet was addictive. 

Because the book was American and I'd picked up some American crochet magazines it took me a while to figure out there was a difference between US and UK terms. It also means that I use US terms first and foremost although and patterns or tutorials here on my blog will cover both. 

If you find me crafting at home it will most likely be crochet. 

My first project
Rather naively the first big project I decided to undertake was crocheting a blanket. Whilst granny squares are a great way of learning to crochet, I designed myself a pattern that involved 320 of them. And this was before I learned this technique. I swear the finishing took as long as the crocheting. I guess things like this are the perils of being completely self taught. 

But 7 years later the blanket is still in use, even if not for its intended purpose ...

Redfearn the cat on blue crochet blanket ||

My favourite projects
It was so difficult to choose just a few projects so I've grouped them into themes.

crochet baby clothes collage ||

Baby/Toddler Clothes - from left to right:
Little Princess Cardi - free pattern from Lion Brand. The first item of clothing I made for someone.
Cluster Yoke Cardigan - free pattern from Patons. I just loved the cotton yarn I used for this item, it was so lovely to work with
Ribbed shell top - free pattern from Cre8tion Crochet. The first item of clothing I made that used something other than sc/dc. I almost gave up when I got stuck with the underarms but I figured it out in the end!

crochet baby blankets collage ||

Blankets - from left to right:
Lancaster Quilt - pattern from Crochet Today Magazine. This is my all time favourite crochet pattern. It has a wonderful mix of stitches so is interesting to make as well as being gorgeous to look at.
Stripy blanket - a design I created myself. I had so many scraps of yarn I wanted to use up so I came up with this idea. It mixes different gauges but I managed to keep it rectangular!
Flower blanket - flower granny square from Simply Crochet Magazine Summer 2012. My favourite colour is blue but I love the mix of pinks and purples that I used in this blanket and they really work with this motif.

crochet for me collage ||

Crocheting for myself - from left to right:
Crochet Sunflower Tote Bag - I designed this myself using a sunflower button from Sonia Karan. I love the sunny colours on this bag and the fact I transformed a bag with a print on it that I would never have used.
Stripy triangle scarf - free pattern from Lion Brand. This was the first time I'd crocheted with lacy yarn and the first time I'd crocheted with stripy yarn and I love how the strips look on the finished piece.
Crochet cushion covers - pattern from Crochet Today Magazine. If you look carefully you'll see this is the exact same pattern as the Lancaster quilt above. That's how much I love this pattern. I think the central panel looks great worked up to the size of a cushion cover.

for the love of crochet collage ||

For the love of crochet - from left to right:
Penguin - pattern from Lion Brand. This penguin takes just a couple of hours to make but is a great present for friend's little ones and the feedback from them has been great!
Beaded necklace - my own design. I've included this because it was a chance to combine my other crafty love - beads.
Mandala - pattern from A Creative Being. Mandalas are great for when you just have to crochet something and I love the different stitches I got to play around with in this pattern.

So that's how I got started with crochet - what's your story?

*there are some affiliate links in this blog post. If you click on the link and buy the product I get a small amount of commission.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Update :: Craft of the month - crochet

So when I was recently asked about my New Years resolutions I ummed... and ahhed... for a bit before coming up with 'stop learning so many new crafts and get better at the ones I've already learned'.

So I guess I'm stuck with it aren't I ... all year ...

Then I got thinking - how am I going to actually achieve this? And I remembered one of my Christmas pressies Crochet Master Class by Jean Leinhauser and Rita Weiss.

Cue lightbulb moment.

Each month or two I'll take one of the crafts I've dabbled in and have a go at a few new techniques/stitches/patterns etc to help me improve in that particular craft.

Seeing as I have the book, first up is crochet, look out for blog posts over the next few weeks showcase my efforts.

PS the crochet in the picture is my current work in progress - I'll blog about it as soon as I've put the finishing touches to it.

Monday, 12 January 2015

Embellished :: Golden Globes frocks

Here at Embellished Elephant I LOVE a great red carpet dress - especially those with a bit of sparkly embellishment.

While there are best dressed lists littered across the Internet here is a roundup of my favourite embellished gowns from last night's Golden Globes.

1. Julianne Moore in Givenchy
2. Allison Wilson in Armani Prive
3. Sienna Miller in Miu Miu
4. Viola Davies in Donna Karan
5. Emma Stone in Lanvin
6. Joanne Froggatt in James Galanos
7. Dakota Johnson in Chanel Couture
8. Anna Kendrick in Monique Lhulliier
9. Helen Mirren in Dolce & Gabbana

All photos are from Just Jared and you can find the links to these over on my Embellished board on Pinterest.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Back office :: Making blog improvements

I've spent a bit of time today updating various bits of blog, both here on Embellished Elephant and over on my other half's blog Geordie Al's Groundhopper Scrapbook.

So what have I been playing around with?

I made this from photos from the blog arranged in a collage using Be Funky
Once I was happy with the arrangement of photos I saved it and headed over to PicMonkey to add the overlays and text.
Finally I used Irfanview to resize the banner to the correct number of pixels to upload it to Blogger.

Geordie Al requested three new pages to help find the match reports. Rather than just create a list of links I created some banners using Be Funky.

I made some social media buttons using PicMonkey, resized them in Irfanview and then followed this great tutorial to add them to my blog.

Making blog improvements post header
As I mentioned in my previous post I learned from my Christmas Crafts blogging experiment that the first image on a blog post appears for that post in Bloglovin'. As this post is a wordy bloggy kind of post I thought I'd make a post header image.
I headed over to PicMonkey and picked a shape I liked, changed the colour to my blog's colour. I saved that image and then went over to Pixlr because PicMonkey doesn't have my blog's font available in the text feature.

I've also been reading Blog Clarity and Xomisse which have some great tips/articles about blogging so I'm putting together a to do list to continue improving both blogs. Where do you go to learn about blogging? What improvements do you want to make to your blog this year?

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Finished make :: 24 days of Christmas makes - wrap up!

So I made it to the end of my 24 days of Christmas makes! I've taken a bit of time off from making and blogging to recover.

Aside from the fun I had making all these things I learned quite a bit about blogging, photographing my makes and a bit about social media too.

But before I get to that here's all my 24 makes all in one place ...

From left to right
Row 1
1. Retro felt bauble
2. Wooden beaded stars
3. Candy cane reindeer
4. Crochet wreath
Row 2
5. Stitched gift tag
6. Mince pies
7. Crochet penguin
8. Twig stars
9. Beaded Christmas card
Row 3
10. Fabric hearts
11. Yarn wrapped tree
12. Crochet robin bauble
13. Chunky Hat
14. Ivy wreath
Row 4
15. Crochet reindeer
16. Holly garland
17. Scandinavian figurines
18. Pantomime costume
19. Dala horse
Row 5
20. Glittery wooden baubles
21, Cardboard trees
22. Felt tree Christmas card
23. Mini monogrammed stocking
24. Christmas tree topper

It's hard to pick a favourite, but I particularly like the felt holly garland and the beaded Christmas card.

So what did I learn from doing all this?

Writing content
Well making and blogging about it practically every day for a month whilst working and having a home and social life at Christmas time is hard! (I'm sure many of you could have told me that).

I started off putting together blog posts about 10 days before the start of December and had some days off work which I knew I could happily fill with making so I had all the best intentions to keep ahead of things but ... I got a bit lazy about 2/3 of the way through and ... well I thought I'd be OK and catch up ... but I never really did.

So what I learned (apart from the hard work) is to make sure that I plan and schedule content in advance and stick to that schedule. Oh and don't be too ambitious! So many makes in 24 days pushed me in a good way - it allowed me to learn lessons but I didn't produce my best makes and didn't produce my best blog posts - some were rather rushed and I think you can really tell especially from the quality of the photos, which brings me on to ...

Taking photos
What's the point of making something, especially if you are also giving a tutorial, if you can't show off how great what you've made looks? Well in my rush to finish some of my makes I was making them in the evening in my not very well lit living room and taking just a few photos on my iPhone which meant that there were poorly shot, sometimes out of focus with bad compositions and lack of edited.

Where I did take my time I think I produced some lovely photos. Of all of them I think the photos of the Ivy Wreath were some of the best - I took time to photograph in daylight and style the finished make (albeit by just hanging it on my door on a sunny day!)

So what I learned is to take photos during the day, take plenty of them and from different angles and to style the shots. Whilst I already knew (but occasionally ignored these tips) I've learned from my mistakes and will definitely take more time with taking photos, but also I need to set aside time to select and edit my photos, which leads me to ...

Editing photos
By editing photos I mean both selecting the best photos from all that you've taken, cropping and resizing, as well as adding captions.

If you look at my posts about mid way through December there are a few posts with a photo at the start of the post with a banner and description of the make. That was a bit of an experiment using PicMonkey and Pixlr and I really liked designing my 'style' and the final the look of these images. I decided to do this because I've seen this kind of thing on other blogs but also I found that in Bloglovin' (where I'm currently the only follower of my blog - please join me!) that the first photo on the blog is displayed in the feed and I wanted that image to be one of my makes rather than an image from Pinterest (which was the first image in some of my blog posts). I've also read that these kind of images ie ones with text descriptions are more pinnable.

So what I learned is that it is worth taking a bit of time to select, crop and resize photos as well as select a 'header' photo and add some text. This is also important when sharing these photos elsewhere such as ...

Social media
I only joined Instagram a few months ago so this was the biggest learning curve for me (I've blogged previously at another blog).

I wanted to share each of my makes every day after I'd posted the blog post (hoping I'd drive traffic to my blog). I delved into the world of hashtags tagging each of my posts with #christmas and #crafts. And ... well ... it worked.

Both posting regularly and using hashtags gained me:

5 followers, 55 likes and 4 comments

Compared to my lifetime stats of:

6 followers, 76 likes and 5 comments

So what I've learned is that regular posting and using of hashtags improves engagement on Instagram (again I'm sure that plenty people could have told me this). Also the better photos tended to pick up the likes so I need to make sure that I post the best quality photos on Instagram.

So that's what I've learned from doing all this which has got me thinking about goals for 2015 and what content I want to put together for my blog so watch this space ...

PS if you have any blogging, photo or social media lessons you've learned through trial and error it would be great to hear about them.