Sunday 16 June 2024

Pure sunshine

Crochet sunflower throw or blanket

The sunflower throw is complete and what a joybringer it is. It makes me smile every time I look at it.

Crochet sunflower throw or blanket

It measures about 100cm x 120cm so it's a good size to use as throw on a sofa or chair back and it's just right for a curled-up-on-the-settee blanket.

Crochet sunflower throw or blanket

I steam blocked the throw to set the stitches which gives it a nice finished look.

Crochet sunflower throw or blanket

The throw is available in my Etsy shop or webshop but for UK customers only.

Pattern: Sunflower Throw by Libbycraftmakes

Yarn: Stylecraft Special DK

Friday 14 June 2024

More Ditsybeads

Handmade lampwork glass flower beads by Laura Sparling

I'm not really a pink person but I'm quite taken with these pink Ditsybeads. They're CiM Gelly's Sty encased with Effetre 006 super clear with flowers in Effetre white 204 and Reichenbach opal raspberry.

Handmade lampwork glass flower beads by Laura Sparling

And these plum-coloured ones are Effetre medium amethyst 042 encased with Effetre 006 super clear with flowers in Effetre white 204 and CiM Hollandaise.

Both of these sets are in my webshop now, along with the lime and teal ones from my previous post.

Wednesday 12 June 2024

Faffing is my thing

Handmade lampwork glass flower beads by Laura Sparling

I'm back into the swing of Ditsybead things. These little beads look simple but I tell you, the execution of them is anything but. If I don't place the dots just so, and if I don't heat them flush in a particular way, they just don't look right. Much faffing is required but that's the way I like it.

The beads that appear easy or effortless are often the ones that take the most skill and experience and it's very easy (and understandable) for non-beadmaker people to assume they are a doddle to make. As a maker I get way more satisfaction from crafting a well-made polka dot bead than I do a cat or cupcake bead but judging by the number of requests I still get for them, people seem to be more enamoured with the latter. I decided a long while ago to make the beads I want to make when I feel like making them and I know that makes me sound like a selfish twerp but honestly, if I'd stuck with making cat and cupcake beads I'd have ditched lampworking ages ago. Sometimes you have to be selfish, I guess.

Handmade lampwork glass flower beads by Laura Sparling

These two sets are Effetre dark grass green 024 and light teal 026 with flowers in Effetre white 204 and CiM Hollandaise.

I'm hoping to get a couple more Ditsybead sets made this week and then they'll all be for sale in my webshop, probably late Friday afternoon.

I set fire to my cardigan yesterday. While I was wearing it. A glass rod popped in the flame and I could smell this lingering weird whiff and I looked everywhere trying to find out what was melting and it took about five minutes for me to realise it was my cardigan. It's one that I knitted a few months ago that I've practically lived in since I finished it, so that's annoying. I'll have to make me another and keep it for non-shed use.

Nothing particularly exciting is happening in the garden. The rose and hibiscus bushes seem to be settling in, the sunflowers are starting to go full Triffid, the tomatoes are still doing next-to-nowt, but...

Sea holly

 ...my sea holly has finally gone blue. I flipping love this plant. I don't know why it pleases me so much but it does.


In crochet news...

All forty-two sunflowers for the throw are complete and I've started turning them into squares.

Crochet sunflower blanket squares

I'm off for a tinned red salmon roll and a cuppa for lunch now and then I'll be heading shedward. TTFN!

Monday 10 June 2024

That'll do won't do

When did I last make Ditsybeads? I think it was about a year ago. (I've just checked and yes it was. I wanged on about them for a whole blog post.) When I've not made a certain design for a while it's like I have to retrain my hands and brain in how to execute it. I spent Thursday doing just that and ended up with five Ditsybeads that made it to the kiln. Of those five, two are not quite right, one is just about passable and two I'm happy with. This photo shows the latter three.

Handmade lampwork glass flower beads by Laura Sparling

Today will be about properly getting back into the swing of making Ditsybeads, good ones that I'm totally happy with (you know me when it comes to beads – "That'll do" simply won't do) and then I expect I'll make them until I get bored of doing so and no doubt I'll repeat this whole process in about August 2025.

While I make Ditsybeads I'll be listening to a podcast that I discovered a couple of weeks ago called Imagined Life.

Imagined Life - a Wondery podcast

It's a Wondery podcast (I love Wondery podcasts) and each episode tells the life story of a world-famous person and you're given clues to their identity along the way but you only find out right at the end who the subject is. Sometimes you'll guess before that point but I've been really surprised by some of them. Great stuff. Imagined Life is available on Wondery, Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Amazon Music.

Will the weather please make up its mind? On Friday I wore sunglasses and a sun hat for my walk to and from the foodbank warehouse and today it's been raining for hours and I'm dressed like it's early October. As I'm typing these words the sun is putting in an appearance. Sort your mind out, weather!

This harlequin ladybird was loving the lavender in the sunshine last week, though.

Harlequin ladybird on a lavender bush

I know some people don't like harlequin ladybirds because they pose a threat to our native ladybirds but they're here and living their little lives and if they want to feast on the aphids in my garden they can fill their boots. Munch on, you glossy spotty funbugs!


In crochet news...

Guess what? It's another shawl.

Crochet shawl

I have got to stop making shawls. I need to. I think I've got one more upstairs that needs blocking (but I made it for me so it doesn't count) and I still have the lacy black one on the go but I must put an end to this shawl madness after that one is complete.

Crochet shawl

This magma-y, fiery, sort-of-maybe Halloweeny one is listed in my Etsy shop and my webshop. The pattern is the Sis Shawl by Joanna Grzelak of Sis Homemade and the yarn is YarnArt Flowers in colour 259.

I'm nearing the end of sunflower production. I've almost got the amount I need for the the blanket. The next stage will be turning them into squares.

Crochet sunflowers

Right, it's time for me to make a brew and get down to the shed. See you later!

Thursday 6 June 2024

Blogging like it's 2008

I'm continuing to blog as if nobody's reading (because they aren't) as I'm convinced that blogging is going to make a comeback. Every day I see another person or two say that they're ditching Instagram and I don't blame them. Even if blogging doesn't make a comeback, I care not. I'm enjoying getting back into the swing of writing future blog posts in my head, taking photos of potentially bloggable things and not feeling any pressure to be seen or read, or feeling like I have to perform some weird meme-like behaviour in order to engage.

Anyway, if you recall, yesterday I was off down to the shed with no fixed idea of what I'd be making. I opened up my own bead gallery on Flickr and had a look through there and some 'Crocus' beads I made years ago took my eye so I made some of those.

Handmade lampwork glass beads by Laura Sparling

These are CiM Hollandaise encased with Effetre dark lavender and the spots and dots are CiM Lapis and Hollandaise, then they've been tumble-etched.

I also made these inky blue ones.

Handmade lampwork glass beads by Laura Sparling

These are CiM Lapis encased with Effetre light blue 052 with spots and dots in Effetre periwinkle 220 and CiM Lapis.

Sometimes I make beads that would look nice etched and sometimes, like in this case, I make beads that actually look better after tumble-etching. I make them knowing that the colours will work better together in their frosted state than their shiny one.

Handmade lampwork glass beads by Laura Sparling

Both of these bead sets can be found in my in my webshop.

The weather is cheering up a bit and things in the garden are starting to be colourful. We planted an orange climbing rose in the back garden yesterday so I hope that settles in and does its thing. This morning I took delivery of an hibiscus bush so I need to work out exactly where that's going to go.

My lavender has gone crazy. I got this from the local greengrocer a few years ago when it was a tiny plant and now it's huge.

Please excuse my washing line

I took cuttings from the lavender last year and I've planted those in another part of the garden so fingers crossed they end up crazy too.

I'm absolutely awful at growing edible stuff but the one thing I can normally grow is tomatoes. One of my foodbank colleagues, John, kindly gave me two tomato plants this year and they're just doing nothing. They're not dead but they're not really thriving either. I've done everything I normally do with a tomato plant but nope, I'm not holding out much hope for these fellas.

I never grow strawberries because I don't think I could grow enough to keep me strawberried up. I eat my own weight in strawberries every year. British strawberry season is here (I'm proper Nigel Farage about strawberries) and I'm in full strawberry mode.

Greek yoghurt, strawberries and walnuts

I normally have Greek yoghurt, blueberries, walnuts and a light drizzle of honey for breakfast but I've replaced the blueberries with strawberries and now my breakfast is like a pudding.


In crochet news...

My shawl pattern is currently being test crocheted by some ladies who kindly agreed to make sure I've not written a load of nonsense. It's oddly nerve-racking.

Crochet sunflowers

Meanwhile, I've started making some sunflowers which will become squares which will eventually become a throw. Blanket? Are throws and blankets the same thing? (I've just Googled and yes but no. Blankets are designed for warmth and throws can be used as casual cover-up-your-legs-and-feet-when-curled-up-on-the-sofa blankets but are typically more it-looks-fancy-draped-on-my-armchair decorative sort of things.) 

Anyway, the pattern is the Sunflower Throw by Libbycraftmakes on Etsy and I'm using good old Stylecraft Special DK.

Wednesday 5 June 2024

Not a lot

Handmade crochet amigurumi octopus

I've had a few days off from the shed so I have no beads to show you. Instead, behold my third octopus!

Handmade crochet amigurumi octopus

My nephew, Dylan, requested one and he chose these two yarn colours for him which I think are fab. Dylan received his octopus yesterday and he's named him Jaquarius. Fancy!

That's it for octopi (unless anyone else asks me for one) but I'm still going with the shawls. It's a proper addiction. I think I'm going to have to brave getting a craft stall somewhere around Christmas time because I've got so many now. I mean, I could stop making them but I don't want to because I enjoy it.

Handmade crochet shawl

I made this lavender purple one a few weeks back but I only got round to blocking it last week.

Handmade crochet shawl

It's on my on my website and in my my Etsy shop along with the twenty-odd others.

Pattern: Honey by Bernadette Ambergen / Berniolie

Yarn: YarnArt Flowers Unicolour in colour 748

I'm back down the shed today and I've no idea what beads to make so I shall whack on some music and just see what happens.

Wednesday 29 May 2024

A pale green and pale purple post

Handmade lampwork glass polka dot beads by Laura Sparling

There's something so calming about this colour combination. My eyes find it soothing.

Handmade lampwork glass polka dot beads by Laura Sparling

These ones have CiM Dirty Martini cores encased with a thick layer of Effetre pale emerald green 031 and the polka dots and spacers are Effetre light lavender blue (which is sometimes called pastel ink blue which was its original name) 247.

Handmade lampwork glass polka dot beads by Laura Sparling

These beads are available in both my Etsy shop and my my webshop.

I made a confession to my sister yesterday. We've always loathed Crocs and swore we'd never own any. I've been mercilessly rude about them and I think they're one of the ugliest items of footwear ever created. Yesterday I had to text Sally and tell her that I've bought some and guess what? So has she!

It started when she bought her husband a pair of what she called 'Mocks' (imitation Crocs) from the middle of Lidl. Sal said she'd started slipping Paul's Mocks on whenever she needed to pop into the garden. I said that Chris could do with something similar as he kept treading mud into the house on his trips to and from the garage so Sal bought Chris some too and then I started slipping his on whenever I needed to pop into the garden.

Obviously Chris' ones were too big for me so I looked on Amazon for some Mocks of my own but the reviews were scathing and some pale purple actual Crocs were on offer for just a couple of quid more than the imitation ones, so I got them.

Light purple Crocs
How are they so hideous?

Oh my word, they are as comfy as every Crocs wearer has ever told me they are. Humble pie well and truly scoffed. I still think Crocs are totally fugly and I will never wear them out and about but they're really good garden and shed shoes.

Talking of the garden, my sea holly is making a comeback. It didn't flower last year so this year I gave it some fresh soil and fertiliser and it's doing great.

Sea holly

You can just see its blue tinge starting to appear. I love this plant and so do the bees and ladybirds.


In crochet news...

I've got nothing to show you today. I've got a shawl on the go but it's a very lacy, slow-growing one and it's black so it just looks like a pile of black yarn at the moment.

The yarn for an octopus for my nephew is arriving today. He asked for a bright purple one so I was very chuffed about that.

And I'm working on finalising my first crochet pattern. It's for a shawl that I designed last year and I wrote a rough pattern draft, moved on to a hundred other things, and now I'm back writing it out properly. It's got a chart and everything. I've enlisted a few testers to help me make sure the pattern works and then I'll send it out into the world.

Monday 27 May 2024

Stitch markers

Handmade lampwork glass bead crochet and knitting stitch markers

I kept a few Lonelies to one side to turn into stitch markers. That section of my shop has been sold out for a while so I've given it a little restock.

This time around I've given people three choices of fitting.

Handmade lampwork glass bead crochet and knitting stitch marker

With the lobster clasp you can mark one individual stitch and if you a crochet you can use it on your working loop when you put your work down so that it doesn't accidentally unravel.

Handmade lampwork glass bead crochet and knitting stitch marker

The leverback clasp works for both crocheters and knitters because you can attach it to one stitch or slip it onto a knitting needle.

Handmade lampwork glass bead crochet and knitting stitch marker

And the ring is for knitters and will fit needles up to 7mm.

These are all available in my shop. I'll add a few more when I get some more leftover beads.

It may be a Bank Holiday but it's been a normal sort of Monday here, just pootling around the house. The weather is sunny one minute and raining the next. I should have popped out between the rainy bits to mow the lawn but the day has sort of dissolved into a nothingness of endless little tasks.


In crochet news...

I loved Otto so much, both the making of him and the finished item, I decided I needed an octopus too so this is Ringo and he's now living on top of the tall bookcase in my crochet nook.

Handmade crochet large amigurumi octopus

Pattern: Anchor the Octopus by HumbleChildCo

Yarn: YarnArt Dolce in colours 770 and 753

Sunday 26 May 2024

Lots of Lonelies

Handmade lampwork glass beads by Laura Sparling

I've cleaned and sorted my Lonelies this morning. I'm always surprised at how they mount up. A lot of them are duplicates from other sets where I'll have made three of one style because initially I wasn't happy with a dot placement or it ended up a millimetre smaller or larger than it should be. Then next morning when I take them out of the kiln I can't see the dot placement issue and the size difference is barely visible so I end up with more beads than I need for a strand so into the Lonelies pot the extras go.

I've divided this batch of Lonelies into two strands and each one contains five pairs.

Handmade lampwork glass beads by Laura Sparling

Handmade lampwork glass beads by Laura Sparling

These are for sale in my shop at the time of typing.


In crochet news...

I've put a couple more shawls in my Etsy shop and webshop.

This purple and yellow one reminds me of irises.

Handmade crochet shawl

Handmade crochet shawl

The pattern is Sunset Boulevard by LisasAttik and the yarn is YarnArt Flowers in colour 307.

The second one is bright orange and very summery. This tangerine colour is super zesty. 

Handmade crochet shawl

Handmade crochet shawl

The pattern for this one is V For Vintage by Mijo Crochet and the yarn is Hobbii Twister Solid in colour 151.

Both of these shawls are on the larger side. I seem to be averaging about 1200 metres of yarn per shawl. Gradient cakes are normally 1000 metres but I find the extra couple of hundred metres makes quite a difference in the coverage and swoosh departments.

Saturday 25 May 2024

Still polka dotting

Handmade lampwork glass polka dot beads by Laura Sparling

I've said it before but I love the calming feeling I get when I make polka dot beads. Every one has forty-five evenly sized dots, evenly spaced, and I love the rhythmic motion of melting the stringer to get just the right size dot and then putting it in just the right place. Each one is a little challenge.

Handmade lampwork glass polka dot beads by Laura Sparling

These 'Rainy Day' ones have Effetre dark grey 252 cores encased with Effetre pale aquamarine 038 and the polka dots are Effetre light turquoise 232. The beads are for sale in my shop.

I've got an overflowing jar of lonelies here so my next bead job is to clean and sort those.


In crochet news...

The octopus is complete! I took a couple of photos of him before I sent him on his journey to Northern Ireland where he's been named Otto and is now living on my sister's bookcase.

Handmade crochet octopus

Otto ended up about 70cm long so he's a sizeable chap. The pattern is Anchor the Octopus by HumbleChildCo.

Handmade crochet octopus

He was a very fun project and I might already have the yarn to make another one...

Wednesday 22 May 2024

A bit more polka dottiness

Handmade lampwork glass beads by Laura Sparling

Yet more polka dots, this time in a very Slytherinesque colour combination of black and green.

Opaque greens tend to react with themselves when used as stringer which means lines and dots develop darker centres which can look great.

Handmade lampwork glass beads by Laura Sparling

These 'Malfoy' beads have Effetre black 064 cores encased with Effetre light emerald green 028 and the polka dots are CiM Weeping Willow.

Handmade lampwork glass beads by Laura Sparling

The beads are for sale in my shop and tumble-etching is available at no extra cost.


In crochet news...

Tentacles!

Crochet octopus tentacles

My littlest sister asked me to make her an octopus like one she'd seen on Instagram so I found the pattern on Etsy and last night I made a start on him. Emily wanted her octopus to be burnt orange with green suckers so that he matches her living room decor. 

The pattern is Anchor The Octopus by HumbleChildCo and the yarn is YarnArt Dolce which is a chunky and very soft chenille.