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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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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 headband

Cable headband

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!

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.

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.

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2016 in Crochet

 

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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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Make: bunting

A colourful crafted make really can cheer up any space. Don’t believe me? Take a look at this crochet bunting:

Colourful bunting

Colourful bunting

I’ve actually blogged about this bunting before, in this Crafting around the house post in 2013, where I revealed how the bunting was cheering up a somewhat neglected kitchen that’s in desperate need of DIY. Here’s the uncropped view:

Bunting improves the view

Bunting improves the view

We have made a few improvements to the kitchen since then (when we’ve had spare cash), but the colourful bunting is still very much needed to off-set the bare brick and unpainted walls.

So if you have a space that needs cheering up in these times of austerity, dip into your yarn stash and work up my free crochet bunting pattern:

You will need
Any aran or DK yarn (I used Rico Creative Cotton Aran)
A 4mm (US G/6) hook

Measurements
Each triangle measures approx 15x16cm (6×6¼in)

Notes
Pattern uses UK crochet terminology: UK double crochet (dc) is the same as US single crochet (sc)

Bunting triangle
Make as many triangles as you like, in the colours that you like.
Using a 4mm hook, ch27.
Row 1 Dc in second chain from hook (missed ch does not count as st), dc in each chain to end, turn. [26 dc]
Row 2 Ch1 (does not count as st), dc2tog, dc to end, turn. [1 stitch decreased]
Rep Row 2 until 2 sts remain.
Next row Ch1 (does not count as st), dc2tog.
Fasten off and weave in ends.

Bunting string
Using white yarn and a 4mm hook, ch5, ss to first ch (hanging loop formed), ch10, dc into foundation chain of first triangle, *ch10, dc into foundation chain of next triangle, repeat from * until all triangles have been joined, ch15, ss to 5th ch from hook (hanging loop formed).
Fasten off and weave in ends.

 
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Posted by on November 7, 2015 in Crochet

 

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Make: crochet dishcloths

Blogging can sometimes be a lonely business. I quite often feel like I’m talking to myself. Which is fine. I’m happy to listen.

So it’s great when something I’ve made, written about or photographed is noticed and liked by other people. That’s what happened with this image of some simple crochet dishcloths I made:

Crochet dishcloths

Crochet dishcloths

A lot of crocheters like to make dishcloths and these ones are nothing special. But I remember making a special effort to photograph these ones nicely. So it’s great to discover that the image has been re-posted on a few other blogs as well as on Pinterest. It’s very nice.

Anyway, I thought it was about time that I posted the pattern, for anyone interested in making these dishcloths. They’re super-simple and beginner-friendly to make.

Dishcloths

You will need
Any DK-weight yarn (I used Yeoman Soft Cotton DK)
A 3.5mm (US E/4) hook

Measurements
Finished dishcloth measures approx 20cm (8in) square

Notes
Pattern uses UK crochet terminology: UK treble crochet is US double crochet, UK double crochet is US single crochet.

Dishcloth
Using 3.5mm hook, ch42.
Row 1 Tr in fourth ch from hook and each ch to end, turn. [40 tr]
Row 2 Ch3 (counts as tr), tr in each st to end, turn. [40 tr]
Repeat Row 2 until dishcloth is square (approx 20cm/8in).
Fasten off and weave in ends.

Edging
Join a contrasting shade of yarn using a slip stitch in any stitch of final row.
Round 1 Ch1 (does not count as st), *dc in each st to end, work 3dc in corner st, rotate to work into row ends and work approx 2 dc into the side of each treble stitch, work 3dc in corner st; repeat from * around, dc in each st until you reach the first dc, ss to first dc to join round.
Round 2 Ch1 (does not count as st), *dc in each st around working 3dc in each corner st, ss to first dc to join round.
Fasten off and weave in ends.

 
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Posted by on October 10, 2015 in Crochet

 

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Make: Doggy doorstop

You may have noticed that I’m something of an animal lover. I think many people are, and this might explain why one of my most popular makes has been a doggy doorstop that I made back in 2012.

Doggy doorstop

Doggy doorstop

Well, I’ve finally got round to putting together the pattern, and he’s the main attraction of my new Etsy shop!

The new shop is at www.etsy.com/uk/shop/MakeMeDo

He’s a fairly straightforward make, so I’m surprised that the pattern runs to 21 pages! That includes loads of diagrams and photos though, and the template pieces, and I’ve given all the instructions plenty of space (I hate when patterns are cramped).

This little guy is such a cutie, he’s been holding our kitchen door open for almost three years now and he makes me smile every day…

Dog doorstop in situ

Dog doorstop in situ

 

 
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Posted by on October 3, 2015 in Sewing

 

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Filet table set

I discovered a whole new arm of crochet recently: filet crochet. Have you tried this before? I didn’t know much about it, but just assumed it would be difficult, old-fashioned and boring. How wrong I was! It’s actually really easy (using only chains and trebles), it has loads of creative potential, and I think it’s particularly suited to creating modern geometric looks that are so popular now.

So I set about proving that it’s quick and easy to make modern goodies using filet crochet, hoping I could set others a good example by making some of my own! First, I made this chunky table runner:

Table runner

Table runner

Filet crochet has been around for at least a hundred years, and it was originally worked using very fine yarns and tiny hooks, to look like lace – the most sought-after and expensive fabric at the time. Filet crochet was much easier to work than traditional lace so it was a great money-maker for poorer families and especially women.

Nowadays, filet crochet still tends to be worked with finer yarns (such as 4ply), but usually to create images and scenes within the mesh. To make my filet crochet table runner more 21st-century-friendly, I used for a chunky yarn in the bold, modern colour of hot pink, worked into a simple geometric pattern. There are so many other eye-popping geometric patterns you could work though – I sketched out several designs using zigzags, pinwheels and cross-hatch patterns, before deciding on this one. (Top tip: I found patchwork patterns a great source of inspiration!)

My focus on filet crochet was sparked by being commissioned to write a two-part feature on how to do filet crochet for Simply Crochet magazine. For the second part, I covered lacets and bars, which again I thought would be really tricky. Wrong again! I’ve fallen head over heels in love with lacets and bars, and made these little coasters using DK yarn:

Filet coasters

Filet coasters

What I love about these coasters is that the stitch patterns look pretty complicated, but they’re so straightforward. I think the simple checked lacets design (the top two coasters) is my favourite and I’d love to make a light summer scarf using this stitch pattern. I also love the lacet trees though (the bottom two coasters) and I can imagine working a row of these across a child’s jumper. Both stitch patterns are made by following a chart, but it’s much easier to follow than any other sort of chart – it’s just like following a code where each symbol represents a combination of chains, trebles and double crochet stitches.

If you’re interested in learning more about the technique or making either project, you can find them in issues 32 and 33 of Simply Crochet magazine – see here for more info. And I’ll post the pattern here as soon as I’m allowed!

 
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Posted by on June 3, 2015 in Crochet

 

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