Friday, 19 January 2018

Making a start on the Persian Tiles crochet blanket

For Christmas I received a rather daunting present from my Mum - a crochet kit to make the Persian Tiles crochet blanket. The kit comes with a pattern, and the yarn and colour substitution chart to make the blanket in the Eastern Jewels colourway. The pattern is designed by Jane Crowfoot and the Eastern Jewels colourway has been created by Lucia Dunn for Stylecraft yarns.

Persian Tiles Eastern Jewels crochet blanket kit in bag

The original colourway is in blues with pops of orange, red, and yellow and it is lovely, but I much prefer the more varied colours of the Eastern Jewels blanket, even if it is a little more daunting to keep track of all the different coloured yarns!

I was a bit nervous when I saw the photograph on the cover. It all looks very complicated with lots of rows, especially on the 16 octagons, and although it's beautiful I couldn't understand how the crosses around the edges of the tiles were made. But my sister added me to a Facebook group for people that are working on the blanket and it was a massive help. I could see photographs of real tiles that people had made and read about problems that people were having to prepare myself in advance.

I decided to start with the squares, as I could see that the first few rounds were just a basic granny square which I'm pretty confident with. To my surprise I found that the pattern was quite easy to follow and I completed my first square quite quickly. It wasn't completely perfect as I didn't get the cross in exactly the correct position, but two squares later I think that I've got it sorted.

Persian Tiles crochet pattern granny squares

This gave me the confidence to have a go at my first octagon. Once again, it wasn't as difficult as I was expecting. There were a few moments when I wasn't sure exactly where to insert a stitch, but I gave it my best shot and I think it looks pretty good. Even better, the sides measure up the same as the squares so it should all fit together nicely!

Starting the Persian Tiles crochet blanket octagons

I was getting in a bit of a muddle with all the different balls of yarn getting tangled all over the place, so I borrowed my Mum's wool winder and made them all into nice little balls which I can squish into a cardboard box and keep them upright and easy to access, it has made starting the second octagon much easier.

Organising yarn for a large crochet blanket project

Now it's just a case of getting on with it a tile at a time!

If you want to have a go at the blanket yourself, you can buy the kit from various places, mine came from Wool Warehouse. You can purchase the Persian Tiles pattern individually if you want to use yarn from your stash, or you can buy it as a kit with all the yarn that you need. If you want the colour chart for the Eastern Jewels colourway that I'm using then you need to buy it as part of a kit, you can't buy the colour substitution chart separately.

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Win some crafty goodies with my little giveaway

Win a box of crafty goodies and some chocolate

I've been having a sort through my craft stash and I thought I'd put together a little crafty giveaway for one lucky reader! There's a mixture of lovely unused craft bits, an adult colouring book, and a couple of delicious chocolate treats!

To enter, all you need to do is fill out the Rafflecopter form below and leave a comment on this blog post:

a Rafflecopter giveaway
As a mandatory entry, you must leave a comment on this blog post telling me what crafty project you are currently working on. If you leave the comment as Anonymous, please include your name or Twitter handle in the comment so that I can moderate entries. As I'm posting the prize out myself, I'm only able to accept a winner with a UK mailing address.

Please see full terms and conditions below.

Win some crafty goodies and chocolate in my giveaway

In the box you'll find - Elephant Parade postcard colouring book for adults, a bag of Wispa bites, a bar of Dairy Milk, small blank gift bag, mini canvas, Pritt Glue Pen, Pritt Glue Dots, Pritt Glitter Stick, washi tape, small card box to decorate, a box of colourful buttons and beads for crafting, blank wooden frame to decorate, Scrabble tiles and a few other crafty bits and pieces.

Terms and conditions

The prize is a box of chocolate and crafty goodies as pictured and detailed above.

The giveaway will run from 12am on Thursday 18th January 2018 until midnight on Wednesday 24th January 2018 GMT as detailed in the Rafflecopter form above.

All entries must be received via the Rafflecopter form. As a mandatory entry you must leave a comment on this blog post telling me your current crafty project. All other entries are optional but will give you extra chances of winning.

The winner will be picked at random via Rafflecopter.

The winner will be informed by e-mail when the giveaway closes, I'll also attempt contact via other social media if necessary. As soon as I have the winner's details I'll post the prize out myself. The winner must have a UK mailing address. If the winner does not respond to my contact within 28 days I will redraw and reallocate the prize.

Good luck!

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Making the time for daily crafting

One of my New Year's resolutions this year was to make time every day for crafting. After having daily craft projects for the last two years - my Sky Blanket and my Year in Seconds video - I'm hoping that it won't be too much trouble to squeeze in a few minutes to work on something.

How to make time for daily crafting

I've already talked about my crafty plans for the year ahead, and I've got a few brand new long term projects that I'm going to be working on. It's a bit of a mixture - cross stitch, weaving and crochet - and I'm looking forward to getting properly stuck in.

To help me I thought I'd first look at the reasons or excuses that might stop me, and then brainstorm some ways to get over them.

My barriers to daily crafting are:

* Finding the time

* Guilt at doing something purely for myself

* The thought of having to get everything out to work on and then put it away again afterwards, especially with a large project like a blanket

* Working on something that I need to concentrate on, for example trying to keep track of the number of stitches, when people around me are always asking me for something

* Simply forgetting, or just reaching for something easier to occupy me like my phone

Here are my solutions:

* Finding the time - I need to plan the daily crafting into my daily routine. I'm very lucky that I do have plenty of time I just need to make sure that I don't waste it.

* Guilt - I need to not have it! Many studies have been done that show how important crafting and other hobbies are, and crafting is important to me and my mental health.

* Accessibility - I need to come up with ways to store my works in progress so that I can get to them and tuck them out of the way easily. I've already made a start with my latest crochet blanket project, I've packed all the yarn, hooks, stitch markers, pattern and so on into a box which I can carry around the house with me and which keeps everything contained and looking tidy.

Yarn all wound up in a box ready to start crochet

I'm keeping my cross stitch all together in a zip lock bag which can be picked up and taken around with me, and it's also a nice portable project if we are going away for a few days.

* Concentration - I need to divide my projects into those that need total concentration and those that I can work on with people around. This might be different parts of the same project - for example with cross stitch I can work on the complicated bits while I'm alone and then catch up with the filler bits when there are people around.

* Forgetting and being distracted - hopefully some of the above steps will help with this. So having a project set up and ready to go, or having an easy bit of project ready and waiting to be worked on.

To keep me motivated I like to come up with little challenges to myself. For example, my latest cross stitch sampler is made up of different sized rectangles. I'm aiming to complete one rectangle every month, and because they are different sizes I can save the smaller ones for months when we have a lot going on. If I get ahead of myself that's a bonus!

I also like to share my crafts to Instagram and I want to get into the habit of doing this daily too. Nicola and I run a crafty community using the hashtag #craftingismytherapy_currentmonth and we are really pleased with how many people have been joining in. We are currently using #craftingismytherapy_january and it's lovely to see so many amazing projects and such a variety of different crafts being shared, we both share our favourites at the end of each month.

If you are also looking for ways to fit crafting into your daily life then I really enjoyed reading this article about making time for crafting and I've also blogged in the past about fitting in my crafting around small children. I'd love to hear any more tips if you have them!

Monday, 15 January 2018

Review - World Landmarks jigsaw from Ravensburger

For Christmas I received a fancy new jigsaw puzzle mat, so I was very excited to be able to try it out with a new puzzle to review from Ravensburger. World Landmarks (affiliate link) is a 1000 piece puzzle which depicts 50 landmarks from around the world, ranging from the modern to the ancient and most of them instantly recognisable.

Ravensburger World Landmarks 1000 piece puzzle review

When fully unfolded, my new mat has just enough space to lay out all 1000 pieces of a puzzle, which has really upped my jigsaw completing game. No more repeated sorting through the pieces piled up in the box, now I can just hunt for them by scanning across the different boards!

Ravensburger 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle

I really enjoyed completing this puzzle and it didn't take me too long. Although it looks like a very complicated design, it's not too difficult to sort the pieces, and there are no large areas of the same colour. It's one of those puzzles where it's about looking at what's on the piece rather than its shape, which I much prefer. There's so much going on that it was a real pleasure to work on the puzzle, and it's one that I've left out for a while before packing it away because I really enjoy looking at it!

Ravensburger adult jigsaw puzzle review

Along with a separate copy of the design to refer to, there is also a list of all the landmarks included in the picture which is great if you can't quite place them all. Another really lovely jigsaw from Ravensburger!

Ravensburger World Landmarks jigsaw puzzle review

I received this jigsaw puzzle in exchange for a review. Amazon link is affiliate.

Friday, 12 January 2018

My YouTube video challenge update

Last year I set myself a couple of video challenges as I set to work on my YouTube channel. You can read about them here - My YouTube and new video challenges for 2017.

Firstly I intended to make a video featuring a second of footage each day for 2017. I was very successful with this, and you can read about the video and view it here - 2017 in seconds.

My second challenge was to publish 52 videos in 2017 - a new video every week. This one didn't quite go according to plan. When I gave myself the challenge I was buoyed by my success with Vlogmas 2016, and after managing to publish 24 videos in December 2016 alone I thought that with a few holidays planned for the year I'd easily hit my target.

What I discovered though was that the more videos I published the lower my views were. I was getting so few views on videos that it hardly seemed worth making them, and I just didn't have the time to promote them when I was publishing so frequently. I did publish 29 videos over the year which I think is pretty good, and I'll probably aim for about one a month this year.

I find it quite difficult to predict which videos will do well, but I have noticed that videos with lots of views as soon as they are published seem to take off better, so it's worth getting on with promoting a video as soon as it's live. I shared a video taken at Center Parcs De Vossemeren on their Facebook page. They were good enough to reshare it immediately which led to lots of views straight away, and it is now my most viewed video of the year.


My next most viewed video from the year was the video that I made about the resort we stayed in on Fuerteventura - the Iberostar Playa Gaviotas Park. In fact I have several similar videos which have all done very well, people clearly like to have a good look around a resort before they stay, or perhaps they are revisiting their holiday memories.


Some of my most recent videos are my favourites but they don't have many views yet, I'm hoping that they will pick up over time as I continue to re-promote them. My personal favourite video of the year is probably the one that I made of our family visit to Whipsnade Zoo, just because it brings back so many happy memories of a lovely day.


And that's the reason that I love making videos - I enjoy taking the footage and then editing it together to make a little video memory with our highlights from a day or a trip. So even though this type of video doesn't do particularly well for me, I'm still going to continue with them as a way of recording our memories - it's not all about the views!

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

2017 in seconds

At the beginning of 2017 I started a new video project. Every day I took a short video clip which I edited down to one second, and then I combined them all together to make a short video showing our entire year in seconds.

I quickly got into the habit of capturing a brief clip of something that we were up to every day. Although on some busy days I was a bit distracted, and the clip I ended up with wasn't always representative of our main activity! There were also lots of days, particularly when we were on holiday, that it was really difficult to choose just one second's worth of footage. There were also those evenings when I suddenly remembered that I'd not taken the video clip that day - that's why there are several clips of the children brushing their teeth or reading in bed, and more than a few of Mia fast asleep as I sneaked into her room just before I went to sleep!

Amazingly I did manage to not miss a single day. The only day that I had a problem with was when we went to watch Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in May - I remembered to take the video but found out the next day that I hadn't pressed the button properly and all I had managed to record was a brief shot of my lowering the camera. So I had to take what I had and slow down the recording to make it last for a second - you can tell if you listen to the sound but I'm hoping that it's not too noticeable!

I decided not to carry on the project into 2018 as I did find it rather stressful remembering to take the video each day. I was really proud of the result though and I've had so many positive comments, so I may well do it again in a future year!

Here's my finished video - 2017 in seconds - enjoy, and I'd love to see if you complete a similar project!

Monday, 8 January 2018

January - Lately I've been...

It's a new month, and a New Year! The children are back at school today after three weeks off, and it feels like it's been a long holiday! So here's what I've been up to lately:

Thinking about

We were all poorly over Christmas with a nasty bug which set me a back a bit, as normally I would spend this time of year making plans and schedules. So I've taken a slower start to the New Year, and I'll be making those plans now that the children are safely settled back at school.

Crafting

I loved the Cross Stitch Map (affiliate link) that I got for my birthday, and I've nearly managed to stitch it up to date. I've only filled in the countries that we've visited so far, but there is lots of white space to fill so I've been thinking about what I want to add. I also want to sew in the routes of cruises that we've taken.

Cross stitch map

My crafting took a bit of a back seat over the holiday, although I did spend some time crafting with the children, we made lots of paper snowflakes to decorate the windows and Mia and I used Posca pens to decorate some plastic ornaments which we hung on the apple tree in the front garden. Unfortunately they've not all survived the winds, I think they've probably ended up decorating the neighbour's gardens!

I also have many craft plans for the year ahead. One of my New Year's Resolutions is to spend some time crafting every day, so far so good although things will change once we are back in a proper routine again. I've made a good start on a Christmas cross stitch sampler, I've set myself a vague deadline for completion by Christmas 2019, although as my last one of a similar size took seven years I won't admonish myself too much if I don't make the deadline!

Watching

I re-watched plenty of favourite films this Christmas as they were on the television - Harry Potter, Love Actually, Groundhog Day and the Nativity films - Nativity is my favourite Christmas film!

We've also managed a couple of trips to the cinema. I was taken to watch the new Star Wars film - Star Wars: The Last Jedi - which I must admit I wasn't really that taken with. I thought it went on a bit and didn't really have anything original or surprising about it.

We also went to watch The Greatest Showman which I really did enjoy, I thought it had a good story which wasn't too dragged out, and some great singing and dancing.

Eating

I suffered with a bit of a lack of appetite over Christmas, which was a shame as we were well stocked up with Christmas snacks. I had a nut roast for Christmas dinner for the first time, I was a bit suspicious as we ordered it from Ocado online and it wasn't exactly what I was expecting - I thought it would be a frozen or chilled one to heat up but it turned out to be one that needed water added to it and then cooked. It was really tasty and we did lots of mashed potato and other veggies with a cheeseboard, crackers, chocolate yule log and plenty of Christmas chocolates.

Travelling to

Before Christmas we spent a weekend in Warwick visiting family and friends. We spent a lovely evening singing carols at Warwick Castle. At the end of the Christmas break I accompanied Ram on a business trip to Telford having dropped the children off on the way. I had a lovely afternoon by myself in the hotel room doing my cross stitch and reading, then we went to the cinema and out for a meal.

Reading

Before Christmas I was reading The Little Book of Hygge (affiliate link) which I received for my birthday. I loved this book! So much that once I'd finished I started it again! I've just ordered The Little Book of Lykke (affiliate link) by the same author so I'm hoping that will be in a similar vein. I really enjoyed reading about hygge, how to make your home cosy for winter, and I've bookmarked a couple of my favourite chapters so that I can refer to them easily. I'd really recommend it!

After Christmas I enjoyed Goodbye, Things (affiliate link) by Fumio Sasaki, a book about minimalist living. It's not really a self help book but it's an interesting account of how one man got rid of all his possessions and about everything that he gained from it. Another one that I started reading again as soon as I'd finished!


Planning

We've been planning how to organise some of the places in our home that have a tendency to get a bit messy. Mia's room in particular, she has lots of toys with little bits and pieces that she is always playing with but doesn't have any proper storage for them. So we've ordered her a loft bed from Ikea which also has the advantage of being able to fit a good sized desk into her little bedroom. We've also bought her a Trofast storage system with plenty of plastic drawers where she can store some of her treasures.

We've also bought a separate desk for Harry and some drawers to go inside our wardrobe. Our wardrobe is fitted with deep shelves which are really difficult to use for storing clothes, so I'm hoping that with some Marie Kondo folding we can make a much better use of the space.

Looking forward to

The children have been on holiday for three weeks, and it feels like it's been a long time! I'm looking forward to having some time to myself again and getting the house sorted as well as getting on top of my work.

I'm looking forward to having a good sort out when our Ikea order arrives, I'm also playing the Minimalism Game again this month so that should help a bit with the general clutter in the house.

What have you been up to lately?

This blog post contains Amazon Affiliate links.

Friday, 5 January 2018

Things I love about winter


Let me be straight up here, winter is my least favourite season. Last year we were able to escape for some winter sun, but sadly that's not on the cards this year so there are still several months of cold days and dark evenings ahead. So I thought I'd write a list of the things that I do love about winter, to help cheer myself up while we wait for the sunshine!

This post was partly inspired by one of the books that I received for my birthday -The Little Book of Hygge (affiliate link) - which I've been reading over and over. It really has helped me to think better of winter. My favourite sections are how to build a Hygge emergency kit and how to do Hygge on the cheap, it's definitely worth a read at this time of year!

So here are some things that I love about this time of year:

* Hot chocolate. I do drink hot chocolate all through the year, but this year I treated myself to a bag of mini marshmallows and I feel very decadent. It always tastes better when you've just come in from the cold.

* Sitting with my back against a hot radiator.

* Being cosy in bed in my fleecy pajamas with a hot water bottle.

* Snuggling under a blanket or working on a crochet blanket while sitting underneath it.

* Poinsettias, such gorgeous flowers, there's something about their shape and the colour combination that I love. I have a mini one above my desk and a large one in the fireplace.

A post shared by jenniferjain (@jenniferjain) on

* Snow, when we are lucky enough to have some!

* Dark evenings - it can be gloomy but I like that it takes away the pressure to actually go out and do something productive like go for a run, I can just stay inside!

* That feeling when you get back from the school run, come inside and shut the door, close the curtains, turn on the lights and enjoy the warmth, knowing that you don't have to go out again until the morning.

* Making plans for the New Year, a new craft project, New Year's resolutions, decluttering and organising.

* Wearing winter jumpers, both lovely thick ones and warm thin ones.

* Comfort eating and not having to worry about how I look in shorts.

* Seeing the sunrise and sunset. Our house doesn't have any windows that face East or West so we usually miss sunrise and sunsest, at this time of year I'm more likely to be out and about so I can enjoy them.

* Hearing the wind whistle in the chimney while I'm warm and snug inside.

* Making and eating lots of soup.

* Lighting candles, both scented and plain. I treated myself to some lovely Christmassy candles this year which I'm enjoying very much.

* Seeing the signs of spring, feeling the first warmth in the air, spotting the early crocuses and daffodils, and appreciating the longer hours of daylight.

The Little Book of Hygge

What is your favourite season?

Photo credit - Alex via Unsplash. Post contains an Amazon Affiliate link.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

My crafty plans for the year ahead

For the last two years I've undergone a year long project. In 2016 I made my Sky Blanket, crocheting a row every day the same colour as the sky. In 2017 I took a second of video every day which I have edited together to make a video of our year in seconds.


I loved taking part in both of these very different ways of recording the year, and so I was trying to think of a new crafty project that I could start for 2018.

But as 2017 drew to a close I began to realise that I have accumulated several large craft kits which are going to need quite some time dedicated to them, and I didn't really want to start something new. So instead I have decided to dedicate an amount of time each day to working on one of these projects. I won't be too strict if I miss a day, but I will make a note and make up the time at another point.

Here are my four main projects:

Cross Stitch Map

I received this Cross Stitch Map (affiliate link) for my birthday and I love it. Obviously it's an open ended project because it will never actually be completed, but although I've made a good start I've still got some work to do in order to get it up to date. As well as stitching in a few more countries I also want to mark on the routes of cruises that we've taken.

Cross stitch map in progress

Circular weaving kit

This was another birthday present from my Mum, and is a craft that I've not tried before. From The Threshing Barn, it's a hoop with a selection of different coloured and textured yarns to make a picture. I'm intending to make this my first new project as although I'm a little daunted to get started I think that once I've got going it will be a lot of fun to work on and it shouldn't take too long.

Circular weaving craft kit

Persian Tile Crochet Blanket

My Mum also bought me this Persian Tile Crochet Blanket kit, which looks amazing. It is beautiful, and I really hope that I can do it justice. I have a feeling that I'm going to need quite a lot of help with this one and it's definitely a very long term project but I'm looking forward to seeing how I get on! There's a Facebook group which seems very helpful so I've been doing some lurking before I make a start, and my Mum and sister also have the blanket kit so I'm hoping that they will be able to help me out!

Persian Tile crochet blanket kit

Christmas cross stitch sampler

I took a long break from cross stitch after I completed my Three Things cross stitch sampler, and I've been keeping my eyes open for another large project to get stuck into. With Christmas coming I was encouraged to add things to my wish list, and after a bit of browsing I found this ABC Christmas sampler (affiliate link). I like the idea of bringing it out at Christmas with our other decorations to admire. However I'm under no illusions that it's going to be complete and framed by next year - the previous sampler took me seven years! It's a little bit cheesier that the sorts of cross stitch design that I normally go for, but I think I can get away with that at Christmas!

ABC Christmas sampler kit

Crochet granny square blanket

Finally, in the background I am also working on a granny square crochet blanket for Harry. It will be almost the same as this granny square crochet blanket that I made for Mia, but I'm using green and blue along with the alternating white stripes. It's a nice one to work on while I'm watching television and don't want anything too complicated, especially as it gets larger and each row takes longer to complete.

I'll update my progress at the end of the year!

This post contains Amazon affiliate links.
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