Review: Hoop-la! 100 things to do with embroidery hoops.

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Last year I rediscovered the joys of the local library, and was pleasantly surprised to find how many crafty books were on offer. One of the books I borrowed and loved was “Hoop-la! 100 things to do with embroidery hoops” by Kirsty Neale, and it made it onto my “must buy once I’ve returned it” list.

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As the title suggests, this book is all about things to do with embroidery hoops; some projects involve embroidery and some don’t. It is unbelievable how many different projects there are, from using the hoop as a screen for printing, adding hinges to make books, and all sorts of lovely decorations.

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Some of the projects are a little zany and for things you might never have use for, but there are so many techniques for various abilities that are clearly written and illustrated. Lots of these skills could be adapted to other embroidery projects, or general crafting, so don’t be put off if you don’t want a wall covered in hoops! There is a fresh and modern style to the book (lots of the designs remind me of a new-ish style of kids illustrations I’ve seen in modern picture books, and the sausage dog above is just like Sizzles from Charlie and Lola) but it isn’t overly cutesy and I’m sure it could be adapted to any taste in fabric.

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One of my favourite projects is this French Shading. I’ve never seen it before but I love the technique and am desperate to find a suitable project to try it on. It is a shape filled with French knots, but the colour totally matches the backing fabric. I just want to touch it so badly!

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What I liked about this book was the range of skills and techniques covered. I find that at the moment I am in a weird no-mans land where I am no longer a beginner wanting easy projects to do in an afternoon, but I’m not expert enough (or awake enough) to want month long sagas to work on. Does anyone else find that books and magazines are either pitched too much towards a beginner or too specialised to accommodate the intermediate sewist who doesn’t have as much time to spare as they’d like? Well this book has something for everyone, from quick sewing of buttons to computer generated applique (wouldn’t an applique portrait make a perfect present for a special occasion?!). There are clear instructions and templates to follow throughout, plus little clouds full of tips, tricks and variations.

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I really enjoyed this book and found it very inspiring; there were simple projects to start immediately and lots of new ideas to imagine and daydream about. I think it would be a great fun gift for a new-ish or keen crafter, and would be a great addition to a sewist’s bookshelf.

~~~Disclaimer~~~
All opinions are my own and not connected with the author. I did not get any rewards, but if the publishers want to send me a free copy I will gladly accept as I loved the book!

Lush Purple Tweed Cardigan

This is actually one of my last makes of 2013, but the blocking process took a long time in cold winter weather, and it was only just ready to wear on New Year’s Eve. Since then I have barely taken it off; the only days it hasn’t been worn were when I was wearing a soon-to-be-blogged aubergine-purple skirt and I thought it would be overdoing the purple slightly!

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The cardigan in Tin Can Knits’ Lush cardigan (check out my Ravelry notes here!) and knitted in Rowan Silky Tweed in Jazz. I bought the yarn in John Lewis sale last year, and in googling a link I’m disappointed to see it is discontinued as it was scrummy to knit and is so lovely to wear.cardigan 2

The Lush pattern was unusual in that the yoke was knitted first, then the collar and neck was knitted up, and the body and sleeves were knitted down; I’ve never come across this construction before, but it meant the lace pattern was only over a small number of stitches and so was easier to follow on the chart (I coloured in each row in different colours to help me keep my place). I really enjoyed the lace and I also learned how to do a provisional cast on (one side of the yoke is knitted, then the other, for a lovely symmetry – see below, which is the most accurate colour of the yarn) which was not as scary as I thought. What I did not like was having to pick up over 300 stitches for the body and sleeves, and realise I had too many and have to start over again to get the spacing right!

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Once the sleeves were put on stitch holders it was plain sailing, but of course I made things harder for myself by adding bust darts (short rows) for shaping and to provide more length over the chest. I did this using the method in the Craftsy Curvy Knits course, with measurements doodled on a piece of graph paper at school one lunchtime. In hindsight I should have adjusted the measurements to take away the proportion of the negative ease the pattern has, as they are slightly too big, but I’m super pleased with the alteration as it is.

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The big thing I have learned since my Basic Bella Cardigan is about zero or negative ease in knitting. I carefully took my measurements and chose the size smaller than me to give a close fit, which I am liking so much more. I lengthened the sleeves, with a little too much negative ease, so I did rip back a couple of inches and stop decreases earlier. This was a pain, but is worth it in the end for a good quality garment I can wear forever. The sleeves are a perfect length for me, and I am so glad I ignored my “are we nearly finished?!” grumbles in my head.cardigan 1

 

The sleeves and hem were bound off using Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-Off which I cam across when googling bind-off techniques. It was simple (adding in a yarn over before each stitch) and is so stretchy, keeping the stretch of the cuffs.cardigan 6

 

The Thursday before Christmas I braved the thunderstorm to walk to knitting night at The Village Haberdashery, but I was the only one wise enough to do so! I needed to wind some hanks of yarn for my journey home for Christmas and needed some buttons for the cardigan. It was just me, Annie and gorgeous baby Harvey, but Harvey helped me choose buttons (he liked the train ones) but I found these perfect floral buttons. I had been looking for ages and could only find solid colours that looked too flat against the tweed, but the subtle colours in these ones match the tweed beautifully. (This picture doesn’t do it justice, but is the best of bad lack of daylight).
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I am so pleased with this cardigan and know it is going to be getting a lot of wear over the cooler months. The yarn was bought on sale for around £30ish and the buttons were £9 for 10, so in total this cardigan was approximately £40 and took 2 months to complete. Not bad at all.cardigan 4