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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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Welsh Dragon

Today is my lovely sister-in-law Catherine’s birthday. She’s been part of our family for 15 years now and I couldn’t have wished for a nicer sister-in-law. Plus, she’s a brilliant mum to my gorgeous nieces – and a key reason why they’re so gorgeous and not little minxes!

I’ve crafted a few things for her over the years (a hat, a belt, some other bits and bobs), but she’s never specifically asked me to make anything for her… until this year.

I’m not sure whether it’s because she’s turned 40 today or whether the recent Rugby world cup stirred up her Welsh pride, but she asked me to make her a Welsh dragon. Actually, she saw a crochet pattern of a Welsh dragon and asked me if I could make ‘anything like that’. “Of course I can,” I replied boldly – that was before I looked closely at the pattern and realised it was a whopping 30cm in size!

Surely she wouldn’t want a dragon that big, I thought, even if it is a Welsh dragon! So I set about making a much smaller, cuter amigurumi-style dragon instead – one that’s a little more cheerful and child-friendly, rather than being too life-like and scary. And here he is, happy to say hello…

Little dragon

Little dragon

The pattern I used is a classic in crochet circles – it’s Stephanie Lau’s adorable little dragon pattern (see www.allaboutami.com/post/16498866712/dragonpattern). Although I have made a few adjustments and additions along the way…

Obviously, I used red yarn instead of green for added Welsh-ness, but this had the unintended effect of making him look somewhat like a devil rather than a dragon! So I added extra ‘cute’ by making his horns out of a sparkly black yarn and giving him a smiley face.

I also added extra wings on his back, just to make him a bit more like a dragon, although they are quite delicate – they’re cut out of felt, with long stitches of yarn to form the veins.

Dragon wings

Dragon wings

They were so delicate at first that I decided to stiffen them with spray starch, which has helped, but I am worried about whether they will survive any rough handling by my nieces… oh well, once you’ve made something and given it away, you have to let go!

Mind you, I haven’t actually let him go yet – those fragile wings meant that I decided not to send him in the post, but to deliver him to Catherine in person tomorrow. Maybe I’ll have to warn her (and my nieces) that he’s not a toy for children – no, he’s umm a hot, dangerous (!) dragon that only grown-ups can handle… it might work for 5 minutes!

Anyway, happy birthday Catherine, we love you lots 🙂

 
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Posted by on December 4, 2015 in Crochet

 

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Refashion dress

Many crafters are of the ‘make do and mend’ attitude and I count myself in that category. Although there are obvious benefits to that, there are also drawbacks – for me, I really struggle to get rid of old clothes. My head just fills with creative ways to refresh the garment or ideas for the fabric, so I put it safely away, ready to work on when I get round to it (which rarely happens).

Well, I’ve finally managed to find some time to complete one of these ‘refashion’ projects on an old dress, and I’m really pleased with the new life I’ve been able to give this old friend. Here’s the original dress:

Turquoise dress

Turquoise dress

I love the colour and simplicity of this dress, which was a summer staple in my wardrobe for years. Until I put on a little more weight and that elasticated waist became painful! I’m sure this discomfort was nothing like wearing a corset, but even so, wearing clothes should surely be fun. The dress has been sitting in a drawer waiting for a revamp ever since.

To get started, I turned the dress inside out and unpicked the stitching that was holding the elastic in place. This involved unpicking the side seam a little bit as well, which made a small hole – only a temporary worry.

Unpicking elastic

Unpicking elastic

As you can imagine, the dress was rather shapeless and tube-like without the elastic. So I decided I’d make a new waist, in part to cover up the old stitch holes.

Since the dress is made out of knitted jersey fabric, I used a similar fabric to make a tube to go around the waist. To do this, I cut a long strip of pink jersey fabric, folded it in half lengthways with right sides together and stitched down the long edge. I turned the tube the right way out and pinned it around the waist of the dress, lining up the ends of the tube with one of the side seams.

As I was thinking about stitching the tube in place, I noticed that there are several stitches on my sewing machine that I’ve never used. They tend to be specialist or decorative stitches that I’ve just not needed to use before. So I chose an unusual zigzag stitch, which my machine calls a ‘stretch blind stitch’, and used that to stitch the tube to the waist of the dress:

Stretch blind stitch

Stretch blind stitch

When you look at the stitches close-up like this, it’s not super-neat… but from a distance it’s a pretty effect:

Tube attached

Tube attached

With a bit of hand stitching at the side seam gap, the tube was finished and I was ready for the next stage: elastic.

Yes, yes, I’m happy to admit the irony of removing elastic from a dress only to insert elastic again, but this time I got to choose exactly how tight the elastic sits and therefore customise the fit. Makes sense to me, if no one else…

So I threaded a wide piece of elastic into the tube, all the way around and out the other end:

Add elastic

Add elastic

I safety pinned the two ends together and then it was time to try on the dress again. I repinned the elastic at the ideal fit point, using a very small safety pin and poked the ends back inside the tube. I’ve not sewed the two ends together yet because I’m thinking that I’ll wear the dress a couple of times to check the tightness of the elastic before committing myself to the fit, otherwise I might end up with the exact same problem of a corset-style dress all over again!

New dress

New dress

For now, I’m really pleased with my new dress: it still has the same turquoise colour I like, with the addition of a stylish pink waistband – plus I can breathe in it, thanks to the improved fit. What more could I ask for?

The only problem I’ve got now is that, um… this turquoise dress isn’t the only one in my wardrobe… I also have the same dress in an inky blue shade and it needs the same treatment:

Inky blue dress

Inky blue dress

I’m thinking maybe a white waistband for this one though, what do you think?

 
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Posted by on November 28, 2015 in Sewing

 

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Embroidery bling

Brace yourself for a bit of bling! My latest project for Simply Crochet is a sparkly one and with Christmas round the corner, what could be better than a bit of metallic thread in the shape of stars:

Embroidered crochet coasters

Embroidered crochet coasters

I made these simple little crochet coasters to accompany my technical feature in issue 38 of the magazine, which is all about how to work embroidery stitches on crochet fabric.

The stars are so simple to create that I’m hoping to see these embroidered metallic stars on all sorts of other crochet projects, and even knitted and sewn projects – they’re not just for Christmas, you know, they’ll look great all winter. I’m secretly hoping to see one large embroidered star on the front of a sweater, Christmas jumper style – that would make my day!

If you like them and want the pattern, you’ll need Simply Crochet magazine issue 38, which is out now.

 
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Posted by on November 20, 2015 in Crochet, Embroidery

 

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