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Put your heart into it

Hearts are an eternally popular symbol, but sometimes I’m a bit tired of seeing them used as just a fun design shape. It’s easy to forget what they mean: love, and living your life with warmth and kindness in your heart. With this in mind, I try to be careful how I use hearts and reserve them only for really special projects.

One such project was this heart embroidery filled with flowers, worked on crochet fabric, which I made as a decoration for our wedding:

Heart embroidery on crochet fabric

It was surprisingly simple to make by gradually building up the picture, starting with the stem stitch heart outline. Then I made the big two-tone straight stitch flowers, the chunky bullion knot blooms and the dainty satin stitch petals. I filled in the remaining areas with stems made of straight and feather stitches, and then tiny satin stitch buds. I used one of my favourite yarns, DMC Natura Just Cotton, which has some lovely, natural colours.

I wanted this heart to symbolise my love for my now-husband, which is like a warm garden full of beautiful flowers in all sorts of colours, sizes and textures, with new blooms developing all the time. I love looking at it!

It’ll have a new home once our house renovations are finished, but for now it’s hanging up with some other treasured items (including the lovely Welsh spoons gift we had, with the date of our wedding on):

Heart embroidery home

The other heart-themed project I made for our wedding was this chiffon wrap, trimmed with crocheted hearts:
(Sorry this photo is a bit rubbish – did you know that photographing white chiffon is really tricky?!)

Heart-trimmed chiffon wrap

I wanted to make a wrap to use as a cover-up in case it was cold, or if I felt a little self-conscious of showing off too much flesh! It was easy to make – I just bought 1m of chiffon (1.5m wide), folded it in half and hemmed around the edges, leaving a turning gap. I turned it through to the right side and topstitched around the edge, before sewing on the crocheted hearts by hand.

It was very simple to make, although I have to admit that I… um… totally ruined the first piece of chiffon that I bought by using a really old needle in my sewing machine. It pulled on the threads like mad – whoops! As soon as I got off my lazy rear and inserted a new needle, the second piece of chiffon ran like a dream through the machine. It was ok though, I cut up the ruined piece and used it for some other projects, which I’ll tell you about another time…

Anyway, so on our wedding day, it sat quite nicely around my arms and was handy for putting around me when it started drizzling! You can see me wearing it in this photo:

Me wearing heart-trimmed wrap

Here’s a close-up of the wrap, which featured cream hearts along each side and a blue heart at each corner:

Heart trim close-up

I used a lovely yarn to hook the hearts, Cascade Ultra Pima Cotton, which feels really soft and has a slight sheen that adds a luxurious look.

I wanted the hearts on the wrap to symbolise my love for handmade. With each stitch that I hooked, I thought about how much I love creating unique items by hand and I tried to put my heart into making each shape special – partly as a special gift to myself, but I also thought about the hearts being viewed by all our loved ones at our wedding and hoping they’d smile as they realised that of course I’d made it myself! When I finally wore the wrap on our big day, I definitely felt some of that love keeping me warm.

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Posted by on April 10, 2018 in Crochet, Embroidery, Sewing

 

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Zigzag broomstick 

When I first started crocheting, I read somewhere that there were two classic types of project you had to try: one with granny squares (been there, done that) and one with zigzags or chevrons. Never one to do as I’m told, I let my crochet journey take me where it naturally wanted to go. And years later, it’s finally led me to zigzags.

As you may remember from my last post, I’ve been experimenting with broomstick crochet for Simply Crochet magazine. For part two of the how-to guide, I needed to think of a project that involved changing colour, increasing and decreasing, all in broomstick crochet. Blam! That was the sound in my head as the idea hit me: stripy zigzags.

Making a blanket with the technique would’ve been nice, but I didn’t have that much time so I decided on a shawl/wrap instead. Simply Crochet gave me some beautiful Cascade Ultra Pima cotton yarn in purple, yellow and lavender, and here’s the result:

Broomstick wrap flat

Broomstick wrap flat

I actually crocheted this over Christmas and New Year, so evokes really joyful feelings for me. There were so many rows to work that I took it almost everywhere, trying to squeeze in more rows at every opportunity, even to family gatherings. A girl can crochet and mingle, you know – although having a broomstick involved as well makes it slightly more challenging!

In total, I worked a whopping 111 rows, changing colour at least every three rows, sometimes more. I made a plan of the colour changes about 25 rows in, and then ignored the plan when I felt like doing something different! My only regret was not weaving in my ends as I went. It took me about as long to weave them all in as it took to work 30 rows. Groan.

But when it was finished, it all seemed worth it. I love the zigzag shape and how the colour changes create a different geometric effect all the way along. The lacy broomstick rows give the fabric a gorgeous drape, while the double and treble rows make sure the stripes are solid and keep their zigzag shape. Looking at the whole wrap, the pattern reminds me a lot of sound waves and tree rings – it almost vibrates with positive energy! Even close up, the pretty colour combinations and gentle wavy shapes have a relaxing effect. It’s just divine.

Broomstick wrap close-up

Broomstick wrap close-up

If you’d like to make your own broomstick zigzag wrap, it’s in the new issue of Simply Crochet (issue 43). Feel free to formulate your own colour scheme using any colours you want, but if you like the look of my wrap and want to use the same colour scheme, here’s a list of which colour I used for each row:

Row 1 Yellow
Row 2 Yellow
Row 3 Yellow
Row 4 Purple
Row 5 Purple
Row 6 Lilac
Row 7 Yellow
Row 8 Lilac
Row 9 Purple
Row 10 Purple
Row 11 Lilac
Row 12 Yellow
Row 13 Yellow
Row 14 Lilac
Row 15 Purple
Row 16 Purple
Row 17 Lilac
Row 18 Yellow
Row 19 Purple
Row 20 Yellow
Row 21 Lilac
Row 22 Lilac
Row 23 Lilac
Row 24 Purple
Row 25 Yellow
Row 26 Purple
Row 27 Purple
Row 28 Lilac
Row 29 Lilac
Row 30 Purple
Row 31 Yellow
Row 32 Yellow
Row 33 Purple
Row 34 Yellow
Row 35 Lilac
Row 36 Lilac
Row 37 Yellow
Row 38 Lilac
Row 39 Purple
Row 40 Purple
Row 41 Purple
Row 42 Yellow
Row 43 Yellow
Row 44 Lilac
Row 45 Purple
Row 46 Lilac
Row 47 Yellow
Row 48 Yellow
Row 49 Lilac
Row 50 Purple
Row 51 Lilac
Row 52 Lilac
Row 53 Yellow
Row 54 Yellow
Row 55 Lilac
Row 56 Yellow
Row 57 Purple
Row 58 Purple
Row 59 Yellow
Row 60 Purple
Row 61 Lilac
Row 62 Purple
Row 63 Purple
Row 64 Yellow
Row 65 Yellow
Row 66 Purple
Row 67 Yellow
Row 68 Lilac
Row 69 Lilac
Row 70 Yellow
Row 71 Lilac
Row 72 Purple
Row 73 Yellow
Row 74 Lilac
Row 75 Lilac
Row 76 Lilac
Row 77 Purple
Row 78 Yellow
Row 79 Purple
Row 80 Lilac
Row 81 Lilac
Row 82 Lilac
Row 83 Purple
Row 84 Yellow
Row 85 Purple
Row 86 Purple
Row 87 Purple
Row 88 Lilac
Row 89 Yellow
Row 90 Purple
Row 91 Lilac
Row 92 Purple
Row 93 Purple
Row 94 Lilac
Row 95 Yellow
Row 96 Yellow
Row 97 Yellow
Row 98 Yellow
Row 99 Purple
Row 100 Purple
Row 101 Lilac
Row 102 Lilac
Row 103 Lilac
Row 104 Yellow
Row 105 Lilac
Row 106 Yellow
Row 107 Yellow
Row 108 Purple
Row 109 Yellow
Row 110 Purple
Row 111 Purple

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2016 in Crochet

 

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Broomstick crochet

Learning new techniques is one of the best aspects of crochet – and there are so many different techniques to learn!

Recently, I got my head (and hands) around broomstick crochet, which involves creating long loops of yarn (wrapped around a ‘broomstick’) which you can then work standard crochet stitches into – the finished fabric is beautifully lacy. You can use almost anything as your ‘broomstick’ – I’ve tried it with a large knitting needle (worked well), the handle of an actual broomstick (a bit too big for me) and for the project below, a marker pen! (That worked surprisingly well, too.)

Being new to the technique, I started off by practicing with some spare yarn. Broomstick crochet is actually really easy to do, so I quickly progressed to making this little bracelet. With only 12 stitches to worry about, there wasn’t much for me to get wrong!

Broomstick bracelet

Broomstick bracelet

I’m really pleased with how it turned out. It was the perfect opportunity to use a pretty yarn from Bergere de France called Reflet, which combines a soft strand of organic cotton with a sparkly strand. I chose the Ocean colourway, but I’ve got my eye on the other shades for forthcoming projects (watch this space).

I decided to use buttons to fasten my bracelet and chose three that were small enough to pass through the broomstick loops – I think it’s neat that the fabric formed its own little buttonholes.

Bracelet buttons

Bracelet buttons

After finishing it, I was a little worried that the buttons were rather fiddly to undo and do up with one hand, but it soon became clear that wouldn’t be a problem – the next day I showed it to my friend and work colleague Becca Parker (from Knit Happens). The buttons were already done up and before I could say anything, she tried it on by stretching it over her hand. “Nooo!” I exclaimed. Fortunately, it didn’t seem to harm the bracelet, so that’s become my new method of putting it on! Problem solved, thanks to Becca 🙂

A small project like this is ideal when you’re first getting to grips with a new technique, so if you’d like to try broomstick crochet and even make the bracelet, check out issue 42 of Simply Crochet magazine (on sale now), which includes the pattern for the bracelet and a step-by-step guide to the techniques involved.

Broomstick bracelet flat

Broomstick bracelet flat

 
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Posted by on March 17, 2016 in Crochet

 

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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, you can get the pattern on Ravelry here or on Etsy here. Or 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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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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Crochet cables

Nowadays, I seem to spend much more time crocheting than I do knitting. In fact, I think it might be more than a year since I last picked up the needles! I’m quite happy for the hooks to dominate my creative time instead – crochet is a wonderful, flexible craft and there’s always something new to learn. But there is one aspect of knitting that I miss: cables.

I remember when my granny first showed me how to make a knitted cable, using an extra little needle with a quirky little kink in it. Crossing over the stitches wasn’t easy and I found it very fiddly with my child’s hands, but the finished effect was like magic. Ribbons of twisty, turny, flowing stitches were so elegant – I loved them. I spent hours knitting more rows of that swatch, just repeating the one twist she’d had time to show me.

So you can imagine my delight when I heard that you could create cables in crochet. However, a quick glance at the patterns totally scared me off – they seemed so complicated and I had no idea what a Post Stitch was. It was a good year before I had enough crocheting confidence to tackle Post Stitches (which are ridiculously easy) and then another few months before I tackled my first crochet cable for this cowl.

I learned a lot from that project and so when Simply Crochet asked me to put together a guide on cables and a simple cable project, it was a pleasure. In fact, the biggest pleasure was working up a variety of crochet cable swatches – it showed me just how many different effects you can create with the technique and it reminded me of that first knitted cable swatch that my granny showed me.

Eventually, I decided on a simple 2-stitch twist and made this cabled headband:

Cable hairband

Cosy headbands seem to be a growing trend for winter headwear (apparently they’re good for avoiding ‘hat hair’) and my fashionista friend had been wearing one last winter, so I knew I was onto a winner. I made this one way back in October, and by December they seemed to be in all the shops!

You can now even buy the pattern, either on Ravelry here or on Etsy here.

While making the headband, I learned that forming a crochet cable is actually quite straightforward – it’s trying to write it down in pattern form that makes it seem complicated! It’s so hard trying to explain that you work this post stitch into that post stitch at the front, then skip some stitches, then work some more post stitches into post stitches at the back, then go back to the skipped stitches… for me, it’s highlighted just what a physical skill crochet is and exposed the inadequacy of the human language (or at least written crochet patterns!) to explain how to do that physical skill.

Cable headband

Cable headband

Anyway, the important thing is that the finished headband looks great, with all the flowing elegance of the knitted cables I love – plus, the Drops Air Mix yarn is super-soft on your head. Actually, it took a while to find a cable pattern that looked right with the yarn – it’s so soft and fluffy, many of the cables I tried lacked definition. In the end, I went with a 2-stitch twist with a 2-stitch gap at the centre to help define the two interlocking lines. The fuzzy yarn has actually worked amazingly well in making the stitches merge into each other so the lines flow beautifully along the band.

Cable close-up

Cable close-up

I’m really pleased with this make and feel much more confident with crocheted cables now. I’ve worn the headband quite a few times now and no one can believe it when I tell them I made it and that it’s crocheted. Even my crochet friends! That makes me smile 🙂

If you’re interested in getting the pattern, it’s in issue 40 of Simply Crochet, which is on sale now. Or buy the pattern on Ravelry here or on Etsy here.

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2016 in Crochet

 

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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.

Pancake label

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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