The time for playing with lavender is now!

Hi there! At this time of year I am usually too busy to stop and write a ‘how to’ post about lavender and the different crafts I make with it. But by the time I do get to write about it, with ‘how to’ instructions, it is a bit too late! So this year I am providing links to all of my previous posts about lavender in this blog. That way, if you want to make a lavender wand, or a lavender wreath, you can do so while the lavender is still available!

12 seems to be the number of lavender wands that I enjoy making in a season. I make those 12 really quickly, and then I don’t have any interest to make more. I looked at possibly trying some different styles this year, but honestly, I like mine best (says she, trying to be humble about it). I did make one change for the last few that I made this year – instead of using 25 stems, I used 35 – 41 stems. They were really thick! I’m not sure if that is better, or just different. You can read how to make lavender wands here, or watch a video here.

I did get a bit of a head start on my wreath making this year. That’s because for the first time, instead of waiting for the lavender to dry, I made a fresh lavender wreath. I usually make wreaths with dried lavender, and attach the lavender with floral ‘u’ pins. This wreath was made using fresh lavender and the lavender was attached with one continuous piece of floral wire. It has a very different look! It hangs in my kitchen, and in the past couple of weeks it has grown on me. I now like it very much! You can see some of my past wreaths and how I made them here, here, here, here, and here .

There are quite a few lavender plants in our garden. They are at different stages of maturity and their blooms develop at slightly different times. I’ve gone through and cut most of the mature stems over the past two weeks. They are now drying out – in my house. It’s a bit tricky this year! I usually dry them in our ‘sitting room’ which isn’t usually used. But this year, the ‘sitting room’ is my husband’s office and my son has started playing our piano, which is also in that room. So if my husband isn’t in the room, my son is! Instead, the lavender is drying in our front hall. Some people hang their lavender. I hang my roses and other flowers to dry them, but I just haven’t managed to figure out how to hang the huge amount of lavender I have, yet. The lavender dries out really quickly – a few weeks, tops. I still have two plants with immature blooms, that should be ready for me to use next week (so I could make more wands if I wanted to!).

I will start making dried lavender wreaths in the next couple of weeks. Again, it is a bit tricky this year as the table I usually use for my crafts is now my work desk. It means that I’ll have to start and finish the task over the weekend – including cleaning up the mess! Boy do I miss the use of the ‘unused’ sitting room where I could come and go to craft, and just close the door to hide my mess until I was completely finished.

I hope you find the tutorials helpful! It is fun for me to look back on all of the different styles of wreaths and different colors of wands that I’ve made over the years. My lavender pages are by far the most popular pages on my website – I’m not alone in my enjoyment of making things from the garden! It is such a bonus to be able to enjoy the relaxing fragrance of lavender while working with it. 🙂

Will you make any lavender crafts this year?

In Peace,
Dana

July 10 front gate garden
It is traditional to post a picture of this bed! It has 2 lavender plants, Incrediball hydrangea, hydrangea paniculata, Lychnis Coronaria Rose Campion, Pittosporum Tom Thumb, Bergenia, and Syringa v. Beauty of Moscow.
Bunch of lavender wands
This season’s lavender wands in front of one of our lavender plants. The stems are a bright green when they are first cut, but will dry to a dark green over time.
lavender wands in lavender
Lavender wands are easy to make and mostly involve weaving ribbon through stems.
Lavender display
The easiest way to display lavender is to simply throw it in a vase (no water required)!
basket of lavender
This basket full of lavender is from part of one plant.
Lavender wreath in progress collage
It was a little bit challenging to make the wreath with one continuous piece of wire. But it was a lot faster than my usual method!
Wreath on playhouse collage
I used dried peony flowers (Sarah Bernhardt) as an accent.
lavender wreath inside collage
This is where the wreath lives now – in my kitchen.
fresh lavender wreath
A fresh lavender wreath hanging on our playhouse door.
Mom in the Garden with lavender
Sunny, blue skies are every reason to smile!

I hope your summer is sunny and full of fun for you 🙂

A heartfelt blanket :-)

bleeding heart

Bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis)

Hi there! How are you? I hope you are safe and well, and able to do things that bring you joy. Today’s post isn’t about gardening, but about my second hobby: crocheting! I really enjoy having projects to focus on. As it turns out, at the start of our ‘stay at home’ orders due to Covid-19 here in Ireland, I was asked to make a blanket for a sweet little girl who liked pink and purple. This was a perfect distraction for me, and a project which I really enjoyed!

c2c first corner

The c2c blanket is made ‘corner to corner’

I like crocheting and creating with my hands. I have to say that I like a bit of a challenge, too, and to learn new stitches or patterns. So I went searching for something new to catch my eye for this blanket. I was very lucky to come across a lovely heart blanket from Motorave_slc on Instagram (she’s also on Etsy: Motorave_slc). I sent Jessica a message on Instagram and she kindly sent me the diagram of the blanket, which is the basis for the pattern. This was a lovely act of kindness on Jessica’s part, which I’m so thankful for!

back c2c half way through

the back of the c2c half way through

This blanket pattern is called ‘corner to corner’ (written c2c). Unlike traditional blankets which are made row by row from bottom to top, this blanket is made from bottom right corner to top left corner. The main stitch used throughout is a double crochet (American terminology) done in groups of 3, along with chain stitches – all very easy. Once you get the hang of the pattern, it is fun to make! The interesting part was having all of the colors attached to the blanket as you create it, which at some points in the blanket was tricky to work around!

c2c single upsidedown blackberry heart

The pattern had two upside down hearts

I started off watching a video tutorial by The Crochet Crowd. Over the course of nearly an hour, they covered every aspect of making a c2c blanket as well as creating and reading a c2c pattern. After all of that I was finally ready to begin!

c2c close up side

A view of the side hearts and the border

As usual, I used my favorite yarn which is Caron Simply Soft, in soft pink, orchid, lavender, blackberry and fuchsia. I just love the colors and I thought they all went so well with the soft pink background. The size ended up being 44 inches x 35 inches – not too big and not too small. It just goes to show that it is always worth having lots of stock of different colors in the house, because you never know when you’ll be in lock-down and unable to buy more yarn! 😉

c2c close up side

A view of the side hearts and the border

c2c border start

The border changes with every additional color added

Once I finished the main blanket, I then had to pick a border. I decided on a stitch that is very similar to the border I used on my last blanket (my poppy blanket). I just like that style: a simple single crochet stitch with a spike stitch. 

c2c side hearts

I thought the hearts were just perfect!

I will admit to being one of the slowest crocheters ever! I just don’t go fast. And if I’m crocheting, I’m crocheting, and I’m not multi-tasking. That’s just how I do it. So this blanket took me a month to complete. I really enjoyed watching how it came together with each heart. The center part with the name was tricky. That’s all I’ll say about that!

c2c corner border

a closeup of the corner border

c2c full flat view

A full view of the blanket

I was very happy with the finished blanket! I will definitely use the corner to corner pattern again. I’m not sure what my next project is…but I have a few ideas!

Take care and stay safe!

In Peace,
Dana

c2c full blanket

My daughter holding up the blanket for me to photograph

 

Things will get done when they get done

Lavender wreath in the making - first round

It starts with a straw wreath frame, some floral ‘U’ pins, and groups of 12 stems of lavender each being pinned into place!

There are lots of good things about getting older, and one of them is knowing that things will get done when they get done. Are you smiling? I hope so. Because isn’t it the truth? I definitely used to fret more when I was younger, worrying about when things would get done. Now, a bit older and (hopefully) wiser, I see that life is so full, and most of us are always in ‘go’ mode which makes it really difficult to slow down or even rest. I’m learning that it is perfectly O.K. to stop and take some time out, because things will get done when they get done.

Lavender Wreath in progress - half way

Section by section the lavender is pinned in place.

Lavender Wreath + fuschia roses side view

A side view shows that the wreath frame is completely covered in lavender, with an accent of roses and hydrangea.

Lavender wreath + fuschia roses + hydrangea full view

This design has the lavender go in one direction, ending with flowers.

This leads me to my lavender story. You see, I needed a rest. I’m used to going ‘non-stop’ and this past year I’ve just had to slow things down a bit. With my lavender this meant that while I harvested it in July, and even made some lavender wands, after I laid it out to dry, I just left it. One wreath was made ‘on schedule’, but then … nothing. I have no reason, and 100 reasons. There was a little progress as the summer shifted into fall and chilled into winter, and the little progress kept on going and bit by bit the wreaths were made. I needed that extra time to not rush through and make them just to make them. I wanted to enjoy the process and be present when I did so.

Lavender wreath + Rosemary and Rose focus - in progress

This wreath has Rosemary and roses in the design.

Lavender wreath + Rosemary in progress

I really like the green of the Rosemary when it is first cut. Everything is attached with the floral ‘U’ pins, except for the roses, which are glued on with a hot glue-gun.

Rosemary from my garden

Rosemary from my garden.

Lavender Wreath with Rosemary + roses complete

I’m glad to have someplace to make my wreaths – and not worry about the mess!

I can be somewhat impulsive, and when the mood strikes to create a wreath, I just go with it, gathering up whatever materials tickle my fancy that day. This is the first year that I used up nearly all of my dried lavender from this season. The wreaths were so full of lavender!

Lavender wreath in progress roses on top

This design was rather unusual. I worked the lavender in three rows around the frame. I have to say that this was a bit tricky to work through.

Lavender wreath with roses on top

Close up of the dried roses.

lavender wreath + roses on top + ribbon on door

The finished wreath embellished with a ribbon.

Repeating designs is not really something I like to do. I prefer to try new ways of making things. Sometimes this works well, and sometimes I think ‘I should have stuck to the original plan’! It’s a learning process. This season my dried roses really kept their colors, which I think adds a nice contrast to the shape and color of the lavender. I do like to work with greens, too, so the Rosemary was a nice addition – although sadly, it won’t keep that pretty bright green color. This is the first time that I worked a very tiny amount of hydrangea into the lavender wreath, too, just to try something different!

Lavender in basket

This is my lavender basket, which is now nearly empty.

I am now finished with making lavender wreaths for this year, and I’m happy to say that I enjoyed the process (and I like the wreaths, too)! And it is so true that things will get done when they get done.

In Peace,
Dana

Lavender wreath + Rosemary + roses outside

Lavender, Rosemary and Roses

Lavender wreath roses on top + ribbon

Lavender wreath with roses and a ribbon

Lavender wreath + fuschia roses full view

Lavender wreath with roses and hydrangea

 

Being creative is good for the soul

Blue Blanket in the beginning Jan 2019

Starting with a simple ‘Robin’s egg blue’ base for the blanket

Creating with my hands is one of my favorite things to do. Whether it be crocheting, making wreaths, or whatever, I enjoy crafts that finish with a lovely ‘something’.

Blue blanket no flowers up close

A close up of the waistcoat stitch (doesn’t look like crochet to me)

Crocheting is so much more than just granny squares (although there’s nothing wrong with a good granny square!). I made a number of items over the past few years as gifts and I felt the time was right to make something for myself.

Blue blanket no flowers border up close

close up of the border (variation of the spike stitch)

We’d completely ‘done up’ our family room last year: pulled up the rug, installed an electric fireplace, bought a new couch, curtains, and light fixture, and painted the room. It was a long time in the making and last year everything finally came together. We all love it, especially the couch. It is like getting into a big family bed. 🙂

Blue blanket with Emer

The main blanket finished but not yet embellished with poppies, held by my lovely daughter. There are orange California poppies in the background of the picture, along with red poppies which are not as easily seen here.

We went a bit bold with the paint in the family room – it is Adonis blue. Happy to say that we really like it. And we went bold again in pairing it with red curtains. So I wanted a blanket that would bring those colors together. Not only that, I wanted to embellish it with poppies, to tie in with the curtains. That was January 2019.

poppy petal in progress

It was a painstaking process figuring out the poppy pattern!

Poppy center up close

The pistil (in black) and stamen (in bone) give extra texture to the flower.

Some things just take time, and deciding which pattern to use for the main blanket was no exception. I finally decided on a pattern that doesn’t really look like crochet. It is called the waistcoat stitch. I used a tutorial from Crafternoon Treats.

Poppy flower up close

The completed poppy flower looks different depending on whether the petals are laid flat or scrunched up (my preference).

The border is where I worked in the colors of the curtains, using a variation of the spike stitch. I used Caron Simply Soft yarn, in harvest red, bone, black, off white for the border and the main blanket is in Robin’s egg blue. It is a ‘throw’ size, and if you sit nice and close to each other, it will cover two people for watching tv. (4′ x 5.5′)

Blue blanket on couch with some flowers

Playing around with the flowers to figure out where to place them.

I ran out of the blue about half way through, but I had a trip to the States coming up, so I restocked (phew!). I finally finished the main blanket in June.

Blue Blanket with poppies shaded + sun

Completed blanket with poppies (winter sunlight distorts the coloring).

Finding a pattern that I liked for the poppies was a whole other challenge! Finally, I found one that had the stamen and pistil, with the bonus of texture for the pistil, and four individual petals. I really like it. I found it on crochet-ideas.com. The video is in Italian, but with subtitles, so although tricky, it was manageable.

Family room full view Nov 17 (1)

Our family room transformed!

It took some time figuring out how I wanted the poppies to look on the blanket. They couldn’t be symmetrical – anyone who’s grown poppies will know that they grow all over the place, and never where you plan them! I also didn’t want to cover the blanket in them, as I quite like the blue and wanted to be able to see it. So they are in a bit of a cascade from one corner to the opposite corner.  Voilà!

Blue Blanket with poppies + Dana in Family room

Me with my blanket 🙂

I am absolutely delighted with it, and thankfully the family like it too. I’m glad I took my time with it to find the right patterns. And I think it fits in perfectly in our family room.

Good things come to those who wait…

In Peace,
Dana

Step-by-step instructions to make Lavender Wands

Lavender, Hydrangea Incrediball in evening sunlight

Lavender, hydrangea Incrediball, hydrangea paniculata in mid-July

Hi there! What a summer we’ve had! The weather didn’t always cooperate, but we managed to get out, get moving and have fun just the same. I sit here now, looking back on all of the pictures I’ve taken and the summer seems to have passed in a blur! I vaguely remember making some lavender wands during a short window of opportunity, and noting that I wanted to blog about making them, but then moving on to a million other ‘summer’ things. So here I am writing the blog post for you to use *next* summer! 🙂

lavender bed July 20

My main lavender bed with mature plants in mid July, amongst hydrangea, lilies, a vase of daisies and some annual plants. The tall yellow plants in the background are fennel plants.

First things first: What is a lavender wand? A lavender wand is a whimsical way to preserve the lovely smell of the lavender flower. A quick description of how to do that would be to bend the stems of the lavender over the flower head and weave a ribbon around the stems! I’ll give more detailed instructions below. But first we need some lavender. The lavender I grow is ‘Lavandula angustifolia’ (English lavender). I have found that it is perfect for making wands, wreaths, and drying for sachets. It also looks really nice in the garden. It is easy to grow, too. I have plants that get only morning sun, and I have plants that get full sun. They are all happy, and don’t require extra watering. The plants spread and grow bigger over time. The 10 year old plant in the picture above is more than 3 feet across.

There is a one to two week window to make lavender wands, which is the time when the individual blooms just start to open. This time is best because the stems are still pliable, which is necessary in order to bend them without breaking them. As the summer goes on, the stems get more stiff and will break when bent. The established plant will have new stems (referring to the green part) every year which are quite thin with a smaller flower head, while ‘returning’ older stems will be thicker and longer, and the flower heads will also be much longer than newer ones. The thicker stems are the ones you want to use, to have ‘full’ wands.

ribbon label: 3/8 inch x 18 ft.

Wider ribbon is easier to use, and helps the weaving to go much faster! I prefer 3/8 inch (9 mm). 60 inches (152 mm) of ribbon will cover one wand.

lavender tied with ribbon

Tie a ribbon at the base of the flowers (not too tight or you’ll break the stems).

I use 25 stems for my wands to keep them nice and thick, and because inevitably, a stem or two will break, and starting with 25, the wand will still be full looking. I tend to cut my lavender long, cutting 2/3 of the stem, and then after grouping the 25 stems together, I will cut them to a shorter, more manageable length. Clear the length of the stems, taking off any green leaves or tiny side-blooms. The odd number is necessary to properly weave the ribbon through the stems. Sometimes the last group will have three stems, but this really doesn’t matter. After I’ve gathered the 25 stems and lined-up all of the flower heads, I tie the ribbon around the stems and make a knot just at the base of the flower heads. Using wider ribbon is easier to weave with – I prefer 3/8 inch (9 mm). Approximately 60 inches of ribbon (152 mm) will cover one wand.

lavender wand with stems folded over

After knotting the ribbon around the base of the flower heads, carefully fold the stems over the flowers

The next part is probably the trickiest: while holding the 25 stems in your hand, carefully bend the stems over the flower heads, keeping them tidy for the next step of weaving the ribbon. The next step is simple weaving: I group the stems in twos, just to make it easier. Weave the ribbon over and under each group of two stems, pulling tightly after each one, but not too tightly as to break a stem, or to bunch up the ribbon. Lavender wand top view

A (slightly blurry) top view of a lavender wand being made.

Lavender Wands top view end of August

Here’s a top view of the lavender wands after they have fully dried, in late August

Lavender Wand being made

Weave the ribbon around two stems at a time, covering the lavender flowers.

Lavender wand with inch worm

Can you see the inch worm on the green stem just under the ‘Mom in the Garden’ tag?

I prefer my wands to be nice and full. That means there will be a lot of flowers to cover! It helps to evenly space out the stems. You might still have some stray flowers poking out after you are finished. I think those are nice to see, especially when trying to explain to someone what exactly a ‘Lavender Wand’ is! 🙂

Lavender wand standing lavender ribbon

I’m just having fun with this picture. Still a bit more to go!

It’s good to keep the ribbon nice and tight, because as the lavender flowers dry, they shrink in size. A tightly wound ribbon will ensure a neat and tidy wand even after it dries. Weave until just past the bottom of the flower head. I like to have ribbon on the handle, too, and I found a website with pictures of the neatest way to cover the lavender handles. The site is called ‘How’s Robb’ blog. The thing is, they didn’t explain how to make the knots! But it really is simple, and I posted photos of the process here. You make a knot, turn the ribbon in the opposite direction, wrapping it round the stems and make another knot under the previous knot, all the way down the stem. I also did a video tutorial here. Sometimes I like watching videos to learn something new, sometimes I want pictures, and sometimes I want text. So now I have it all covered!

Lavender wands completed

Completed lavender wands

lavender wands in pink and blue

Some brightly colored ribbon really makes the wands stand out!

At this stage, I’ve used just about every color and style of ribbon on my wands. My favorite type is a shiny ribbon, 3/8 inch, and bright colors. Lighter colored ribbons tend to stain green from the stems, which isn’t ideal.  I think this year I liked the plum color best.

group of lavender wands

I like using all different color ribbons, but the purple shades are probably my favorite!

Lavender wands are just fun to have, and even more fun to give away as gifts. Honestly, mine last for years. To enjoy their scent, I just place the flower head part of the wand between both of my hands and rub back and forth a few times! You could bang it against something, too, but that might break the handle 🙂

lavender wands on scarf

This scarf, from a friend in Japan, was a perfect backdrop to use for taking pictures of the wands!

Lavender wands end of August

The stems change color as they dry. This picture was taken at the end of August of these wands which were made in mid-July.

So next year, just when the lavender flowers start to bloom, I will repost this post so we can all make beautiful lavender wands!

Here’s to getting things done, even if a little late. 🙂

In peace,
Dana

Wreath making in the height of Lavender Season

One of my lavender plants (lavandula angustifolia) nestled between Pittosporum Tom Thumb and Hydrangea Incrediball

I have quite a few lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) plants . They thrive in my yard, and I am quite happy about that! About mid-July, depending on the weather, I start to “harvest” the lavender. I cut it as it just starts to bloom, cutting about 2/3 of the stem (or a bit more). Then, this is the fun part, I lay it on the floor around my house; in my sitting room, in my bedroom, in any free space that I can find, because it is a lot of lavender! I try and lay it flat, to help it to dry out as quickly as possible. A couple of weeks usually does the trick (as long as it isn’t wet when I cut it). Thankfully, we don’t really use the sitting room, so at least it isn’t a problem to use the entire floor of that room!

This one is my favorite lavender plant (Lavandula angustifolia) in bloom

There are a few things I do with the lavender. If I have time when I cut it, I will make lavender wands (the stems must be fresh though, so they don’t break while bending). I also make lavender sachets, which involves taking the lavender off of the stems after they are dried, and then sewing up little pouches. You can click here to read and see more about wands and sachets. But my favorite craft to do with lavender is to make wreaths.

I took apart one of last year’s lavender wreaths. Here’s what came off of it! (Lavender, Rosemary, Roses, Spanish moss)

It is a time when I can be creative, work with my hands and just have fun.  I love it! Depending on the wreath, it takes about two hours to make, give or take. Aside from the plant materials, the main items which I use are: floral straw wreath form, floral “u” pins, and secateurs. I try and use some kind of different plant material every year, and this year I used poppy seed pods, and an artichoke. I made three different wreaths, each a bit different. Here’s a look at what I did!

This is how it begins: a bunch of lavender, and a wreath form!

I start with grabbing a bunch of dried lavender and any other plant materials I’m going to use. The above wreath is only going to have those four roses with the lavender. I attached the roses first and then worked around them, starting on the top right. I tend to work out from the top, first going right half way around, and then working from the top again and going left.

I cut the lavender a bit more than one width of my finger space from the flower.

It can be a tedious task, as it takes many, many bunches of lavender to fill the wreath! The up-side is that the room smells wonderful while working with the lavender!

I love my GelPro classic gel mat, especially when standing on tiles for so long! (I also love my sparkle Birkenstocks)

It takes patience, but it is lovely to see how it fills in and of course the smell is wonderfully relaxing!

One little bunch at a time!

The next wreath had lots more plant material! I didn’t use the artichoke which is in bloom on the table, as it was too big.  I did use a tiny one, though.

The lavender in the center of this wreath is actually from last year. You can see the difference in color when I add the outside layer.

close up of the roses, poppy seed pods, Rosemary and artichoke

It was only after taking the close-up picture above that I realized that the wreath would look better with another layer of lavender. It just looked like it was missing something.

Filling in an outside layer of lavender.

Ah yes, you can see it now, can’t you?  The inside layer is definitely lighter! 🙂 This is where the two plus hours comes in…

The third lavender wreath will have poppy seed pods and roses.

My third lavender wreath had roses and poppy seed pods.  I started at the top left for this one, and placed the roses on the right.

Pinning the roses on.

The roses are also from my garden.  I try and cut as many as possible early in the season so they will be dried enough for the wreaths.  I think I’ve finally decided that it is best to cut them while they are still closed. They will still dry even when opened, but the color stays darker when they are closed.

The poppy seed pods were neat!

I really like the poppy seed pods!  This is my first time using them in a wreath. I know they dry brown, so I’m not sure how it will look in a few weeks time. I’ve also learned NOT to turn the wreath upside down as millions of teeny tiny seeds will go everywhere! 🙂

I LOVE making lavender wreaths! I had to stop at three because I don’t have any more wreath forms and I can’t seem to get my hands on them here!  Please let me know if you see where I can buy them in Ireland!

Plain and simple with LOTS of lavender.

A little bit more than “plain and simple”, but still LOTS of lavender!

Over the top! A lavender wreath with yarrow, roses, poppy seed pods, rosemary, and one globe artichoke. Oh – and LOTS of lavender!

Whatever lavender doesn’t get used in the wreaths will be taken off of the stems and stored in containers to be made into sachets (eventually).  The lavender stays fragrant for a very long time!

There is lavender growing around our playhouse, too!

I have not harvested all of my lavender, as that wouldn’t be fair to the bees!  No, there is still plenty for them.  I will have to trim those plants later in the season, after the bees are finished with them.

I hope you enjoyed seeing how I create my lavender wreaths!

In peace,
Dana

So many butterflies … of the crochet variety!

crochet butterfly blanket (with our apple tree and cherry tree in the background)

This sounds a bit of a cliché, but creating a special, unique and personal gift is something that I love to do. There is a young special person in our lives, and I wanted to make her a gift which she would know was made just for her. Although the “perfect” idea did not come to me easily, and I did a lot of searching on-line, I think in the end that I found exactly what I was looking for.  🙂

This is my crochet “butterfly blanket”!  The butterflies are crocheted and are part of the blanket (not appliqué).  But I discovered that although the butterflies were so cute when I made them, the wings were curling up and then they just looked like bunches of yarn.  Perhaps if I blocked them they would stay in place, but instead of doing that, I decided they would look nice embellished with sequins and beads.

the details

Yes, sequins and beads … on every. single. butterfly.  … and there are fifty-five butterflies! I have to admit though, that I really enjoyed this part. I mixed and matched colors and somehow it all came together in a fun way.

more details

As for the colors, lavender, light pink and light blue are the favorite colors of our special little person.  Those colors were the main focus of the blanket, with yellow and raspberry thrown in to add that splash of color. I used my favorite yarn, which is Caron simply soft. They have an amazing range of colors!

my daughter was kind enough to model the full view of the blanket for me

I have to admit that although I used a pattern to create the butterflies, there is no “overall” pattern. (You can see the free on-line MyPicot butterfly pattern here.)  If I were to make this one again, I would definitely do more “before we start” planning. The complete randomness of the butterflies is O.K. by me, but for my daughter who is mathematically minded, it is very unsettling!

a relaxed look

Borders of blankets can be tricky.  I played around with this aspect of the blanket, too. I used the “bangles” pattern from Nicky Epstein’s “Crocheting on the edge” book.  The blanket took on completely different looks with each round of color that I added! But when I completed the blue round, I felt it looked complete.  Phew!  I finished it the day before our special someone’s First Holy Communion!

our little special someone is all smiles with her special blanket!

Thankfully, she smiled when she opened her gift.  (double phew!!)

That’s three blankets in over eight months (I’m a slow crocheter), so now it is time for me to take a tiny break – at least from making blankets!

You will now find me in the garden on a more regular basis 🙂

In peace,
Dana

An “Elmer” blanket – because to be yourself is the best way to be!

One of our favorite children’s books!

Isn’t it wonderful how children’s story books are able to teach life lessons in such a fun way? A favorite book of my family is Elmer by David McKee.  The copyright is 1968, and the story still holds its worth today. It is the tale of a patchwork colored elephant who doesn’t like being different than all of the other elephants. He tries to change by acting and looking like everyone else, but he learns along the way that everyone loves him for who he is, and that it is always best to be yourself.  Such a simple, touching story.

19 of the 21 colors used in the blanket (navy and cream are missing)

I wanted to make a special blanket for my daughter’s 18th birthday, for her to take to college next year.  We had been looking at lots of different styles together, but once we had the idea for an Elmer blanket, that was it, the decision was made. I took out our copy of the book and kept it nearby, for nostalgic reasons.  It surprises me how even still, every stage of parenthood is such a gift. I could write so many things to describe how wonderful my daughter is, and how much we love her.  I won’t do that, though! 🙂  I will simply share that she is someone who has always been comfortable being herself.

having fun with granny squares

So this is the story of my creating our own Elmer blanket.  I was lucky to have LOADS of colors to use (21 different colors, actually).  I have no idea where I had all of that yarn stashed (read: hidden)! I’ve learned from previous projects that it is best to use the same type of yarn throughout a project.  My yarn of choice here was Caron Simply Soft.

the pattern is that there isn’t a pattern

The crochet squares are five rounds, which is somewhat large, but a very simple pattern. The center of the square is comprised of a pattern of 4 double crochet to 3 chain stitches, with each round after that increasing by 4, the final row having 20 double crochet to 3 chain stitches.  There are 150 squares, which comfortably covers a single bed.  I crocheted them together using a technique that doesn’t show the stitches on the front. I’d never done this before, so the Little Tin Bird’s tutorial was quite helpful.

 

The ears and tail are “free moving”!

I used gray as the first border color to connect it to our elephant story. Although Elmer would have been patchwork, I crocheted two gray elephants for two corners, again to connect it to our story. The elephant pattern was fantastically easy, as written by Repeat Crafter Me.   The purple border is because my daughter’s favorite color is purple.

a look at the blanket pre-fringe border

The final piece of the blanket is the ball fringe.  I wanted this blanket to be extra special so I went through many, many crochet books, and online sites, looking for the perfect finish.

creating and stuffing the balls

a bit of an operation going on…

I wasn’t sure about the “balls”, and the first one I made was too big.  But with a little tweaking, I figured out a size my daughter would be happy with.  We also decided not to have them at the top/bottom as they might get in the way with sleeping! There are 80 balls, 40 on each length of the blanket.  The ball fringe pattern can be found in Nicky Epstein’s “Crocheting on the Edge” book.

my favorite view of the fringe

What an amazing experience it was making this blanket.  I loved working with all of those gorgeous colors!  The balls were new to me, and fun and easy to make.  Best of all, my daughter loved it start to finish (I consulted with her all along the way).  It was truly a labor of love!

Emer with her Elmer blanket (and her sister kindly helping to hold it up!)

my daughter is happy with her new blanket

 

Sweet dreams

We could all use a reminder of Elmer’s lesson now and again – it is always best to be yourself!

that is me, being my (crazy) self!

In peace,

Dana

 

 

Creative Challenge Baby Blanket

When it comes to knitting, sewing, and crocheting, my husband’s family are super talented.  We benefitted from that when our babies were born all those years ago, as we didn’t just receive beautiful blankets, but lovely sweaters, too.

Both my husband and son’s aran jumpers were hand made by my husband’s Aunt (October 2004 Manlius, New York)

I did very little crocheting during those years. Funny, I don’t really remember having any free time when the kids were young??? 🙂 But over the past few years I’ve managed to pick up my crochet needle again. The thing is, like everything in life, you can’t just do the same thing over and over again.  You have to either do things differently, or add a challenge lest boredom sets in!

Check the measurements on the packaging to save yourself the time and stress of measuring out (what should be) perfect squares 😉

This baby blanket project was for a very special baby.  Words can’t even describe how welcomed and loved this baby was, even before meeting any of the family!  So I wanted to try something new to make this gift extra-special.  I decided on making a quilt on one side of the blanket while keeping my traditional crochet on the other side.  The main item I wanted for this blanket, though, was the smooth binding that my kids loved to rub along their faces! “How hard could it be to incorporate those three things?” thought she to herself, quite innocently…

a view of the quilted side of the blanket sitting on what was actually my own rocking chair as a child

Well, I have to say that I learned a lot of new things with this project. I won’t give you all of the details, but the first thing was that you need to check the sizing of material when you buy it in cute little packages!  The quilting material was huge and I had to cut it into small squares.  🙂

the material is lovely and soft (albeit rather funny prints!)

I also learned to make sure that I have enough material on *both sides* of the blanket when joining.  On my first attempt to sew the crochet side to the quilt side I wasn’t able to keep them aligned.  I can tell you that only for my husband’s patience and his help taking the binding off, the project just might have been completely changed! {Thank you husband!}

the back of the crochet squares looked kinda neat

This is the part that strains my fingers the most: joining all of the squares together!

After the mess of needing to take the binding off, I needed a new plan.  So I added more squares to the quilt and adjusted the size of the crochet blanket.  Attaching just the binding to the quilt with the sewing machine was so much easier now! Then I hand sewed the crochet portion onto the blanket.  I have to say that I really enjoyed the hand sewing, which I would not have guessed beforehand.

sewing the binding on to the quilted side of the blanket

hand sewing the crochet side onto the quilted side

One day I’d like to improve my sewing skills.  For now though, it’ll just be baby steps with projects like this one.

I can’t miss an opportunity to take a picture of a baby blanket on our family antique potty-chair

As for the teeny tiny little granny squares, I thought they were so cute to make!  The colors are really fun and cheerful.   I used Mango, Sunshine, Robins Egg, Limelight, Soft Pink, and Off-White. The Caron Simply Soft yarn is one of my favorites to work with as it really is so soft and is a really nice weight.

I usually stock up on Caron Simply Soft yarn when I go home to the States 🙂

I love having things from my childhood, like this rocking chair

I really enjoyed making this blanket and trying something new.  There were a few things about it along the way that I just wasn’t sure about, but thankfully as time went on it all worked out and I love it!  And I think our sweet little one likes it too.

A happy little girl!

Here’s to a new year and new challenges!

In peace,
Dana

Because we are all worth it!

I am usually a frugal gal. Well, I will admit that being frugal most of the time allows me to splash out when the occasion arrises.  I have no problem splashing out on certain things.  It all just depends on the situation.  Last year, I came across this vintage purse and it stopped me in my tracks. I thought, “this is beautiful!”.  As my older daughter’s favorite color is purple, I thought it would be something nice for her to have for really special occasions (her Debs this year, maybe? or a wedding?…). This would be one of those cases where I thought  “it is worth it”!  So under the Christmas tree it went.

a bag created by Cathy White using a vintage handle

It is a vintage bag created by Cathy White. I had the pleasure of meeting Cathy and speaking with her about how she makes the bags. The detail and care that goes into her work is simply amazing.  You can go and see more of Cathy White’s bags here.  While waiting for that special occasion, my daughter has the purse hanging on her bedroom wall with all of her “special memory” items.  It is gorgeous even hanging on a wall!

amazingly detailed

Fast forward to this year, and my other daughter’s Irish dancing school is planning to host a “World’s Ball” to celebrate the amazing accomplishments of their school at the World Championships of Irish dancing (most notably a new World Champion in the boys U16 category!). It is going to be a Black-tie affair.  Time to pull out all of the stops!

In my possession, for the past number of years, is a dress my mother gave to me which she wore when she was much younger.  I have been waiting patiently for the right occasion to wear this beautiful, green velvet, full length dress.  My mother is a bit taller than me, so I had to wear high heels, but otherwise it was a perfect fit!  It looked amazing!

My daughter and I at the ball

O.K., so I had the dress, shoes, and bag, but I still needed a shawl.  It was time to get cracking, as of course, I had too many projects going on at the same time.  I haven’t made anything like this before, and I couldn’t find any patterns on-line that were what I wanted. So it was a matter of trial and error.  Lots of error.  🙂

piece by piece it comes together

Crocheting the squares was the easy part.  Crocheting the squares *together* was the tough part.  I call this shawl bespoke because it is a one of a kind (mainly because I’m sure I can’t duplicate it)!

crocheting the squares together was rather tricky

The next process was “blocking” the squares, or in my case, the entire shawl.  This involves wetting it down and pinning it in place to dry.  It helps to keep the shape.  This really does work, especially with this project as it was quite floppy otherwise!

sequins for a bit of sparkle (this pic was taken during “blocking”)

I also added sequins to all of the blue flowers, because sleep wasn’t really necessary at this point.  My family thought I was mad.  But when I was finished, they “got it” and agreed that the sequins added a very fun, sparkly touch!

A vintage purse to match a vintage dress,  on a vintage gal!

Ta-da! Finished! Everything was so worth the effort.  The dress was beautiful (and can I say that it was really comfortable, too?!). The hairdressers completely transformed me. It is still a mystery to me how they do that.  My daughter, the shawl, the bag, everything was just lovely.  We had such a wonderful time at her ball. It was a very special night for us.

worth the effort

The simple message here is that we are all worth it. Splurge on that something special, don’t wait to use those special soaps, creams, candles; use them now! Buy the pretty purse, or dress, or the fancy yarn!

Live life. Be present. Be kind.

Because we are all worth it.

Wishing you a happy, healthy and prosperous new year!

In peace,
Dana