Thursday, 26 February 2015

Crochet Makeover

Hello all! Now that I've got my crochet enthusiasm back again I thought it's about time that I showed you the makeover which I gave one of our old stools a while ago.

We had an Ikea Oddvar stool which had been languishing in the corner of a bedroom, slightly broken and very neglected. It was a sorry sight indeed. Untreated pine, a bit grubby and with a broken stretcher (do you know, I didn't know what to call the horizontal piece of wood that goes between the legs, so I googled it - you learn something new every day, don't you?). Despite all of this I could see its potential, and gave it a good clean and repaired it with a couple of strategically-placed screws. After that I gave it a couple of coats of off-white paint. Already it was looking better.

I'd seen a few crochet-covered stools on the internet, particularly on Pinterest, and decided that I would have a go at making one myself. My favoured yarn was, as ever, cotton and I used lots of small balls of leftover yarn from my stash. I'm afraid to say that I could open a small yarn emporium with my stash so it didn't make much of a dent in it.
Using a size 4 crochet hook, I began by making the top piece which consisted of 16 granny squares. Each square was crocheted in four rows, each in a different colour in treble stitch. I then joined the granny squares by holding the right sides together and crocheting slip stitches. Looking at them now I have to say that my joining looks decidedly wonky in a couple of places, but I'm not too bothered by it - I don't think anyone apart from me notices.

I like my colour selection. At the time I thought I was choosing them randomly, but I realised afterwards that it's mainly reds, pinks, purples and yellows. I must've had a subconscious colour-scheme in mind.

Now it was time to make the sides. I crocheted a border of treble stitch all the way around without adding any extra ones on the corners. This meant that it grew downwards at a right angle to the top piece. 

I made three rows first in red, then pale blue, then lime green. My final row was in purple and I decreased it as I went. I can't remember now exactly how I did it, but my aim was to make the final row much tighter than the others so that the cover would stretch over the top of the stool.

Once I'd finished I fastened off and darned in all my ends, then stretched it over with my fingers crossed (not literally!). To my delight it was a perfect fit! The corners droop over very slightly, but otherwise I'm really happy with it. I guess you could also make a cover for a round stool in the same way, starting it off as a mandala and just letting it grow to the desired size before crocheting the sides. 

Our stool now sits in our living room next to the fireplace where it looks very cosy. The room is decorated in berry shades so the stool fits in nicely, I think. I have been known to get a bit tetchy when people put mugs of coffee or tea on it, though. I don't mind the odd book or magazine on it either, and sometimes I even let people sit on it. 

Before I go I just want to say a big 'thank you' for all your lovely comments on my posts. Reading them is such a pleasure and a thrill every time a new one arrives. They are so interesting, and I love to hear about the things you do and places you've been.
Well, we're heading towards the end of the week and the weekend is nearly here, so it's time to relax and unwind a bit - I'm off to crochet a some more of J's blanket. 
See you soon x

Monday, 23 February 2015

A Day Out

Today P and I are back to work and D is back at school and we've had some very wintry weather - high winds, heavy rain and snow, all in one day! But just for a little bit I'm going to take us back to half term last week, so grab a cup of tea and make yourself comfortable, and I'll tell you about our day trip.
 P had booked a couple of days off work, and we had planned to go to the coast, but when we saw the weather forecast we changed our minds about the location, and indeed the next morning we awoke to pouring rain. We decided to head for Lacock Abbey in Wiltshire which isn't too far away. D's boyfriend came too, and we arrived there mid-morning in heavy rain. However we were not disheartened and headed off for some hot drinks to warm up before we decided what to do first. Lacock is a very pretty and unspoilt village with a country house which was originally a nunnery 800 years ago.

There is also a photography exhibition there as William Henry Fox Talbot, one of the inventors of photography, lived in the Abbey. I enjoyed looking at these very early cameras.

I couldn't help comparing them to my own tiny, easy-to-use compact digital camera.

Despite the cold rain there were carpets of lovely spring flowers along the approach to the house - purple and yellow crocuses ...

... gorgeous yellow aconites

looking very drippy in the rain ...

...and drifts of snowdrops, pure white and delicate.

Lacock Abbey is an attractive, imposing house in a mixture of medieval and other styles.

I liked its quirky features, like this offset window.

The abbey has been a film location in several of the Harry Potter films, and this cloistered courtyard featured in the first film. Perhaps you recognise it? The vaulted ceilings are very beautiful indeed.

The stone window-frames open onto a very tranquil scene.

Here's the sacristry which was very cold on such a wet day. I do love medieval architecture with its sense of history and solidity.

This is the warming room (where the nuns would have gone to warm up), and this giant cauldron is hundreds of years old.

I'm always fascinated by the domestic side of large country houses, like these shelves which house copper pans and old irons,

and this range.My mum tells me stories of growing up with a smaller version in her house which had to be regularly covered with black grate polish. How lucky we are to have modern appliances!

Along the corridor we passed through some sweet bedrooms which were homely and old-fashioned.

The wallpaper designs seemed quite modern. You can just about see the pattern in this photo.

Here's a tiny and, I imagine, rather drafty bathroom.

I especially liked this wallpaper in the next bedroom, depicting flowers and birds.

I'm sure I've seen modern designs like this in magazines.

This sweet little room looks quite cosy with its trailing flowers on the walls.

On to the dining room, and I was impressed by the printed 'information' tablecloth and place settings - a really clever idea.

Finally we finished up in the great hall with its rather lovely Tudor stained glass windows. In fact Lacock Abbey currently has a starring role in 'Wolf Hall', the brilliant adaptation of Hilary Mantel's novels about Thomas Cromwell which is showing on tv at the moment. P and I are completely addicted to it and I can recommend it if you like period/historical dramas, or just like a cracking good story.

Outside we stopped to look at the Tudor courtyard, and then into the warm again for some lunch at the nearby National Trust tearooms.

After lunch we ventured outside again into the village itself. By now the rain had eased and so we didn't need our umbrellas as much.

Lacock village is mainly medieval, and is unbelievably picturesque. Like the abbey, it has featured in many film and tv productions including the Harry Potter films, Pride and Prejudice and Cranford.

I noticed that there are no street lights, tv aerials or satellite dishes - I wonder if it's a great inconvenience to the residents when the production companies descend on the village.

The half-timbered houses are very striking ...

... and the weathered stone is mellow and reassuringly aged.

These worn, and very chunky moss-covered tiles look very old indeed.

One of the guides told us that Harry Potter and Dumbledore walk along this street in one of the films,

and the house on the right stars as Professor Slughorn's house.

I love the way medieval houses overhang the street.

Some of them are quite wobbly-looking, and uneven.

The tearoom in front of the church is very quaint and pretty indeed. On a warm, sunny day the tea garden would be very appealing.

We had a lovely day out despite the cold and wet, and I enjoyed a fascinating slice of history. However, we all agreed that it was good to be back in a warm car, and as soon as we got indoors I put the kettle on for a warming cup of tea! I hope you've enjoyed this long post, and that we can all enjoy some more sunshine soon x

Saturday, 21 February 2015

A Happy Half Term

It's been a lovely lazy, unwinding half term week here with not too much in the diary, and a chance to breathe out slowly and take things as they come, rather than trying to catch up with myself. I deliberately didn't make my customary list of 'to do' jobs, deciding that I would do whatever I could as well as prioritising some creative time. I hadn't realised how tired I'd become until I caught up with my sleep and regained a bit of energy! D spent a lot of time with friends this week, and so I was able to plan my own time. I did get a few housework-type things done, but I also sat and drank coffee, looked at lots of lovely blogs, watched some tv, crocheted and met up with friends. Just what I needed.

Best of all, I got back out into the garden again after months of winter neglect. To my delight lots is happening out there. Bulbs are coming up and the hellebores are flowering now too. I spent two very sunny afternoons on my hands and knees clearing away dead leaves and weeding. I also planted some plants which had spent the winter in pots. To be down at ground level, smelling the earth and digging the soil was absolute bliss. It felt like crumbly fruit cake, rich and moist and everywhere buds and shoots were just starting to emerge. At the end of both days I went indoors with very muddy knees and hands, but I didn't mind. I felt that familiar excited anticipation of warm days spent outside growing things, and thought about seeds, compost and flowerpots. How wonderful to think that the end of the winter is in sight now - I even saw my first bumblebee this week, huge, furry and clumsily buzzing around the plants in the sunshine.

We had a lovely day trip which I'll tell you about in my next post, as well as going to Bristol this weekend for some shopping. While we were there we walked down to the Harbourside which is always a lively, interesting place and headed for Pero's Bridge which has been in the local news lately. This is because an artist has transformed the bridge into a Fog Bridge using 'fog as sculptural medium'. Yes, I know it sounds odd, but the bridge has lots of little high-pressured vents along its sides which send out a fine mist at intervals which engulfs those who are walking across it.

It was a rather disorientating experience, like walking through the middle of a cloud: quite damp, and impossible to see very much. I didn't get my camera out because I was worried about all that water!

It was very striking and strangely compelling to watch.

The bridge itself is very interesting, named after a Caribbean slave who was brought to Bristol in the 18th century, and the two horn sculptures are counterweights which lift the middle section to allow boats through. A recent custom is for lovers to attach an engraved padlock to the bridge's sides and throw the key into the water. Quite a lot of padlocks have accumulated there lately.

Before we left I took a photo of this city-centre hotel which has blue glass sides. I'm not overly fond of these towering buildings, but the different shades of blue which were reflected in its windows were very attractive against the blue-grey sky. It made me think of possible designs for crochet blankets or patchwork quilts.

It really has been a good week, relaxed and with enough time to stop and appreciate what's around me. Hope you have a good weekend, with a bit of breathing time too x