Tuesday, 15 August 2017

The 100 Day Project: 100 granny squares in 100 days

Back in July I felt the urge to begin a new granny square blanket but at the same time I didn't feel like starting a new one that would end up laying around in the corner of the room for the next 6 months (or longer!) while I occassionally added the odd square to the pile. I remebered seeing the hashtag #the100dayproject on Instagram and decided to challenge myself to make 100 granny squares in 100 days!

The main inspiration for this blanket came from @jen_olivarez who challenged herself to create an embroidered self portrait in 100 days. The stitches in her finished portrait are so tiny and intricate - I absolutely loved watching it grow! If you scroll down her Instagram gallery you will find the images - they are definitely worth a look!

All my squares are following the same pattern: Jan Eaton's Edwardian Fancy from her book 200 Crochet Blocks. This book is an amazing source of granny square inspiration for me, I would recommend it to anyone that wants to move on from basic granny squares. The yarn is odds and ends from my leftover balls of DK wool. There's a mix of alpaca, merino, BFL and vintage wool - as long as it is pure wool, it's in! 

Today is Day 24 and I have 24 squares! Hooray! Every day I am posting the finished square to my Instagram account and I love how the squares are looking dotted around my other pictures. Last week was a very hectic week for me and although I managed to crochet all the squares I was too busy to stop and take photos so I ended up a few days off, but I am all caught up now and back on track.

Yesterday I made a start on some joining and I am really happy with how the squares are sitting together. I am using a double crochet join on the reverse side, working through the back loops only. Over the years I have settled on this as my preferred joining method because it is easy to do and doesn't cut off as much of the final round from the squares as some other methods.

Today is Granny Square Day - an annual event to celebrate the iconic granny square! The idea is for everyone to post a close up image of a granny square and add the hashtag #grannysqaureday2017. When viewed all together the hashtag gallery should look like one big virtual crocheted blanket!

Happy Granny Square Day!

Marta xx

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

What have I been up to in July?

Hello! I know I have been a bit quiet on the blogging front lately so thought I would share a little bit of what I have been up to this month. It's the school summer holidays here in Scotland and my 3 pre-teen/ teenage boys have a whole 6 weeks and 2 days off to enjoy themselves! I embrace this time together without having to rush around to school, clubs and appointments - we can slow down and appreciate life, making up our agenda as we go along.

I shared a blog post about our mini break in Glasgow in the first week of July which you can read about here if you missed it, but I didn't post this photo I took in the Botanical Gardens. The light was just perfect that day and I loved how the spiral staircase up to the top of one of the hothouses contrasted with the lush leaves. I may return to this image as inspiration for crochet design at some point!

Back home I began designing almost at once, working with the hand dyed Queen of Purls Citadel DK that I had bought on my travels. I will share some more about this later!

My eldest boy headed off with the Army Cadets to the outskirts of Liverpool for the middle 2 weeks of the holidays. He returns home on Friday and we look forward to hearing his news ...

I started work on a Kat Goldin pattern too - Lake's Edge hat - for my youngest boy. This was with aran weight wool so it worked up really fast!

I finished the Northmoor Lock shawl by Joanne Scrace. This is possibly my favourite 1 skein project, I have made 3 now! This shawl just needs a good blocking and then it will be ready for gifting.

Once a week my dad, the boys, our dogs and I pile into his car and head for the hills for the day! We go for a short, 8 - 10 mile walk then return home via an icecream shop. I am really enjoying getting out in the fresh air and exploring our beautiful countryside.

I had wanted to start a Virus Shawl by Julia Marquardt for a long time, because it pops up on Instagram so often and is such an eye catching design!! I was given some bamboo/ wool/ polyamide yarn by a friend and decided to use it for this shawl. The pattern worked up beautifully and is now finished, pending final photos and blocking.

Last week I took my boys to stay with my sister in Dunfermline, Fife for a few days. During this time we took a day trip to Edinburgh which we all thoroughly enjoyed. We went shopping, visited the Museum of Scotland, covered loads of charity shops, vintage shops and went to one of my favoutite shops, Greyfriars Art Shop. Below is a photo taken inside the museum - I love the interior architecture of this building and below that my youngest boy in Greyfriars - we both chose a selection of Winsor and Newton pens.

The final thing I have to share with you is something I started just the other day. I decided to hop on board the 100 Day Project - like it sounds, a project completed over the course of 100 days. For my challenge I have chosen to make 1 granny square a day, enough for a large blanket. I will be posting daily photos of my squares over on Instagram and will do some updates on the blog too. They will all follow the same pattern - Edwardian Fancy by Jan Eaton.

Phew, it's been a busy month and there are still a few days to go! Until next time,

Marta xx

Thursday, 13 July 2017

A visit to Queen of Purls wool shop, Glasgow

Last week I took a mini break to Glasgow with my husband. Our three boys were on holiday in Gibraltar with their local Scout Group so we took ourselves off to Scotland's largest city to explore for a few days! I can probably count on one hand the number of times I have been to Glasgow (I was born in Edinburgh hence it's the city I tend to gravitate towards if I am in need of a city trip) so we decided to stay right in the centre and use it as a base for delving into our surroundings.

Day 1, top of my list, was a visit to The Queen of Purls wool shop! Trying not to look too much like tourists, we walked along using Google maps on our phone to navigate our way to the shop. We found it easily enough, recognising the minty colour of the exterior paint straight away!

This impressive piece of artwork was the first thing I saw as we came through the door! Since posting the photo on Instagram, I have found out it's called a God's Eye - this is a very complex version of the ones I remember making with lolly sticks at school.

Moving round, I found one side of the shop was devoted to wool in all the colours of the rainbow! There was a large selection of Jamieson's of Shetland wool, which I have used for many projects including a Croft Hoose Hat I made (pattern by Ella Gordon) and a Paul the Toadstool (pattern by Lalylala). I really like this wool because I find that as I work each stitch I feel like I am engaging with the traditional heritage of wool in Scotland. Not sure if that strikes a chord with anyone else - maybe just me? Let me know in the comments.

Moving on a little I was blown a away by the gorgeous, rich colours of The Queen of Purls hand dyed wool! The colours were bold but in tune with nature - think of all the vibrant autumnal colours you can see in the park. The yarns are available in skeins and have either a Merino or Blue Faced Leicester base. The colours are not all over solid but have just the right amount of subtle variation to keep them exciting and alive.

As well as the pure wools there was a small selection of yarn by well known brands such as Wendy, Opal and West Yorkshire Spinners - plenty for sock knitters in particular to choose from!

There was also a wall featuring many different colours and varieties of wool tops for spinning and felting. My phone battery was almost dead, so I didn't get a photo of this wall, sorry! I did take a snap of my hubby, loom knitting a hat while he waited for me to look around ...

So, what did I buy? I chose 2 of my favourite Queen of Purls Citadel DK colours - Flowers of Sulphur and Space Junk (wonderful names too!). I have already begun a crochet scarf design based on this pair of colours, a fabulous "grellow" combination. The photo below shows my work in progress swirled into a snail shape to keep it slightly mysterious for now.

Until next time, 

Marta xx

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Pattern Release ... in Inside Crochet magazine!

Hello! I am super duper excited about this crochet pattern release because it's in the latest issue of Inside Crochet magazine - my first ever magazine release!

I was hopping around with delight when my copy of the magazine landed on my doorstep! I ripped open the plastic cover and frantically flicked through to find my pattern! I was so happy with the photo shoot images and layout - they really show off the laid back, summery feel my cardigan encapsulates. The magazine is available now in the shops and online here.

The pattern is called Summer Cardigan and it's designed to be crocheted in DK thickness, cotton yarn. I actually designed and made it last summer using Three Bears Yarn affection DK, 100% cotton - but sadly this yarn is discontinued. According to yarnsub.com, Stylecraft Classique cotton DK is a good match - the gauge and fibre content match exactly but the yarn structure is slightly different. The pattern has been written for adult sizes small through to extra large and if you are a more advanced crocheter it will be easy to make changes to the size here and there, to suit for example a fuller bust (just be aware that this may change your yarn quantities!).

I would like to share with you a series of photos which show my design evolving because although I had a rough sketch of how I wanted it to look I made a lot of decisions along the way! These photos will also be helpful if you are following the pattern yourself because you can see how the individual stages look ...

As you know, my favourite social media hangout is instagram, so if you are on instagram too and decide to follow my pattern, please tag your photos with #mrsdaftspaniel for the chance to be featured! The pattern link has also been added to the Ravelry database, so you can link your projects in on there too and I will be able to see them! 

Happy hooking,

Marta xx 

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Pattern Release: Calunna Hills Cowl

Hello! It's been a while since I released a pattern, despite having several at the almost-ready-to-release stage, so I am really happy to be able to share this one with you now! It's the Calunna Hills Cowl, designed in Cascade 220 Heathers 100% peruvian highland wool.

It's rated BEGINNER level and only requires double crochet, half treble and treble stitches (all UK terms), yet at the same time it has enough variety in it to keep a more confident crocheter interested. The pattern calls for Cascade 220 Heathers - a yarn I really love and wrote a blog post all about (which you can find out more about here).

All my patterns are tested before being released and I was fortunate to have 3 lovely testers for this pattern! The close up above is by Laura - @goslingandplumb on Instagram. Laura used Rowan Pure Wool aran in these wonderful hilly colours which I love!

The selfie above was taken by one of my other testers, Marisa - @mariwish on Instagram - and I was really happy to see a photo of the cowl in action! Marisa used Drops Alaska in this gorgeous "grellow" combination. I have a third online friend who is testing out the pattern in US terms for me, the final step in the pattern writing process for me. I will add the US terms as soon as they are available.

The pattern is available as a pdf download from Ravelry or Etsy.

Happy hooking,

Marta xx

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Choosing Colours

Hello! This week's blog post is all about choosing colours! Colour is of huge importance to me when I am crocheting and is often something that people compliment me on, so I thought I would share with you a little bit about colour theory in general and then a take a look at how I personally pick colours and then give you some practical tips for choosing colours for your own projects.

To illustrate my blog post I am going to use this crocheted hexagon blanket - it's also the source of inspiration for this topic so it seemed appropriate. The information I am sharing in this post is not just for crocheters - anyone who is seeking more advice on how to choose and combine colours should find it useful. 

I have always enjoyed colour and combining colours together but it wasn't until my Portfolio Art Course at Angus College (now Dundee and Angus College) that I began to learn the science of colour theory. This new-to-me teaching and the further guidance and instruction I gained at art college (I studied at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, Dundee) gave me the firm foundation that I now base almost all my colour choices on.

The colour wheel is the most common theory which I refer to when choosing colours. Nowadays I don't even think about it, it's like tying my shoelaces, but back then I learnt the principles and applied them every time. So, what is this colour wheel? I decided to have a play about with buttons to create one ...

The colour wheel is a diagram showing where all the colours are in relation to each other. There are 3 primary colours; RED, BLUE and YELLOW. These 3 colours are used in combination to form all the other colours. The secondary colours are ORANGE, GREEN and PURPLE - these are formed by mixing 2 primary colours together. For example, if you look at the colour wheel above, you can see that YELLOW and RED mixed together produces ORANGE. Now, half shut your eyes so that you are squinting at your screen - look at yellow then look at red and watch them blur into orange. 

Complimentary colours (sometimes called contrasting colours) are the colours opposite each other on the colour wheel, ie. BLUE/ ORANGE, RED/ GREEN and YELLOW/ PURPLE. Note that each complimentary colour is made up of 1 primary colour and 1 secondary colour. When choosing colours, complimentary colours go well with each other, they compliment one and other and are usually a safe choice. The two complimentaries which I use over and over are BLUE/ ORANGE and PURPLE/ YELLOW. I tend to have "red and green should never be seen, except on the Christmas tree" in my head when I think of green and red together! However, they do often work; especially pale, lime green with a darker red.

In the image above you can see my clear use of yellow with purple (the most predominant colour combination in this blanket!) and in the centre pale green surrounded by darker reds. 

The colours which are side by side on the colour wheel are analogous colours, ie. PURPLE/ BLUE, BLUE/ GREEN, GREEN/ YELLOW etc. If you are looking for a more subtle colour combination pick analogous colours (these are sometimes referred to as harmonious colours, you can see why!). If your colour scheme requires a trio of colours, choosing 1 primary colour with the 2 secondary colours either side is an excellent combination, ie GREEN/ BLUE/ PURPLE

White, black and grey are used to lighten or darken colours. There is a range called an achromatic scale which can be produced for each colour, starting with the pale, pastel shades through to the very dark, almost black shades. When choosing colours you may wish to stick with colours which are on a similar level of the chromatic scale (eg all pastels or all dark, moody colours) or you may wish to pick colours from different levels on the scale to create greater contrast in tone. I had fun with buttons again and created an achromatic scale for purple ...

So, that's all the basic colour theory that I wanted to share with you - if you are interested in finding out more there is a wealth of information to be found online or in your local library. In the second half of this blog post I want to pass on some practical tips on bringing the theory into your own colour choices. 

One of my favourite ways of looking for new colour combinations is to play around with paint cards from the DIY store! Either keep them as they are (usually 3 to 5 colours in an achromatic colour scale) or cut the strips up to create isolated colour chips. Now try and form some colour trios, basing your 3 colours on the colour theory I have mentioned. There are infinite possibilities and there are no right or wrong answers, go on, explore! You may wish to start a notebook and glue your favourite combinations in it, ready to refer back to when you need inspiration.

Another technique is to create mood boards. Grab a pile of magazines (National Geographic magazines are my favourite for this and are usually fairly cheap in charity shops), some paint cards or fabric samples, scraps of wool, small items from a nature walk - whatever you have to hand - and get creative! If you don't feel like getting hands on, use Pinterest! You can search for millions of different images on Pinterest and if you don't feel like sharing your board with the rest of the world you can set it to "secret".

For colour inspiration the best piece of advice I could give you is to go out and explore! Take photos of colour combinations you find pleasing, draw or record in a notebook things you've seen, collect interesting colours (napkins, leaves, theatre tickets, flower petals, plastic washed up on the beach) - open your eyes, colour is just waiting to be found!

I hope you have found this blog post useful, let me know in the comments if you have! For more colour inspiration, follow me on Instagram

Marta xx

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Exclusive Pattern Release!

Hello! Today I am really pleased to bring news of an exclusive pattern release of one of my very own, completely designed by me, crochet patterns!

I have named this slouchy beanie pattern Cosy Icicles and it will only be available as a kit in Crate Crochet's June subscription box. Crate Crochet is an Australian company which delivers "a monthly box of crochet goodness" directly to your door. The pattern, yarn and everything you need to complete this project will be included as well as a few extra little goodies!

I approached Crate Crochet at the beginning of the year expressing my wish to collaborate with them as a crochet designer for one of their subscription boxes. We agreed on a beanie hat project and I began looking at different Australian wool websites because both Crate Crochet and myself are keen to support local yarn producers. After a lot of thought and discussion back and forward, we chose Morris and Son's Empire - a 10ply merino wool - chosen for both its softness and excellent stitch definition. You can view the entire Morris and Son's range here.

The two colour slouchy beanie hat is crocheted in the round using a mix of double crochet stitches and spike stitches. The hat is worked from brim to the crown and finished off elegantly with a faux fur pompom.

There is currently a giveaway competition on Crate Crochet's Instagram page where you can win a copy of my pattern, the yarn and pompom needed, a Knit Pro crochet hook and a Clover crochet hook. Head over to www.instagram.com/cratecrochet to enter!

I am really excited about the release of this subscription box later this month and seeing everyone's versions of my Cosy Icicles design!

Happy hooking,

Marta xx