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Loving handmade

Apologies for the lack of posts in February – making, doing and organising for the wedding has entirely taken over my life and blogging has somewhat fallen by the wayside… fear not though, I’ll be making up for it in May by telling you about everything I’ve been making for the wedding, including a sewn bridal bag, a personalised guest book, paper table confetti, a sewn bridal wrap decorated with crocheted hearts, a decorated card box and more.

Alongwith wedding crafting, I’ve also been working on (paid!) commissions for Simply Crochet and The Sewing Directory. I’m not quite sure how I’ve squeezed it all in really…anyway, my latest make for The Sewing Directory has been this canvas messenger bag:

Sewn canvas messenger bag

Sewn canvas messenger bag

I really love messenger bags – I feel secure with it worn across the body, I like the way it sits on the hip, and it’s easy to get stuff in and out. They’re the perfect bag for me!

I’ve wanted to try my hand at making one for ages, and then my current messenger bag (the one in this post, here) started fraying so I knew it was time. I pitched it to The Sewing Directory and they said yes, so I got to work and I’m really pleased with the outcome.

It wasn’t easy and took me about a week to make it, while working out the pattern at the same time, and then another week to write out the pattern in detail from my scribbled notes and draw step-by-step diagrams that someone else could follow. But it’s a pattern I’m really proud of. The bag itself has also been getting a lot of attention – people can’t believe it when I say I made it (I always love that).

If you’re interested in making your own messenger bag, pop over to The Sewing Directory for the free instructions. What I don’t mention in the instructions, though, is the extra pocket that I added to make the bag perfect for me! When I travel on the bus, I always worry about losing my bus ticket and try to keep it in the same place every time – but that place is usually inside a pocket that’s inside my zipped-up purse that’s inside my zipped-up bag. It’s a Russian doll effect that makes it tricky to get the ticket out in a hurry if I’m late and the bus is arriving just as I am (yes, that happens more times than I’d like to admit). So I gave my bag a hidden outside pocket along the side – you can see it in this photo if you look for the extra stitching near the orange flower:

Hidden outer pocket

Hidden outer pocket

It was fun trying to line up the pattern on the two pieces of fabric to get that ‘hidden’ effect and I think I did a pretty decent job. I love having a special hidden bus ticket pocket – it’s perfect for me. I also added another little pocket inside for my house key (which I can never find when I need it!). It’s these sorts of little life-improving details that makes me love handmade!

And so onto another made-to-measure treat that I crocheted for Simply Crochet – these men’s colourwork mittens:

Crochet colourwork mittens

Crochet colourwork mittens

These fine mittens are modelled above by my other half (soon to be husband!) who happily got to keep them afterwards. He really did deserve them as well because I made them to fit his hands while we were on holiday in November – he tried them on so many times for me that I think he worked almost as hard as I did to help bring them to life!

I used a simple spike stitch wave pattern to create a manly argyle look (if you squint, you can see it much better!). He loves these mittens (I just checked with him and he does) because they’re soft and warm, they have a subtle pattern and obviously the fit is perfect. He’s worn them much more than the previous rainbow-coloured mitts that I knitted for him about 10 years ago, so I think that’s a success.

If you’re interested in the pattern, it’s in issue 41 of Simply Crochet magazine, which also features the pattern for my rainbow scarf:

Rainbow scarf

Rainbow scarf

I made this one a while back and blogged about it here. It’s one of my favourite ever scarves and I wear it all the time, so it’ll be great to see what creative effects other crocheters can achieve with the pattern.

Right, I’m off back to sewing crocheted flowers onto a crocheted ribbon to decorate the front of my bridal car…

 
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Posted by on February 29, 2016 in Crochet, Sewing

 

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Fabric flowers

Nowadays, a crafter is rarely just a sewist or a crocheter or a knitter – we may have several creative pursuits that satisfy different aspects of our personality. I love the speed and engineering element of sewing. But I also love the portability and flexibility of crochet. I’m also an enthusiastic knitter, a keen baker, a big fan of patterned paper and origami, a passionate cook, an occasional gardener, a keen puzzler, and much more.

I think it’s natural to feel yourself pulled towards a particular craft and away from others – in the past year, I’ve certainly felt pulled towards crochet and away from sewing. And I missed sewing. So I decided to take action, to give myself more sewing projects by becoming a contributor to The Sewing Directory.

I’m delighted to say that my first project is now live on the website – in fact, it’s not just one project but five! I put together a tutorial for making five different fabric flowers – you can see it here. There are so many different ways to make flowers out of fabric, it was hard to choose just five! So I took the selfish route and made the ones that I wanted.

As you might know, I’m getting married in April (this year!) so a lot of my making time is now devoted to crafting for the wedding. One of the items I’ve made is a wrap out of ivory chiffon, for me to wear on the day. I’d never sewn with chiffon before and to be honest, I totally ruined the first metre length I bought! It was only £3 per metre though so I just bought another metre. But that left me with a ruined metre, full of puckers and pulls, which I didn’t want to go to waste. So I decided to use it to make a gathered flower, which I’ll use somewhere on the day:

Chiffon flower

Chiffon flower

This became Flower 1 of 5, and I enjoyed the gathering technique so much that I made another one using a patterned green cotton fabric and attached it to a pipe cleaner stem – simple but pretty!

Flower 1 in cotton

Flower 1 in cotton

For Flower 2, I thought I’d try a simple technique that I’d seen around but never tried myself – chain piecing folded triangles of fabric. It worked really well, apart from the hole in the middle which has to be covered up – to make it a little more 3D, I stuffed the flower centre. Then I attached it to a barbecue skewer to form a stem – perfect for a little vase:

Flower 2 in pot

Flower 2 in pot

For Flower 3, I tried a technique that I’d seen during my time on Love Patchwork & Quilting magazine – it’s a clever way of joining a fabric flower shape to a piece of fusible web. The resulting appliqué flower is flat and ready to fuse onto another fabric. I decided to use it to brighten up this dress – remember it from this post?

Flower 3 on dress

Flower 3 on dress

After making this one, I felt confident enough to cut out a flower shape from another fabric and create a ready-to-fuse appliqué flower out of it. This particular flower shape is a little bit odd, but the technique is neat!

Before and after

Appliqué flower: before and after

For Flower 4, I went back to my stash and found some spare organza (also a wedding purchase) – this seemed a good choice for making flowers. This time, I cut the fabric into petals and had a little too much fun using a candle to shape them (I think maybe there’s a pyromaniac lurking in all of us):

Organza flower

Organza flower

And finally, Flower 5 is just a gathered and layered tube, which I’ve done before, but they’re so simple and satisfying to make:

Flower 5 gathered tube

Flower 5 gathered tube

I made these during the dull days of December and they really brightened up the place, without taking up much time. If you’d like to make any of these flowers, just check out my free tutorials on The Sewing Directory – and look out for some more of my free sewing projects on the website soon…

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2016 in Sewing

 

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2015 Review

I’m not usually one for looking back or making resolutions, but it seems to have become a tradition for my blog, so why the heck not…

The past year has been pretty big for me: I fulfilled one of my big dreams of opening an Etsy shop and I’ve even sold some patterns!

My blog has also had some lovely comments, I’ve posted 35 times, and I’ve uploaded over 200 photos. I also started another blog all about vegan food (littlegreenplate.wordpress.com) and I opened a shop on Ravelry dedicated to my crochet and knitting projects (and had a few sales on there as well!).

But looking back, without doubt, my most popular make continues to be this adorable doggy doorstop sewing project – even though he bounded into life in 2012, he’s still my most popular make and I think he’s my favourite, too!

Sewn doggy doorstop – sewing pattern available at www.etsy.com/uk/shop/MakeMeDo

But looking at my new projects for 2015,I think this has been a really productive year, where I’ve designed and made some really good projects that I’m proud to put my name on. So these are some of my most popular projects as well as my personal favourites:

Crochet alphabet – pattern available at www.ravelry.com/stores/becky-skuse-designs

Rainbow scarf

Rainbow scarf

Crochet rainbow scarf – pattern coming soon to Simply Crochet magazine.

Flowery tablet cosy

Flowery tablet cosy

Crochet flower tablet cosy – pattern coming soon to my Etsy and Ravelry shops.

Crochet pinwheels closer

Crochet pinwheels closer

Crochet pinwheels – pattern coming soon to my Etsy and Ravelry shops.

Finished crochet popcorn tree

Finished crochet popcorn tree

Crochet popcorn tree – pattern coming soon to my Etsy and Ravelry shops.

Sparkly clutch

Sparkly clutch

Crochet and sewing sparkly purse – pattern coming soon to my Etsy and Ravelry shops.

Little dragon

Little dragon

Crochet dragon – a gift for my sister-in-law.

Crochet All Sorts

Crochet All Sorts

Crochet All Sorts – my first project for Mollie Makes magazine, the pattern is available on my Etsy shop here. I also posted a step-by-step guide to sewing up one of the sweets:

Start sewing up

Start sewing up

At the beginning of 2015, I made some crafty resolutions and I’m glad to say that I’ve achieved some of them. I’d resolved to post more technical guides and while I only posted one (above), I’m considering that a mild success.

I also resolved to post more projects, for free or a fee and I have managed to post various patterns, either for free on this blog, or for sale on my Etsy and Ravelry shops. I’d like to add more though (I’ve got 20 patterns just waiting to be sorted out!) so getting through some of these will be a key crafty resolution for 2016.

I haven’t achieved my final resolution though: to make a crocheted baker boy hat. So I think I’ll make that a rollover resolution for 2016! Is that allowed? Well, if it’s good enough for the lottery…

My final aim for the year involves this little thing in April (my wedding!) that I’m busy making things for…

In the meantime, best wishes to all of you for the year ahead 🙂

 
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Posted by on January 16, 2016 in Crochet, Sewing

 

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Festive gifts 

Now that the festivities of the big day are over, I think it’s safe to share some of the gifts I made for Christmas…

First off, my mum asked for a bobble hat, so I showed her various yarns and drew different designs, but eventually this is what I crocheted for her:

Crochet hat for mum

Crochet hat for mum

I used an aran-weight alpaca yarn, working in treble stitches in the round. I started off in blue and then worked the increases in red, creating an interlocking spiked effect. There was a lot of colour changing and counting involved, but it was worth it because mum really likes the finished hat. I think it has a subtle crown-like element to it. It’s certainly unusual anyway.

The weather is unseasonably mild at the moment so my mum won’t need to wear it for a while, but she says it’s lovely and cosy. She wanted the big bobble pompom on the top, which used a lot of yarn and took a while to make. And it really does ‘bobble’ about on your head when you wear it, which is fun!

Next up, I also used my crochet hooks to make this adorable owl for my aunty:

Crochet owl

Crochet owl

Owls are my aunty’s favourite and it just so happened that Simply Crochet features an owl pattern in issue 40 (on sale soon) – as soon as I saw it, I knew I had to make it for her. The pattern actually comes from a book, Sweet Crochet by Sandrine Deveze, and it was really easy to make. I used a cream linen yarn with variegated lengths of sparkly gold, which gives the owl a lovely texture. And of course, I had to make a little gif of him in his natural woodland habitat!

I also made a few foodie treats, as is customary at Christmas. The most effort fun was making jars of pancake mix for two of my cousins. My cousin Adam is coeliac so I had the idea of making him a gluten-free pancake mix, to which he could just add milk (dairy or dairy-free). I like to keep a good stock of empty jars for such occasions, although of course, I had to do a bit of dressing up to make the jar look festive:

Pancake mix

Pancake mix

So I glued a circle of red fabric over the lid, then added a circle of glittery gold netting over the top and worked some gathering stitches to keep the two fabric layers in place. Then I added another piece of festive ribbon to the body of the jar (my mum had just given me this ribbon so that was perfect timing!). The only thing missing was a label, so I designed that on the computer, printed out the front and back, glued the two sides together and attached it to the jar with a small piece of ribbon. Here’s a close-up view of the label:

Gluten-free pancake mix label

Gluten-free pancake mix label

This jar turned out so good that I decided to make a second jar (not gluten free) for another cousin – I figured, who doesn’t like pancakes? They’re such a treat, which is what Christmas is all about.

If you’re interested in the recipe for the pancake mix, please head to my foodie blog, littlegreenplate.wordpress.com where you’ll also find some of the other foodie treats I made for a happy vegan Christmas! Hope you had a good one 🙂

 
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Posted by on December 29, 2015 in Baking, Crochet, Other Crafts, Sewing

 

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All Sorts sewing guide

If you saw my last post, you’ll know that I made these cute crocheted liquorice all sorts recently:

Crochet All Sorts

Crochet All Sorts

If you’re interested in making them, you can get the pattern at my Etsy shop: http://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/MakeMeDo

While designing these, I found that the shapes were all pretty simple – except for the round slices for the Coconut Chips and Button sweets (the Coconut Chips are the ones that look like eyes in the picture above and the Buttons are the ones covered in seed beads).

As (bad) luck would have it, the Coconut Chip was the one that I decided to make first, so this one took me considerably more time than the others and included a lot of huffing and puffing about why I couldn’t get it to look how I wanted!!

Eventually, I came up with a design that works, but it does involve an unusual technique for sewing up. So I decided to put together this step-by-step guide to demonstrate how the method works – plus I’ve got a few extra top tips along the way to help generally with sewing up projects, which will be especially useful when you’re making toys or other stuffed items.

Ready? Here we go…

Step 1: The round slice shape of the Coconut Chip and Button sweets are made up of two crocheted halves, so you need to hook these two halves first and fasten off, leaving a really long tail (approx 20cm) on one of the halves:

Fasten off, leaving a long tail

Step 1: Fasten off, leaving a long tail

Step 2: Now make sure the right side of each crochet half is on the outside:

Check it's right side out

Step 2: Check it’s right side out

Step 3: Push each starting tail end of yarn inside each half – this neatly hides the end and acts as light stuffing for the sweet. You can use your finger or the blunt end of a tapestry needle:

Stuff with starting tail

Step 3: Stuff with starting tail

Step 4: Now you need to flatten each half, squeezing it between your thumb and finger to press the piece into a flatter circle:

Flatten each half

Step 5: Flatten each half

Step 6: Thread the really long tail end of one crocheted half onto a tapestry needle – I like to use one with a needle with a large eye and a tapered (but not sharp) point:

Thread long tail onto tapestry needle

Step 6: Thread long tail onto tapestry needle

Step 7: Now you can bring together your two halves, with wrong sides together. The shape works best if you position the fasten off points of each half so they’re opposite each other. You can leave the tail end of the other half running to the outside for now:

Put the two halves together

Step 7: Put the two halves together

Step 8: Press the two halves together and roughly line up the stitches. Now you can start sewing them together. Start by taking the tapestry needle from the wrong side fasten off point to the right side of the fasten off point, to the right of one double crochet (US single crochet) stitch from the last round of crocheting:

Start sewing up

Step 8: Start sewing up

Step 9: Identify the dc (sc) stitch that lies to the left of the tapestry needle and insert the needle behind the front two strands of yarn that form this stitch:

Insert needle behind first dc (sc) stitch

Step 9: Insert needle behind first dc (sc) stitch

Step 10: Pull the needle and yarn through, but not too tight. Now identify the dc (sc) stitch that lies directly below this stitch, on the other crocheted half. Insert the needle behind the front two strands of yarn that form this stitch:

Insert needle behind dc (sc) below

Step 10: Insert needle behind dc (sc) below

Step 11: Pull the needle and yarn through, but not too tight – you’re aiming to join the two halves together, but without forming a dip in the side wall of the sweet. Now identify the next dc (sc) stitch on the other crocheted half above – it will lie slightly to the left of this stitch. Insert the needle behind the front two strands of yarn that form this stitch:

Insert needle behind dc (sc) above

Step 11: Insert needle behind dc (sc) above left

Step 12: Pull the needle and yarn through, but not too tight. Now identify the next dc (sc) stitch on the other crocheted half below – it will lie slightly to the left of this stitch. Insert the needle behind the two strands of yarn that form this stitch:

Insert needle behind dc (sc) below left

Step 12: Insert needle behind dc (sc) below left

Step 13: Repeat the action in Steps 11 and 12 to join each stitch to a parallel stitch on the other crocheted half. Keep going until you get back to where you started – work into the stitch where you started to secure your join:

Work around to the first stitch

Step 13: Repeat around to the first stitch

Step 14: Now take the needle through to the opposite side of the sweet, without pulling too tight:

Step 14: Insert needle to other side

Step 14: Take needle to other side

Step 15: Carefully knot this tail end to the other tail end on the other side, being careful not to pull too tight – you don’t want to form a dreaded dip in the side wall. Now use the needle to take both tail ends through to the other side, again, without pulling tight:

Step 15: Take needle to other side

Step 15: Take needle to other side

Step 16: You should now have a small tail end of yarn inside the sweet, so it’s safe to cut off the excess yarn, leaving approx 1cm:

Step 16: Cut yarn

Step 16: Cut yarn

Step 17: Use the tapestry needle to push the excess 1cm of yarn inside the sweet – you might find it easier to use the blunt end of the needle:

Step 17: Push tail end inside

Step 17: Push tail end inside

Step 18: Your sweet should now be finished:

Step 18: Finished sweet

Step 18: Finished sweet

Step 19: The key aim with this joining method is to get a smooth side to your sweet so don’t pull too tight and don’t worry if you can see your stitches – there are so many strands of yarn that no one will know that some of the strands are joining stitches:

Step 19: Check the side wall

Step 19: Aim for a smooth side

Hope you get on ok with this and let me know if you have any problems or questions 🙂

 
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Posted by on December 13, 2015 in Crochet, Sewing

 

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Crafted All Sorts

Until recently, I’ve always been a practical crafter, preferring to make practical items like hats, scarves, bags, and other useful items that serve a purpose or fulfil a need. I’m not sure what’s changed but I find myself more and more drawn to whimsical projects that are all about fun, joy and decoration, such as amigurumi toys and fabric flowers.

My latest project is all about having fun with crochet and hooking your own liquorice all sorts:

Crochet All Sorts

Crochet All Sorts

I’m not actually a big fan of eating these sweets because I don’t like liquorice! But I remember them being very popular when I was a child – I love the iconic look of them and the colourful designs, so I thought they’d be perfect to crochet. I even bought a pack of the real thing to make sure I got the look just right – can you tell the difference?

Real All Sorts

Real All Sorts

Ok so my crochet versions aren’t perfect, but I’m still really pleased with them. Actually, the pack of sweets I bought didn’t include all the different sweets, which was disappointing, so I had to use a bit of artistic imagination… and Jonny still enjoyed eating them up for me afterwards.

Making these sweets was so much fun and each one is finished really fast, which is soo satisfyingly! I used spare bits of DK yarn that I had in my stash and each one uses only a few grams of yarn so they’re great little projects for stash-busting. They’re not difficult either – I could crochet all the bits for one All Sort on my morning bus commute and then sew it together on the commute home. That’s about an hour for each sweet. The sewing together can be a little fiddly because the pieces are so small, but it’s not difficult.

Mind you, the Button All Sort did take a bit longer though (that’s the round sweet with little bits on it) because I decided to decorate them with tiny seed beads for a more authentic look. They still looked good without the beads, but I think the extra detail was worth the extra time.

Beaded Button All Sort

Beaded Button All Sorts

In case you’re not sure of the official names for each All Sort, I’ve made a handy gif-tastic guide for you…are you ready?

Some of the names are pretty obvious, like the Battenberg All Sort, which looks like Battenberg cake:

Happy Battenberg All Sorts

Happy Battenberg All Sorts

The round All Sorts with liquorice in the centre (I think they look a bit like eyes!) are Coconut Chips:

Dancing Coconut Chips

Dancing Coconut Chips

Next up is the little black and white tube that seems to have the least-known name: Cream Rock!

Wriggling Cream Rock

Wriggling Cream Rock

And finally, the most well-known All Sort seems to be the sandwich – do you prefer the standard sandwich or the many-layered Cube Sandwich?

Sandwich All Sorts

Sandwich All Sorts playing together

Yes, I have learnt how to make gifs! And I think they really help to bring the sweets to life. Although now I’m thinking about whether to make the sweets out of felt – that would be so cute!

If you like these little makes, you can find the pattern for three of the All Sorts in the latest issue of Mollie Makes magazine (issue 61), on sale now. Look out for the pattern for all of the sweets on my Etsy shop, coming soon: www.etsy.com/uk/shop/MakeMeDo

I’ll also be posting a step-by-step guide to the trickiest sewing technique involved in making the Coconut Chip and the Button, so come back at the weekend for that.

 
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Posted by on December 11, 2015 in Crochet, Sewing

 

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Crochet purse

As a multi-craft lover, my favourite projects are ones that bring together different techniques to make something that would never be possible using just one craft. So I was excited to be able to combine crochet and sewing recently, to make this sparkly little purse for Simply Crochet magazine:

Sparkly clutch

Sparkly clutch

One of the most common questions that new crocheters ask me is about how to line their makes with fabric. It’s not hard, it just takes a bit of basic sewing knowledge and practice. So I helped to put together a feature to help explain how to do it for Simply Crochet issue 39, which is on sale now.

After reading the feature, it’s easy to tackle this little purse pattern, which I think would be great for parties over Christmas and New Year:

Party clutch

Party clutch

I used a sparkly black and silver yarn from Marriner (Sparkly DK in Black) and went for an open, lacy scallop effect, which I think is really pretty.

But the sneaky thing about this purse is that I double lined it, so that the red fabric is visible on the outside, but inside there’s a much lighter fabric – I find this is essential to finding the item you want out of your purse, especially in a darkened room:

Inside the purse

Inside the purse

The key to achieving the effect is the zip, which is the dividing line between the two sides of the fabric. I like to sew a zip in place by hand – I just find I get a cleaner finish than doing it on a machine, plus if you have a crochet layer as well then hand sewing is the only way to go.

Sewing a zip in place can be fiddly (especially with a double lining!), but it’s worth it for the professional-looking finish. I’m really pleased with how it turned out and I hope you like it too! 🙂

Attach the zip

Attach the zip

 
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Posted by on December 9, 2015 in Crochet, Sewing

 

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