Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Crafting with the Kindle Fire HDX!

For the last couple of weeks I've had the pleasure of playing with a gorgeous new toy - the Kindle Fire HDX! The lovely lightweight tablet is made by Amazon but this particular one came from Argos as part of this tablet range. It allows you to access over 240,000 apps, emails, documents and music as well as your ebook library. As a keen crafter I was particularly interested to see what apps are available that could help me learn a new skill or inspire a new project and I'm here today to tell you about what I found!

I'm already an enthusiastic knitter but so far the art of crochet has totally eluded me. Back at uni (when I had plenty of time on my hands...) I bought a little instruction guide at the local yarn shop with the intention of teaching myself how but wow - that book was dry as dust! I tried my best to copy the step by step photos but just couldn't get it. Some things are much better taught in person rather than read off a page but if you're not lucky enough to know someone with time on their hands to teach you, the next best thing is a video! With this in mind I downloaded ProTube (a YouTube viewing app) and dived right in!

The screen of the Kindle Fire HDX is crystal clear and super bright which makes viewing any kind of video content a pleasure. I curled up on the sofa with my crochet hook, yarn and cup of tea and got ready to learn! I decided to begin my journey into crochet with a simple granny square as they're nice and small, look pretty and best of all, you actually get something at the end of it rather than just producing endless rectangles (like in my early days of knitting!).

After a bit of browsing I came across this fab video from Sarah-Jayne at Bella Coco! I found Sarah-Jayne's instructions really clear and I liked the way she talks you through every stitch rather than jumping ahead and assuming you know what to do! It was really easy to balance the tablet in my lap so I could see both the screen and my crochet at the same time - Sarah-Jayne understandably works a lot faster than me so I found it best to hit pause whenever I needed some time to catch up before moving on to the next section. The tablet connected easily to my wifi and the video streamed beautifully. It was really easy to spool forwards or backwards through the video to re-watch a section or skip ahead if I needed to and best of all, whenever I paused the video the picture was really clear so I could see exactly what I needed to do with my yarn and needle!

Here's my first ever Granny square - not to bad eh? I'm very tempted to embark on a whole blanket as I like the way you can make the squares here and there when you have little pockets of time and then connect them up into one big blanket later! YouTube and the ProTube app get a big thumbs up from me and I'll definitely make them my first port of call the next time I want to pick up a new crafty skill.

If you're interested in learning knitting and crochet or even if you're already a pro, another app I would definitely recommend is Ravulous which is the app version of the super popular online knitting and crochet community Ravelry! If you don't have an account already you'll just need to hop over to their website first of all to register, then you can use the app to access thousands of knitting and crochet projects. I find Ravelry really useful when choosing a new knitting project because no matter what the pattern, you can guarantee that hundreds of Ravelers will have made it already and generously shared their photos and experiences. I find it really helpful to see how a garment looks on real bodies as well as getting inspired by other peoples yarn choices and colour combinations. If there is a particularly tricky bit in a pattern or even a mistake you can guarantee that someone will have picked up on it and there will be a forum post on the subject.

The Ravulous app works particularly well on the Kindle Fire HDX as you can search through hundreds of projects easily, using keywords to find what you're looking for. If you see a project you like you can then add it to your queue for quick reference later. Ravelry also allows you to create a database of the needles and yarns in your stash which is handy when you're out and about shopping - you can pop the tablet in your handbag and, providing the yarn shop has wifi (hello John Lewis!) you can use the app to quickly check what you've already got back at home. There's nothing worse than getting home and discovering you already have two pairs of bamboo 5mm straights! If (heaven forbid) the shop is all out of that yarn your pattern calls for, you can also take a look at other peoples projects to get ideas for yarn substitutions. I've been a member of Ravelry for many years and I think this leap from website to app makes perfect sense - the database function especially is so handy when you're out and about.

If I find myself in a bit of a slump creatively or just in need of some inspiration, the first thing I do is settle down to catch up with my favourite craft blogs! There are so many crafters all over the world making wonderful things and sharing their projects and ideas on blogs. Checking out new craft blogs always leaves me feeling inspired and I love trying out other peoples DIYs. If you're a craft blog fan too then the app 'Find and Craft' is handy to have up your sleeve - you can browse through tonnes of DIY tutorials by category, skill level or keyword search then once you've found something that takes your fancy, the app then directs you to the blog where you can read the full tutorial! Some of my favourites are this cute DIY cardboard box sewing machine by Little Red Window, these geometric planters by Homemade Ginger and these fabric coil bowls by The Red Thread!

Do you have a favourite crafty app? If so I would love to hear about it!

This post is written in collaboration with Argos - thanks for reading!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Liberty Print Bias Binding DIY Tutorial!

Bias binding is so versatile - I use it all the time to finish off straight and curved seams on all sorts of projects (like my Liberty print hot water bottle and Liberty print ballet pump tutorials!). Knowing how to make your own bias binding is a handy skill to have - make it using your main fabric for a neat and discreet edging or using a contrasting fabric for a pretty, contrasting look! Liberty print bias binding is perfect for adding just a touch of floral prettiness to your project and best of all, you only need a 10 by 10 inch square of fabric to make nearly two meters of bias binding!

I learned how to make continuous bias binding using this brilliant tutorial from Coletterie. 

You'll need...

A 10''10'' square of Liberty print fabric
Ruler / tape measure
Water soluble pen or tailors chalk
Thread that blends in with your chosen fabric
Bias tape maker (I've used a 12 mm bias tape maker)
Fabric scissors
Sewing machine

Step 1: Make sure you cut your 10''x10'' square of fabric parallel to the selvedge then cut it in half diagonally along the bias.

Step 2: Arrange the two fabric triangles as below, so that the piece on the left has the right side of the fabric facing you and the piece on the right has the wrong side of the fabric facing you.

Pin and then sew along the bottom edge, as close to the edge of the fabric as you can manage! Open out the two triangles into a rhombus (such a satisfying word to say...) and iron that seam flat.

Step 3: Grab your tape measure or ruler and mark lines one inch apart, horizontally along the wrong side of the fabric.

Step 4: Once you've drawn all your lines, turn the fabric over so the right side is facing you and fold the outside corners towards the middle. The fabric should now be making a square shape but before you pin the two edges together, offset the lines by one at each end like so...

Step 5: Sew a seam close to the edge like before and iron it as flat as you can. Grab your fabric scissors and cut along the lines you drew - before you know it you'll have a gorgeous length of Liberty print ribbon!

Step 8: These bias tape makers look the business but I actually found them a little tricky to use at first.

Start with the wrong side of the fabric facing you and feed it into the wide end of your bias tape maker. Have your iron at the ready! I find it best to pinch the bias tape closed as it comes out the narrow end of the tape maker then press it flat with the iron (it helps if you have asbestos fingers!). Work in small sections and pin as you go.

Winding the bias binder around an old cotton reel helps keep it nice and crisp until you're ready to use it!

Now you can add a Liberty print trim to all your projects - enjoy!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Six Weeks

Wow the first six weeks of motherhood were no joke! The sleeplessness, the feeding, the laundry... it took me a while to realise that when people say 'sleep when the baby sleeps' they do mean it literally - you never know which nap could be your last! Over the last week though things seem to have clicked into place - everything is easier all of a sudden. Probably a combination of Orla being a little bit bigger and Ciaran and I getting the hang of things. Now Orla and I go out every day with the pram - for walks around the village, to the pub to meet our other new Mum friends for lunch and last week I even brought her along to Kirsty Allsopp's Handmade Fair!

Orla is a dream, I love her so much it's unreal! I wish you could see her funny face when she wakes up in the morning and looks around her or the little 'ahhhhhh' sound she makes after she sneezes. She's been really alert from day one (she had her eyes open as soon as she was born!) but now that she recognises my face as well as my voice I get the most amazing smiles and giggles!

She currently weighs a robust 8lb 10 and finally fits into her 'newborn' size clothes. Although it's obviously brilliant that she's gaining weight and getting bigger I can't help feeling a little sad that she's growing up so fast. I try to savour every moment and remember that she won't always fall asleep on my shoulder or curled up on my chest, though at the same time I can't wait for the future - getting to know this amazing little girl. Motherhood is brilliant!

Monday, September 15, 2014

It's that time of year again...

My favourite time. Summer is on it's way out and Autumn is on it's way in!

You've got to make a wish when the chimney sweep's brush pokes out the top of the chimney and shake his hand for good luck.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Pom Pom Garland DIY Tutorial

I made this fun pom pom garland a few weeks ago whilst waiting for Orla to arrive! It looks bright and cheerful adorning a wall in her nursery, though you could use it to brighten up a corner in any room! Pom poms are so fun and simple to make too - I recommend investing in a pom pom maker, though you can do it the good old fashioned way and make a cardboard template if you prefer. I love pink and green together - particularly these raspberry and pistachio shades! You can make a pom pom garland too with my super simple tutorial!

You will need...

Approx. 85 meters of yarn in your main colour (I used Rowan Handknit Cotton in Raspberry)
Approx. 55 meters of yarn in a contrasting colour (I used Rowan Handknit Cotton in Celery)
35mm pom pom maker (get 'em here!)
Crochet hook (I used a 3.5 mm size hook but you can pick your size depending on what yarn you're using)
Tapestry needle

Step 1:

Make a sliding knot as follows...

Hold out two fingers and loop the yarn round twice clockwise. Bring the loose end of the yarn over towards the left hand side of your loops then tuck it behind and bring a new loop under the two original strands...just like in picture number 4!

Insert the crochet hook into the loop then pull it tight like a little noose. You now have a super handy sliding knot!

Work in chain stitch until your garland is the desired length - I made mine just over 1.5 meters!

Step 2: 

To make a pom pom, first take your pom pom maker and open up the coloured 'arms'. Start wrapping your yarn around the arms, first one side and then the other. For a really fluffy, plush pom pom try and cram as much yarn on there as possible whilst still allowing the arms to pretty much fold back into their original position.

Once you've filled both sets of arms with yarn and folded them in, take a small pair of scissors and snip the yarn right the way round.

Take a small length of yarn and wrap it round the pom pom maker, pulling it tight and securing with a double knot. It's important for the yarn to be tight so it holds your pom pom together nicely!

Carefully pull apart the pom pom maker to release your pom pom then fluff it up a bit with your fingers!

You might notice that your pom pom looks a little bit wonky at this point and is shaped more like a hamburger than a little plump sphere. All you need to do is take a pair of scissors and give it a little trim! Like giving Barbie a haircut, you might feel nervous and a little tentative at first but as you snip away you'll get more and more confident as the true shape of the pom pom is revealed!

I made six green pom poms and five pink pom poms.

Step 3: 

Thread your tapestry needle with a short length of yarn and thread each pom pom onto your chain stitch garland. Secure each pom pom with a double knot and trim the ends of the thread. I found it helpful to spread the garland out on the floor first to figure out how to space out the pom poms evenly before attaching them to the garland.

Your pom pom garland is now ready to hang!