Feb 13, 2015

Gangsta Granny Dress Up Crochet Wig

My daughter's school always tries to promote reading and this year, as well as the traditional book fair where the primary school hall transforms into a bookshop, the principal has decided that the children could dress up as their favorite book character for the last day of the book fair, which is today.

My youngest daughter is far from being a bookworm (unlike her older sister), but there is one author that she really loves reading: David Walliams. I've hear that he is a very popular children's book author and I was curious to know what it is about his books that makes children love them so much, even those who don't particularly like to read*. I'm in the process of reading my second one (I know it's not my age bracket, but a book is a book, and I think it would be a shame not to read a book that's available to me as it's already in the house, plus, my daughter practically forced me to read it). I must say I've read worse (and within my own age bracket!) and these books are very funny and very imaginative. Here's what's on my night stand at the moment:

When I heard about the dress up day, I immediately thought of making a grey-haired wig with a bun attached and a bank robber's mask so the little one could dress up as David Walliams' "Gangsta Granny". I'm not great as designing crochet (knitting is more my thing) so I went searching on Pinterest and found exactly what I was looking for with the help of the Ninja Turtles!

I used Holyjeans' Crochet  Ninja Turtle Mask Hat Beanie pattern as a basis (it's free:-) but made a few changes such as the colors (grey hair and a black mask), I added a flat circle that I stuffed to make the bun shape, I decided to make 2 extensions on each side of the black mask to be able to tie is up and make it look more like a cartoon bank robber's, and as it was missing a little something to hide the back of the hair, I crocheted a little trapezoid shaped grey extension at the back. My daughter's hair is long so I had to tie it into a bun and hide it inside the hat, if you're wondering what the big lump is;)

After a rummage through our clothes, we picked a double layer of my tan tights (it's cold out you know!), an old flowery dress of mine I never wear (knee-high for me, perfect for a 10 year-old granny;-), a purple cardigan and here is our version of Gangsta Granny (we decided to skip the smell of cabbages!):

We decided on the runners because she might have PE today and I told her that grannies usually wear comfortable shoes, especially when they need to make a quick getaway on their granny scooters;-)

*While this is not a book review, I think I found David Walliams' tricks to drawing children to his books: one example of which includes a detailed set of instructions on how to pretend to brush your teeth, but don't worry, it also mentions that it's nearly as easy as brushing your teeth;-);-). I think all parents who take their parenting job seriously should read these books:-)

**I wish to apologise for the unusual high amount of smiley emoticons in this blog post, it's just that you can't read Grangsta Granny without having the odd fit of laughter; this book should be prescribed by doctors;-);-);-)

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Jan 28, 2015

Crochet Baby Blankets Galore!

Time has passed so quickly again I just realised this is my first 2015 blog post so I wish all my readers (all 3 of them;) a belated Happy New Year!

Shortly before Christmas I tried working on a new knitted hat pattern that I think will never happen now: after having to pause my pattern designing so I could knit some cabled headbands and a custom crochet phone cosy for some Etsy orders, I realised knitting cables was putting pressure on my left hand and hurt my thumb so I took out my baby yarn and started making some crochet baby blankets instead.

Since my hand was sore I was crocheting pretty slowly for a few weeks but some time in January I managed to finish my first baby blanket, listed yesterday in my Etsy shop:

Then I made another one, also listed yesterday: 

I have a lot more baby wool to go through, so I'm not sure I can be stopped until I run out. It is time-consuming, but I am enjoying the "no need to think" bit and the regular changes of stitch or colours mean that it never becomes monotonous: I've started doing this one while watching "Orange Is The New Black" on Netflix, only when my girls are at school, though, as it's a strictly over 18 show!

I'm not sure whether I'll just do a white border or pick a darker blue to spice up it up a little: I looked at the different shades of blue I have at home but none seems to be the right one (I know I can be very fussy, but I can't have anything less than perfect, can I?) so maybe I'll have an excuse to go to the yarn shop soon, but first I'll make a start on a pink one because I'll be faced with the same dilemma when I finish this too;)

So, lots more baby blankets to come in various colours (I think I need to borrow a Dulux colour wheel;), and lots of Netflix series to watch in the next few weeks for me!

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Dec 29, 2014

New EU VAT Rules: How Will This Affect Pattern Sellers And Buyers Worldwide

From January 1st 2015, how the EU will treat tax on digital sales is changing. This will have repercussions for EU buyers and sellers, as well as for sellers of digital goods (digital patterns, eBooks...) all over the world. You can find out more about VAT MOSS here.

Up to December 31st 2014, small businesses based in the EU and selling under a certain threshold (€35,000 in Ireland, £81,000 in the UK, €100,000 in France...) did not have to register for VAT(Value Added Tax), therefore they did not have to charge VAT to their customers.

From January 1st, the above rule does not change for sales within a seller's own country or from a seller located in Europe to a buyer outside of the EU.

To make things easier (NOT!), there are currently 28 EU member countries and each EU country comes with its own VAT rate (varying between 8% and 27%), which is why the new VATMOSS system is being implemented.

Don't take me wrong, I don't mind paying for VAT (well, I do, but if I must, I'd rather be legit about the taxes I owe), but if I register for VATMOSS, I must pay VAT for the sales of digital products I do within Ireland as well (which according to Irish law, being under (well under!) the VAT threshold, I shouldn't have to pay), as there doesn't seem to be a possibility of opting out of one's own country.

Normally, small businesses like mine selling via a platform like Craftsy, Etsy and Ravelry shouldn't have to worry about the new VAT rule since the law states that it is the platform that is responsible for VATreturns in the relevant countries, but unfortunately I haven't found any statement from Craftsy whereas Etsy stated that they are in the process of developping a tools to help sellers that should be ready in early 2015, until then (and I have to assume after that too), sellers have to take responsibility for the new VAT rule; I suspect that their tools may just be something to help sellers block buyers from the EU from buying certain items (which would be a disaster for Etsy's EU customers, who hopefully won't take this lying down!).

Ravelry and Love Knitting are doing something about this: by teaming up together, they are allowing Ravelry designers to upload their designs to Love Knitting, which will collect and pay VAT on behalf of the individual sellers.

The only options I can see for in order to comply with this contradictory law, is to stop selling my knitting patterns on Craftsy and Etsy for now, as these two seem not to be aware or really care about the fact that all sellers including those outside Europe have to pay the EU VAT rate of the country in which the buyer is located - who knows? Etsy might see the light when they lose out on all the listing fees that stop coming their way, since lately they showed how they seem to only understand the language of $$!.

I am still awaiting instructions from Ravelry on the process of importing my knitting patterns to Love Knitting, but as far as understand from all my reading, there will be no change for buyers located outside the EU (as well as those located in the same EU country as a EU seller), as they will still be able to purchase through Ravelry at the same price as before. Buyers located in the EU (if in a different EU country than the seller) will be redirected to Love Knitting in order to complete their purchases, which will be taxed at the relevant VAT rate.

For all pattern sales from an EU country to another EU country, the customer will have to pay more, as the relevant VAT rate will be added to the inital pattern cost: this does not mean that designers will be getting more money, as the added VAT amount will eventually be paid to the country where the buyer is located.

I am still hoping that the EU authorities will come to their senses and either introduce a new -  common to all EU countries -  threshold for digital sales, or agree on one low tax rate that is the same in all EU countries, because this new rule which was introduced in order to combat big companies setting up in low tax locations in order to avoid paying high tax rates is ultimately hurting small businesses (who can't afford an accountant to handle the extra paperwork) AND their customers more than corporations that can well afford all the extra paperwork and probably won't need to hire an extra accountant to make sure they're tax compliant).

All this to explain why from January 2015, you may not find my patterns available for sale on Craftsy or Etsy (well, at least not until I know and I am happy with what is this mysterious new tool Etsy is working on), but you will still be able to purchase them through Ravelry, but if you are in the EU (Ireland not included), it may take some time to have my patterns listed on Love Knitting as I haven't got them accepted there yet.

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Dec 10, 2014

Hi, My Name Is Sophie And I'm A Craft Addict...

I'm tyiping this as I'm starting to seriously worry about the growing number of craft addictions I'm falling victim to!

First there was knitting, which I still do with a passion, then last year I learned how to crochet and even though I know I still have a lot of crochet techniques to learn (like lace crochet), I am now pretty comfortable with it and I enjoy discovering new ideas of things that can be done using knitting and crochet.

A few months ago, I bought my first sewing machine: I used to think sewing was quite boring, and I am the first to confess I'm quite clumsy with sewing thread and needles, but after a browse on Pinterest, my mind was blown when I started thinking of all the possibilities: I may not be able to sew neat straight stitches by hand but there are so many cute sewing projects that can be achieved with the help of some preparation and a sewing machine!

Talking about sewing, here are the two owl cushions I finished making for my two daughters during the week-end: they are not perfect but I think I learned a lot doing these (taking the plunge and making something is the only way to learn), and as long as my daughters are happy with these, I'm happy. I got these as kits including the fabrics and patterns from Fiddlesticks at the RDS Knitting and Stitching show. I'm thinking of adding some simple sewed items like phone and tablet covers to my Etsy shop when I've had more practice with my sewing machine.

Another thing I am currently falling in love with is cross stitching (yes, my addictions are getting way out of control!). Since I'm very weak a the moment after a long time of not treating myself to clothes, wool or anything I wanted to buy but didn't need to (thanks to being broke), I broke down yesterday and bought this magazine, which also blew my mind when I leafed through it:

Before I make anything else than the gift tags (the kit was included in the magazine, I'm just like a 3 year-old buying a child's magazine just for the toy!), I've asked my daughter's permission to finish the dolphin kit she got about two years ago and that she finds too difficult to finish: I've started indulging this morning. I'm not sure how permissible it is for a left-handed person like me to finish a project started by a right-handed person but I can't see anything stopping me.

As my addictions for everything wool and fabric-related grow, there is only one thing I can ask Santa to give me this Christmas even though I know this will not be possible: more hours for crafting every day!

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Nov 27, 2014

Knitting Tools DIY Alternatives

If you've ever opened a recently written knitting book, you'll know that the first few pages are usually dedicated to the different types of yarns available and the tools needed to knit.

All of these tools may seem confusing at first to a person just wanting to start with some basic knitting without all the bells and whistles.

This is why I decided to write a post and show you how you don't have to buy every single tool: I'm a seasoned knitter and there are a few tools I do without.

The mains tools you need are knitting needles. Some like straight needles, others prefer circulars. If you're a beginner, I'd recommend first buying a cheap pair of straight knitting needles in the size required for the yarn you're using (if you're not sure, just ask the person at the counter).

1 - The cable needle: this is a short needle that is double pointed and is curved in the middle. When you knit cables, you need to slide a number of stitches onto this needles so that you can knit a few other stitches from the main needle before knitting the stitches left on hold to get the crossed effect. If you have regular double-pointed needles, you don't need to buy cable needles: I actually find curved cable needles awkward to use, and I'd rather use a straight one.

2- Still with the cable needle, the size of cable needle (or double-pointed needle if that's what you're using for your cables): you don't need to invest in every single size of cable needle. You'll only be using them to hold stitches for less than a minute. You need to make sure your cable needle is not too small, to avoid the stitches slipping out too easily, and not too big, in order not to struggle trying to put those few stitches on the needle and stretching the stitches. For example if you're using DK wool with 4mm needles and you only have a 5mm cable or double pointed needle, just use that! You can invest in a 4mm one later if you know you're going to need them a lot but I wouldn't worry about having only a size up or down.

3-The stitch holder: sometimes you need to leave some stitches on hold (for example for a thumb while you're knitting the rest of a mitten) and you may think you need to buy the large plastic contraption that looks exacly like a large safety pin. Well I've got new for you if you're a minimalist like me: you have at least 3 other alternatives that work just as well!
3a- Use a length of yarn about double the size of the stitches that need to be put on hold, carefully thread this through your stitches, remove the needle and tie a knot to keep your stitches secure.
3b- Use a spare circular needle if you have one, place the stitches to be put on hold on the cable part. The extra needles may get in your way when working the rest of your knitting but if you can live with it, so can I!
3c- If Mc Gyver was a knitter, he'd use a safety pin and I've tried this myself but you need to be very careful of this method as the tip of the safety pin can be very sharp and may split the yarn if you try inserting the pin too fast (mind your fingers too!).

In my knitter's toolbelt
4- Stitch markers: these are very cheap and I do a lot of circular knitting so I did invest in a pack eventually, but when starting out you can just use a small bit of yarn tied in a knot, looped around your needle. You can also use a small elastic band. If you have children your house is probably full of these loom bands that are all the rage at the moment: if you're going to use some, just avoid the glittery ones unless you want your hands and knitting full of glitter (glitter sticks and is pretty difficult to wash out, believe me I've been a glitter victim before;-)

5- Pompom makers: different types of pompom makers, usually made out of plastic, are available now: I just wonder what happened to cutting 2 circles with a hole in the middle out of an empty cardboard cereal box?

That's all I can think of now, but I'm sure there are a lot of other tips out there, as more often than not, logic takes over as necessity arises. You're welcome to add some of your tips in the comments section: I'm sure I've left out lots!

Don't forget of course the knitting needles, yarn and the measuring tape;-)

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Nov 14, 2014

I'm Being Selfish For A While: Join The Knitting Queue Please!

I like being my own boss: that allows me to knit things for myself instead of for "Ze Bisnesss" sometimes. Not that I'm really successful and can afford it (selling an average of 2 knitting patterns per week is not going to put food on the table, but it helps a little going towards my yarn budget).

At the end of September I decided that I was going to knit or crochet a least 2 items per week and list them in my Etsy shop. I sort of kept it up for October but I also started knitting a jumper for myself at the same time, which I was working on at the week-ends and Mondays (Monday is when I go to my favourite knitting group). I also told my daughter I would knit her some legwarmers with some of my birthday wool (me and my big mouth:-) and I would also like to do a pair for my other daughter with the remaining colour.
These would work great as cabled legwarmers for daughter 1

And these for daughter 2

Winter is nearly here (even though it's still unseasonably mild) and I'm not great at multitasking: I can't handle more than 2 projects at the time, so if I want to be finished by Christmas, I need to be selfish and knit my jumper full time - unless I get a custom order which I'll prioritize of course, because I'm nice like that;-)

I guess the fact that my jumper suddenly got more interesting has a lot to do with me wanting to finish it - I started the yoke, which is in a lace pattern, wayyyyy more interesting than stocking stitch in the main body/arms.
Check out the top part: that's where it get interesting - I have removed my well needed lifeline for the purpose of this photo.

So here's what I'm hoping to do before Christmas, in order of priority:
1- Custom orders (if I get requests),
2 - Finish my jumper (about 1 week),
3 - Pair of legwarmers for daughter 1 (2 to 3 days),
4 - Pair of legwarmers for daughter 2 (2 days - I'll have the pattern worked out above),
5 - Have a go at my sewing machine as I still haven't started on my owl cushion kits and I really want to have them done by Christmas (time: 2 to 3 days and a lot of swearing I'm sure!),
6 - A crochet monkey my brother wants me to make him for christmas (1 day),
7 - The World is my oyster: time to think of knitting patterns for headbands, scarves, hats, phone cases...

Now I'm not really good at following my own plans, but at least once I have these written down I can free my mind for some other ludicrous ideas of how I'm going to get my business to feed my family and me some day (dreams...)

Update: since I wrote this 2 days ago (I'm not the quickest at taking blog photos!), daughter 1 decided that she'd prefer a different wool for her legwarmers (this is the wool I had planned to make her a Katniss cowl with last year, which never happened): cables won't show in this variegated bouclé wool, so they'll just be plain legwarmers, and hopefully these WILL happen:

This wool smells like sheep: these legwarmers will be super warm with 87% real wool

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Nov 5, 2014

Trip To The Knitting And Stitching Show 2014.

I had the pleasure to visit the RDS in Dublin again this year for the annual Knitting and Stitching Show.

The Knitting and Stitching Show is a huge venue not just for wool and fabrics stores but also for a lot of other crafting supplies like card making. Associations like the ICA (Irish Countrywomen's Association) have stalls there too.

The entry fee is not cheap but if you are really interested in all sorts of crafts and looking for bargains or if you'd like to purchase items that are normally only available in the UK (it's possible to buy online but sometimes it's nice to be able to ask for advice face to face and see the goods before purchasing).

In short, the RDS Dublin turns into a giant craft shopping centre once a year for 4 days.

The reason why I went to the Knitting and Stitching Show this year was to have another look at the Coolree yarns (I didn't have anything in mind I could think of knitting using it so I couldn't justify the expense) -  Coolree yarn is the Ferrari of yarns, and I drive a Hyundai, but it's already on my list of things to buy when I win the Lotto (the yarn, not the car;) - and also to try and find nice wool bargains.

I didn't go too close to the really cheap yarns, as I prefer using good quality soft wool for knitting and crochet, but I found some good looking chunky Rico Design Fashion Highland (I got 3 full packs - 500g for €19.00 per pack) and some Katia Air Lux in shimmery colours that should look good in light airy lace scarves (this one wasn't really cheap but since it's thin wool, at 300m/328yards per ball and the 10th ball free I don't think I did too badly):

I also got a scrap fabrics pack so I can practice using my sewing machine and for 2 cute Oaklee Owl cushion sewing kits I'm hoping to do for the girls before Christmas:

There are also workshops and textile-related art exhibitions. I didn't take a lot of pictures of the exhibitions, but my sister did, so with her permission I am now leaving you with a few images of the Knitting and Stitching Show art gallery:

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