Yarning with Mad Martha about Crochet Stories: Grimm’s Fairy Tales…

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yarning with mad martha_Fotor (2)

Welcome, my dears, to another yarning session with me, Mad Martha.  If you are a fan of fairy tales and crafting, then today’s book is sure to delight and inspire!  I speak of Crochet Stories: Grimm’s Fairy Tales by Vanessa Putt, which I gratefully received from the publisher via Netgalley, and immediately immersed myself in, hook at the ready.  Before I show you my completed glories, let’s take a closer look at the book itself.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Practitioners of amigurumi, the Japanese art of crocheting stuffed dolls, will adore this collection of sixteen playful patterns for fairy-tale figures. Projects include the witch and the gingerbread house as well as the hero and heroine of “Hansel and Gretel”; the giant and the golden goose of “Jack and the Beanstalk” in addition to the beanstalk and Jack himself; the long-haired captive of “Rapunzel,” her lonely tower, and her rescuer, the prince; the animals of “The Hare and the Hedgehog” plus a juicy carrot; and the wee subject of “Tom Thumb” and his cow.


Clear instructions for creating the characters are accompanied by color photos of the finished products along with charming retellings of all five fairy tales. An introductory chapter offers general notes and tips, including pointers on working in the round, stuffing, measurements, and finishing.

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Just from that front cover, I could tell that this would be a charmingly whimsical repository of achievable patterns.  What I didn’t expect was the inclusion, before each pattern set, of a traditional version of each fairy tale.  Each of these covered a couple of pages and I felt they were a neat set-up for each of the pattern sets – as well as providing the option for eager mini-fleshlings to act out the story with the dolls as it is being read.

After flipping hastily through the pages, I decided that my first attempt would be creating the witch from the Hansel and Gretel tale, mainly on account of her alluring hair.  You can see the image of the witch on the front cover there – top right hand corner.  I am pleased to say that the pattern was clear and easy to follow and the witch worked up in a jiff!  Here she is:

witchDespite being reasonably experienced at amigurumi, I do think this is a pattern that is simple enough for a beginner to follow, with no particular tricks or traps.  In fact, the witch is probably a bit easier than the standard person shape because she is worked in only two colours and there’s no need to complete legs…so a win for the first pattern I tried!

Next up, I couldn’t resist having a go at the heart-meltingly sweet giant from the Jack and the Beanstalk tale, dressed up as he is in his dear little lumberjack guise.  Bless!  Here he is:

giant

The perfect gift for a hipster, craft-beer-brewing friend! This pattern was significantly trickier than that for the witch because of the colour-changes needed, the addition of legs and the patterning on the shirt.  The giant took me a little longer than expected and I felt that the hook size recommended in the pattern was a touch too big for my preferences, but I am extremely happy with the result of this pattern nonetheless.  Especially the beard – gorgeous!

As well as the people and animals in the tales, there are also structures to craft, including bruce and witchthe witch’s gingerbread house, the beanstalk and Rapunzel’s tower.  I didn’t have quite the level of commitment to go ahead and complete them for you, but they are a fun inclusion (and a worthy challenge) for those who want to make a complete playset.  I absolutely adored the golden eggs in the Jack and the Beanstalk tale, and tiny Tom Thumb would be a fun challenge for those who like to use a smaller hook.

Overall, I was very pleased with this book.  Even though there aren’t any picture tutorials, the patterns are clear and include recommended yarn types and colours.  The patterns cover a range of skill levels and techniques, which are clearly stated at the beginning of the patterns.  I’m not convinced that this would necessarily work for an absolute beginner at crochet, but for those who know the basic stitches and want to branch out into simple amigurumi, this would be a sterling choice!

mountainside dinner

Cheerio my dears,

Mad Martha

 

 

 

 

Yarning with Mad Martha about…Crochet Your Own Adventure (Let’s Go Camping!)..

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yarning with mad martha_Fotor (2)

I’m excited.

If you enjoy the outdoors, camping or textile crafts of any kind, then I have something today that will make your year.   It’s a crochet book by Kate Bruning (a canny Australian, don’t you know?) and it’s called Let’s Go Camping! From Cabins to Caravans Crochet Your Own Camping Adventure.

Finally!

A way to enjoy camping without having to worry about getting that horrid smoky smell out of my dreadlocks!

Now I know that title alone would have you bouncing on the balls of your feet and I will admit to being more than a little feverish when I discovered that Simon & Schuster Australia were deigning to send me a copy, but try and contain your excitement while you read the blurb – there’s plenty of time yet for giddy flailing!

Go glamping without the threat of unpredictable weather and nasty creepy crawlies, and instead crochet your own adorable camping scene that will keep any child entertained for hours and celebrate all that is great about camping.

Reminiscent of vintage camping memorabilia, you can create a nostalgic collection of crochet projects encompassing all aspects of outdoor life.

With mix and match projects ranging from vintage or Airstream caravans and ice cream trucks, to tents and teepees with all the camping paraphernalia of sleeping bags, backpacks and a log fire, as well as mountain and forest scenery you can create your own outdoor world. Or why not craft an alternative camping scene with a classic narrow boat, or a wooden lakeside cabin which can open up to reveal immaculately decorated insides.

Instructions for play mats will give children a fantastic base for playing, allowing them to create games and stimulate their own imagination.

let's go camping cover

Isn’t that cover scene just gorgeous? Being an avid crochet fan, I was itching to get at this tome and I nearly wept with joy at the innocent, light-hearted jollity with which the little Playmobil people were going about their outdoorsy business. The further I flicked through the playscenes, the more I was transported back to a simpler time when families had time to spend together and it didn’t really matter if dad insisted on wearing that silly towelling hat and tiny shorts, embarrassing you in front of the people from two caravans over.

Clearly, my crochet hooks could not remain inactive with such whimsical fun waiting to be created and so I dived into the patterns. Before I get into the technical nitty gritty, allow me to show you the fruits of my labour, as enjoyed by Bruce, Toothless and some Kiwi backpacker named Jono they picked up along the way:

camping wide shot 2_Fotor

As you can see, with the help of this book, I was able to create a natural, camping utopia in the climate-controlled environment of our own shelf! What a joy to see the excitement on Bruce’s stony face as he realised I could bring the outside in! Honestly, it’s moments like that that make this worthwhile.

Clearly, I only made a selection of things from the book – specifically the tent, the campfire, a mountain, a bobble hat and a scarf. I also whipped up a sun hat for Bruce to my own pattern. And while this picture may give the impression of a sweet, countryside idyll, it was about four rounds into completing the mountain – the first pattern that I tackled –that I realised that those of us who have taken up crafting since the advent of the internet have indeed been spoiled by sites like Pinterest and Youtube.

You see, when grabbing patterns from the internet, one often has the benefit of picture or video tutorials. This book was written in plain patterns and while this might be fine for more experienced crochet crafters, I suspect it would create steep learning curve for beginners.

I consider myself to be moderately skilled at crochet, but even I had some difficulties with items I thought I would find easy. Consider the mountain – mine being on the left and the image from the book on the right…

mountain_Fotor_Fotor_Collage

…while they are pretty close and I am happy with my finished mountain, I admit to wanting to stab myself in the eye with the crochet hook at multiple points during the making of it. This particular pattern has a number of fiddly bits that need to be sewn into the body of the pattern and without the benefit of imagery to guide me, I found it very tricky to figure out exactly how and where the insets were meant to be added.

Here’s my finished campfire, the crowning glory of our pretend camping adventure:

jonos bobble hat_Fotor

Again, I’m quite happy with the finished product, but again, it was fiddly and required a lot of sewing and the inclusion of a few bamboo skewers, which turned out to be more of a trial than I had anticipated. This was not the only project in the book that required bamboo skewers. The tent – which I found the easiest pattern to follow – also needed bamboo skewers added to create the structure (as well as straws, but I didn’t have any straws and frankly couldn’t be bothered going out to buy any).

Easy peasy, thought I, despite my experiences with the campfire logs.

Yeah. Not so much.

Although, I have always wanted to have one of those Pinterest “Nailed It!” photos to my name and making this tent allowed me to do it. Behold!

meme tent

So yeah, there were a lot of bits in the book that I found trickier than I thought they would be. Other bits, such as the hats and scarf, were great fun and super easy to complete. Toothless’s scarf was but the work of a moment and it was nothing at all to add a few tassels as requested by the recipient:

toothless scarf

Overall, I am very pleased to have found this book, but I would caution against jumping into the projects contained therein without proper preparation. The book suggests particular yarns and hook sizes, which I completely ignored because (a) I’m a rebel and (b) as I mentioned before, the whole “going out to purchase supplies” bother, but I have learned that following the pattern INCLUDING paying attention to the suggested materials often reaps better results.

Also, these patterns are probably going to take more time than you think, when you factor in the fiddly finishing off bits. But a book like this will just keep on giving when you consider that apart from giving detailed instructions for the creation of all manner of really cool items that can be used as toys, props and gifts, it is just a delight to flick through – both for aesthetics and inspiration.

I have to say thanks again to S&S Australia for providing me with a copy – you can be sure I’m not finished with the patterns just yet. We’re moving into summer after all.

Ice cream truck, anyone?

Yours in yarn,

Mad Martha