Saturday, 9 December 2017

Little Mouse Small Things ATC

Happy Saturday everyone! What fun crafty projects have you got lined up for this weekend? Or will you be heading out to enjoy the lovely crisp winter weather we have been having? (if indeed that is the weather you have been having) It has been snowing around here over the last few days. Ah, the snow. I love the snow. The quiet calm as it falls and the glorious light that is reflected off it is enchanting. I look forward to it every year.

The Mr. and I visited a nearby lake today to enjoy the snow. We sat on a bench and watched as it fell around us and slowly covered us in the most perfect snow flakes. Just look at these tiny falling stars.

The lovely Ali of veryberry handmade hosted another textile ATC swap this winter. The theme this time was 'small things'. It's a secret swap so no one knows who they will receive their ATC from. That makes it quite a lot of fun as you become a detective, trying to discover what your swap partner might like. Ali allows everyone to state if there is something that they love or hate in the sign-up form which is handy, especially as some of the swappers don't have an online presence. My partner did have an online presence and I can tell you that her work is Ahhmazing. Intimidating? Yup.

The email I received from Ali with my partners details said that she loves anything inspired by nature so I got my designing cap on and brainstormed a few ideas. Small things, inspired by nature - A line of tiny ants? A hummingbird? Close up of a flea?

In the end I settled on a little mouse hiding underneath some leaf litter on a forest floor. I used inktense pencils to 'paint' the background onto some soft calico and then used them again to draw some leaves and seeds onto white dress lining fabric. The inktense pencils took to the dress lining really well and looked a bit like a water colour. Very happy. Now all I had to do was make a mouse. I tried (and failed) to draw a mouse the same way as I did the leaves but it all blended in too much so I decided to embroider the mouse onto some calico. I used the same inktense pencils to sketch it out then filled it in with tiny stitches. I used five colours of thread for the body- dark, mid and light brown, grey and white. Black for the eye and two shades of pink for the hands, ears, nose and tail. I used the inktense pencils again to 'paint' between the stitches to add more definition.  The mouse was then appliqued onto the background with a very fine thread and a bed of moss made for him to sit on with lots of tiny french knots. The tail was stem stitched over the top of the 'moss', a few whiskers added and mousey was finished. I embroidered a few stems of grass around mousey to bring the background out then attempted to add the leaves. The dress lining was prone to fray so I used light interfacing to make it a bit stronger and stitched it on with the fine thread. The stitches are almost invisible which I was happy to see. The leaves are only stitched at the top so they can be lifted up to reveal the mouse.

This little mouse ATC took ages to make but I am so pleased with the way it turned out. I hope my swap partner likes it. It was hard to send this wee one away!

I received my happy ATC mail yesterday. It is a little ladybird on a beautifully stitched leaf floating on a river of stitches in a pretty diamond pattern. This ladybird ATC is seriously neat! The lady who made this has a steady hand and miles of patience! I love this ATC. Thank you for making it for me Amanda!

Do you ever join swaps?

Veryberryhandmade's ATC swap is a great one to join as the ATC is just a small size and easily manageable. Ali also has a rule not to send anything else with the ATC except maybe a little card or message so it's not an expensive swap to join.

I'm joining in with Jennifer's Winter Project Link Party over at Thistlebear. I'd recommend a click over there to check out what peeps have linked up as it's always fun and inspiring.

Speak to you soon and happy crafting!



Friday, 27 October 2017

Folksy Friday - Seeing Blue

I've got a showcase of work from designers and makers on Folksy for you today. I've just looked to see when I posted my last Folksy Friday and it is just over a year ago! Yikes. I didn't mean for it to be so long before the next one. For those who may be unfamiliar with Folksy, it is an online marketplace for designer makers and artists who are based in the UK. It's the platform I use for my shop and it has a really nice community of makers who are very supportive of each other, which I love.

I decided, when I started my blog, that I would like to feature designer makers on here to showcase the awesome talent there is out there and to highlight the skill and quality and therefore the benefits of buying handmade.

All of my readers here on Koko Diaries are wonderfully creative and I love visiting all of your blogs to see what lovely things you have been making, so I know you value handmade too. We always buy top quality supplies for the things we make and we put our heart and soul into every part of it, don't we? The passion that people have for their craft and their art is something that I really appreciate and want to support and it actually makes me feel all the more passionate about my own work too.

Since it's been quite warm and bright today and the sky has been a perfect shade blue, I've chosen a few pieces that are a lovely blue colour too 😊.

First up is a necklace with a beautiful pendant by Jo of Little Trinket Girl. I actually bought one of Jo's pendants for my mum this year and the detail really blew me away. It was exquisite.

Shimmering Wildflower Pendant

Do you know that I love the sea? I love everything about the ocean so couldn't resist sharing this mermaid mask by Debbs of Debbs Elliman. Debbs makes the most beautiful masks.

Mermaid mask, masquerade masks, mermaid costume

Teodora of Teodora Paintings turns her artwork into tiny prints that she then incorporates into pieces of jewellery. I'm allergic to metals so can't wear them next to my skin, otherwise I'm sure I'd already own this 😊 (and maybe a few more -stupid allergy)

Turquoise and Yellow Bracelet with Meadow Flowers Art Print

There are some funky softie and doll makers that I love on Folksy too. Martine of Maisie Muffin Rag dolls makes these sweet dolls and lots of outfits for them to wear.

Mouse - Veronique

I love, love, love the softies Debbie of Steam bear & Co. makes. I bought one of Debbie's sock dudes for my great-niece who was born recently (I'm really not old enough for that sentence). Debbie tests them all so they are CE certified and safe for babies. They are uber-quirky and I love them.

Handmade Plushie Bunny with Blue Heart, Nursery, Baby Soft Toy

I'll finish with one of mine. I made this clutch purse with the fabric left over from the dress my mum had made for her to wear at my wedding. It has a big shiny bit of bling on the front too.

Blue Satin Diamante Evening Clutch Purse

Where do you shop for your handmade gifts? Do you have a craft market nearby or do you shop online? Or, do you make all your own handmade gifts?

I'd love to hear your opinions on handmade and handcrafted products.

Have a lovely weekend!!!


Monday, 9 October 2017

Crochet Therapy and Recovering

Happy Monday everyone!

It's been quite a while since I've posted here. My last post was written the day before I went away for the weekend. It really was a good weekend, spent with family, but my health kinda crashed after and it's been hard to pick up again.

I've been thoroughly enjoying the changing seasons. Autumn is my favourite time of year and October is my favourite month. The leaves have been painted in the most beautiful colours. The seed pods of various plants and trees are such interesting shapes. I've been enjoying seeing and smelling autumn whenever I can get out. Do you like autumn too?

I want to share something I made while I was recovering my health. My head is still very foggy, though, so I apologise for any nonsensical writings!

I showed the beginnings of this shawl in my last post. It was just a little triangle then. It's another Victoria shawl by Sandra of Cherry Heart. You can see the first one I made here. This is such a lovely pattern and easy to memorise too, which is great for when you want to crochet something with a therapeutic repetitiveness to it. I only had the strength for 5 to 10 minutes of crochet at a time but the pattern is written so well and includes charts and stitch counts so that it is hard to lose your way even with all of the stopping and starting that I did.

Let me tell you about this yarn. I love this yarn. It is 100% alpaca 4ply, it has a slight halo and is sooo soft! It makes a beautifully drapey fabric that is warm and cosy when crocheted. It is yummy.

Making this was such good therapy. It is so nice to watch a crochet project grow and grow, isn't it? Then, holding it up and seeing the finished project... It is good for the soul. 😊

Last time I crocheted this Victoria shawl, I made it with just one colour so this time I decided to use two -lavender/light purple with a few rows of grey at the border to create a bit of interest. I really like how turned it out.

Sandra has designed the Victoria shawl to be just the perfect size. It will cover shoulders and arms when worn the traditional way, but it's not big enough to be cumbersome, so you can wear it draped asymmetrically across your shoulders or around your neck like an oversized scarf.

I can see me making many of these in my future. I made this one for my shop but I enjoyed wearing it for this photoshoot so much that I think I might just *need* to make one for myself too 😊. Not that I don't already have enough shawls and scarves to keep a small army warm.😁

It feels really good to be back, writing and showing pics. I have lots of things in the pipeline to share on the blog, including a new bag that I finally finished. My plan is to review the pattern, so if any of you like to make handbags look out for that appearing on my blog soon.

Do you like to crochet? Have you made the Victoria shawl pattern before, or do you have another favourite? Do share in the comments. I'd love to hear about what you've been making.

I hope you have a brilliant week


Ps. I made a page for my shawl on Ravelry here
     The shawl has been listed in my Folksy shop, the link is up on the right if you fancy a look

I'm linking up with Jennifer's Winter Link Party at Thistlebear

Thursday, 3 August 2017

New WIPs For Summer

Summer? I can't see summer. Just rain and the howling wind. Ah, well.

I've started a few new projects to keep me occupied while we've been stuck indoors, dodging rain. They're mostly gifts for friends. I love giving handmade gifts. There is something about summer too; I love to give gifts in the summer. Do you feel the same way?

I've made a stack of these tissue holders for a few friends. Some have already gone to their new homes. I used this tutorial to make them if you fancy making some yourself. They are very quick to make and perfect for little gifts. I even made one out of manly fabric for a man friend who always has tissues and a sniffle due to allergies.

These are finished so not technically WIPs.

I've started on a Lalylala crochet doll pattern too. (Isn't that the best name for an amigurumi brand?) Getting two matching legs was pretty difficult but I think I've got something close to a pair here. I can see this is going to take a lot longer than I thought it would. I was hoping it would be finished by this weekend. No way.

I've also started another one of these Victoria shawls by Cherry Heart. This time I'm using a pale lavender. I might use a different colour for the edging this time... I'll see. This is a great pattern for evening crochet in front of the telly and I'm thoroughly enjoying making this one.

Have you got any WIPs you're working on this summer?

Have a lovely weekend guys.


Friday, 28 July 2017

Banana Cake Recipe

I'm back with another easy recipe for you to try. This is one of the husbands favourites. Banana Cake! 

I make these in individual sized shapes then pop them in the freezer. One can be taken out in the morning, before work and it will be defrosted by lunch time (put them in the microwave for a few seconds if you like elevenses). They also serve as a cooler for your lunch box, which is handy.
I have a heart shaped cake tin with 6 individual hearts which is the perfect size for this mixture but an ordinary muffin tin would work too. If you prefer to make one big cake instead of lots of individual ones, use a loaf tin, just remember to bake it for a little bit longer.
This recipe has more of a pudding texture rather than being light like a sponge. It is delicious with a cup of tea in the afternoon and is AMAZING with custard!

2-3 bananas (2 medium sized or 3 small bananas)
55g Softened Butter
130g Self-Raising Flour
100g Caster Sugar
1 Egg
1tsp Baking powder
1tsp Vanilla Essence (optional)

Pre-heat oven to 160'C fan-forced/ 180'C with no fan/ 350'F/ Gas mark 4.
Grease your cake tin. You might find it helpful to very lightly dust the greased cake tin with flour too, as we wont be lining the tin. Make sure you shake any excess flour out.
Mash the bananas in a large bowl. 
Add all other ingredients and beat until well combined. I find an electric hand mixer indispensable here. 
You will see lumps in the batter. Those lumps are banana and are perfectly fine. If you see any other lumps of butter or flour, mix them in.
Spoon the batter into the prepared tin. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and a skewer inserted into a cake comes out clean.
Leave to cool on a wire rack before placing each into individual freezer bags and freeze until needed. Alternatively, enjoy them while still warm with generous lashings of custard. 😋mmm

This recipe is great for using up over-ripe bananas. If you only have one banana you might need to add a little milk to the batter to get a loose dropping consistency.

What you can't see in this pic is my husband waiting for me to finish photographing them, saying "Can I have one, yet?", "Can I have one, now?", "When?... Now?"

This is one of the easiest recipes, ever!! Try it and let me know how you get on.


Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Sewing Around The Bend

How to deal with tight curves when sewing? Pin, pin, pin!

I don't often use pins when I sew. I usually use wonder clips or just hold the pieces together with my fingers as I sew. There are times though, when pins really are essential.

This week I had to sew a straight and long rectangle onto a curved shape.

Look at this tight and narrow curve. Thaaat's pretty tight 😨😬.
Fabric can easily slip and stretch as it moves under the presser foot on your machine or leave you with little puckers when sewing around curves like this. ~I've had plenty of experience with that! *sigh*
I really don't like having to use my seam ripper and re-sew things. Ain't no one got time for that, as they say. Better to take the time to ensure the pieces are measured and cut out accurately and held together in the right places before sewing, to save on all of the teeth grinding frustration of unpicking later.

Using plenty of pins will hold the fabric pieces in place at tricky curves and a bonus is that if the pins are horizontal to the seam they will go through the machine so you don't have to unpin as you sew, which allows for maximum stability as the fabric passes under the needle. Whoop.
Just sew carefully and make sure the needle will pass over the pins and not catch on them and break. ~I've done that too. 😄

The trick to sewing curves is to sew sloooow and stop to adjust the fabric and smooth out any bumps with your fingers regularly. Another tip is to manoeuvre the fabric in front of you so it is straight and parallel with the foot before it passes under it. Sew a few stitches at a time and stop, manoeuvre the fabric around so it will pass straight under the foot, repeat. That way you can keep your seam allowance accurate.

The down side to using pins is all of the pricked fingers you get as you wrangle the fabric pieces around the machine and focus on the seam and pins in front of you and get bitten by a pin sticking out from the back. Ouch. Or does that just happen to me?

Have you got any tips for sewing curves? Share in the comments if you have. I'd love to hear them!


Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Lily Pond Blanket Ta-Da

So, I jumped on the lily pond band-wagon.

Forgive the pics, This blanket hasn't been out of use long enough to block yet 😊
Do you remember this crochet along from a couple of years ago? The lily pond blanket was designed by Jane Crowfoot and was released in segments over the course of a couple of months. I was still quite new to crochet when I saw the blanket pattern and read about the crochet along, having learnt to crochet about six months earlier. This pattern looked like it would be a huge challenge. I love a challenge.

I bought the yarn kit to make the blanket but ended up swapping a couple of the colours that came in the kit. The kit I bought came with a bright neon pink which clashed with every other colour. I couldn't even see where it was meant to sit within the other pinks so I swapped it for a soft rose colour. I think the pinks harmonise a lot better now. The other colour I swapped was teal. The teal, being a little bit green and a little bit blue, created a bridge between the two colours and as the blanket is dominated by the greens and blues, I thought the colours would blend together too much with the teal. It needed definition between the colours, so I bought a dark blue to replace the teal. I did add some teal here and there, just to add a bit of depth where I thought it suited it.

The blanket is made up of eight square or long rectangle blocks that are then joined together. Seven of the blocks are to be made four times and the eighth is made five times so 33 blocks altogether plus a pretty wavy border.

I am totally in love with those colours!

I thoroughly enjoyed making this blanket. When I started I only knew how to do doubles, trebles and chain stitches. Every block had something new for me to learn. I had to learn more stitches, creating wave patterns, pinwheel patterns, fans, multi-layered flowers that sit on a square block. I learnt to adjust tension by changing the hook size. There is even a bit of embroidery in the little blossom blocks. I learnt so much and every pattern block was a challenge so it never got boring. I did have to frog and re-do many a section though. Particularly the bobble stitches. They took me so long to master!

See the stray petal that has landed on the blanket?
The 3D flowers are so pretty and so tactile as they are made up of many layers of pinks, cream and a deliciously warm yellow, all shaped into dainty petals.

This is my favourite block.

I love to learn new things so I really relished in immersing myself in all of those stitches, completing each section one stitch at a time, absorbing all of the new stitches and tricks I was learning along the way. I was amazed to see how my skills in crochet developed over the time I was working on this project. When I first started I was still very new to crochet and I found the blocks very challenging and very difficult and each one took me a long time. As I was getting nearer to finishing the blanket I found the blocks and the stitches easier and easier.

I decided that whenever I got frustrated or fed up with working on it I would put it down and work on other things until I regained enthusiasm. I had no deadline and I wanted to enjoy every part.

Do you have any projects like that? Forever projects. Something that is just for you, just for fun. It doesn't matter how long it takes to complete. It is a project to work on for a while then put away while you work on other things and come back to later. Something to make just for the pure enjoyment of the making and not so much the finished object. This blanket was one of those projects for me. Completely indulgent, something to get lost in when I needed it.

It took me two years to complete. Two years just working on it bit by bit and I enjoyed every stitch! My crochet has come a long way since I first started this blanket. I've made many more things in between and even started to sell some crochet shawls and scarves alongside my jewellery both locally and online. My long term goal is to design a few crochet patterns of my own. I have some ideas floating around but nothing really solid yet.

I love my new blanket. The pattern is beautiful. I love the flowers, I love the patterns created by the different stitches and I love how varied it is. It feels so good to snuggle under knowing all of the time and effort that went in to making it.

I couldn't resist taking photos of the blanket amongst the pale pink blossom that had fallen from the trees. It seemed to be the perfect backdrop for such a pretty blanket and it totally matched the colour palette 😊.

I hope you are enjoying the spring as it transitions into summer and have had the chance to enjoy the blossom.

Thanks for stopping by. Have a lovely week!


P.S My lily pond blanket Ravelry page is here, if you're interested 😊

Linking up with Annemarie's Link Your Stuff