Monday, 29 June 2009

Saying goodbye

There are many wonderful reasons why Dubai is a great place to live. All year sunshine is one of the better ones. But unfortunately living in an expat community also has its drawbacks. The saddest one is always having to say goodbye to friends. No expat stays in Dubai for ever, and this time of year when the school year ends is usually the time when people move on.

I had to say goodbye to a friend and her family who are moving back to their hometown, London, after 3 years in Dubai. Our sons were very good friends and it is sad to see them go.

It is always difficult to decide on an appropriate farewell gift. After all, how do you say "thank you for your friendship and may God bless you" with an object?

In the end I decided to make something for them. I hope that the time and effort and love I have put into it will somehow show how much their friendship meant to me and my son.

Ebi, Rozie, Matin and Ramtin, may your life in London be filled with God's blessings and grace. Go well, my friends.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Craftster Featured Projects

My Tin Can Stars was chosen as one of the fifteen Featured Projects on Craftster. Thank you so much to everyone for your very nice comments and for voting for this project with the "this rocks!" button. Check it out here.

Watch this space for the tutorial...

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Images from Afghanistan

While I was writing the post about the embroidery from Afghanistan a while ago. I browsed through my photos I took on the trip and realised again what a wonderful experience it was. Today I want to share a few of the images from this beautiful and sad country with you.

This is a view of the Hindu Kush mountain range. It is the 'foot hills' of the Himalayas and quite an awesome site. I had the privilege to travel over this mountain range to the north of the country... in a minibus taxi. Not for the faint hearted. Really.

For those of you who has read the Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, here are the kite flying boys. They make the kites and sell them next to the road. A rare splash of colour in an otherwise colourless country.

These photos I took at the market in Mazar-i-Sharif. These men were very friendly but obviously not used to be addressed by a western woman.

At the "Blue Mosque" in Mazar-i-Sharif. A truly beautiful building. The tile work is exquisite! Even the women in the burqa's seems to be part of the design.

A pillar at the ancient city of Balkh

. Unfortunately not everything in Afghanistan is beautiful. There are some very sad reminders of the different wars that has torn this country apart for the past 30+ years. I didn't feel comfortably adding pictures where people's faces are recognisable, so here are just a few photos to give an idea of the how much pain there still is and of the long road to peace and prosperity that still lies ahead.

Remnants of tanks that still date from the Russian invasion

Although new buildings go up, the woman are still not free.

A 'suburb' of Kabul, the capital city.

The majesty of what was can still be seen through all the bullet holes...

At least they have wheel chairs in the hospital

Monday, 15 June 2009

Tin Can Stars

I had the idea of making something out of recycled soft drink cans for a long time but I never could decide what to do. Then once I realized how easy it is to cut the aluminium with normal scissors I just fell into it and played around with a few different star shapes. Eventually I decided on this 6 point star because it is easy to cut and easy to manipulate.

This is the finished project, hanging on the porch outside the front door. It is made up of stars from different kinds of soft drinks (and a few beers).

I connected them with beads and fishing line.

I didn't realise it at the time of making it, but now that it is finished I like the fact that there are a combination of English logos and Arabic logos. All the cans here in Dubai has the English logo on one side of the can and the Arabic logo on the other side. As I could get two stars out of each can I have a good mix of the two languages. This will be a nice memento of our time in Dubai for the years to come when we don't live here anymore...
I added a few beads and bells to the bottom to finish it off.
The 'blank' stars are made by using the inside of the can as the front. The printed side is on the back.
As usual, I had this very professional plan to work from! :-)

I gave it to my husband as a birthday gift and he is very happy with it. I am also quite satisfied with the way it came out in the end, although in retrospect, I would make a few changes to it if I do it again. (not soon - it is quite labour intensive!) I would make the beaded connections a bit shorter to give it a more dense appearance. As you can see from the 'plan' the different colour stars are suppose to be in the shape of a star. This is not very obvious in the finished product because the stars are to far apart. I would also use either stronger fishing line or proper beading wire. I had to redo a few connections because the fishing line broke.

I am thinking about making a tutorial for this one. It will be my first tutorial so it will be a good challenge. If anyone is interested in a tutorial, can you please let me know in the comments, please.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Embroidery from Afghanistan

I had the privilege to visit Afghanistan in October 2006. It was a once in a lifetime experience and I will treasure it as one of the highlights of my life. Not only for the opportunity to see and experience this wonderful and at the same time painful country, but also for the absolutely amazing people I have met there.
Before I went a friend gave me this piece of embroidery as a gift. She has lived in Pakistan before and has visited Afghanistan on several occasions. This is hand embroidered with silk tread on a cotton background. It has been done by Afghan women in their traditional designs.

Afghanistan was part of the Silk Route years ago. As a result these women are used to working with silk tread that they obtained from China.

While I was in Kabul I bought this runner from people working for a NGO. They provide the local woman with linen and cotton sheets. The local women then hand embroiders the pieces with silk thread, in their traditional designs. The people from the NGO then sells it on their behalf. In this way the women, who are all uneducated and in many cases confined to their homes, gain a bit of independence.

This long red cloth I bought from a carpet shop in Mazar-i-Sharif, a town in the northern part of the country. These kind of cloths are usually used in a horizontal position to cover the space under a shelf or bench as can be seen in the photo of the carpet shop. I use it to cover the window on the landing of our staircase. I have lined it with some cotton to protect it from the sun.
It is all hand embroidered:

The shop where I bought this red cloth:

Spiral granny squares 2

The blanket is coming along just fine - I have already finished 22 squares. It is going faster now that I have the hang of it - I can even watch the French Open Tennis while I am crocheting! I am still thinking about how to finish off the blanket and I am considering different kinds of borders. Photos will follow as soon as I have come up with something worth showing.

In the meantime I want to show you what I did to keep the balls of yarn from getting all tangled up. Here is my solution: I took a old shoe box and added internal dividers cut out of old cardboard. I then poked a hole in the lid of the box over each compartment.

I now have one ball of yarn in each compartment, with the loose end threaded through the hole. I keep the box on my lap while I crochet. This way the yarn doesn't tangle and the balls don't roll all over the floor.
It also make it easy to hide from my one-year-old, who thinks a ball of yarn is just the best toy ever!

PS: I know the box will look much better if I covered it in nice paper, etc, but I just couldn't be bothered. I'd much rather spend my time crocheting that decorating a box...

Monday, 1 June 2009

Spiral granny squares

A while ago I came across this amazing granny square pattern on the Crochet me-blog. I had to try it immediately! I am using pure Merino wool from Malabrigo. I made little changes to the pattern to eliminate some of the holes and give it a more solid look. A single block looks like this:
I then had to add a few together to see what pattern emerged: Here are 4 blocks joined together:

And 9 blocks added together: I realised I had to keep my head together when creating this pattern, because did you notice that the order of the colours has to change to keep the repeating pattern going?
This is the 'pattern' I made before I started:

Here is a close up of the edges where I joined the blocks together. I tried a few different versions of over-hand and ladder stitches before I was happy with these joints.

And of course I wondered if it possible to make the spiral go the other way... Yes it is, but you have to use your other hand and basically mirror the pattern by going around in the other direction. I am naturally left-handed but I crochet with my right hand because that was the only way my grandmother could teach me. With these mirrored blocks I used my left hand. It took me a while to get the hang of it! And it went very s-l-o-w-l-y... So I stopped after 2 blocks!

Using mirrored blocks allows you to make a completely different pattern:

This is still a work in progress so keep a look-out for the finished product....