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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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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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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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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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Rainbow storage

Some of the greatest creations involve bringing together two good things to make one great thing. That’s how I felt recently when I saw this set of storage boxes in rainbow colours:

Rainbow storage set

Rainbow storage set

I like rainbows. I like being organised. And I like cute little storage boxes. Needless to say, it had to come home with me. It was only £7, which seemed like a reasonable price for something that’s bringing me joy every day! Oh and it’s helping to keep me organised.

I’ve filled each colourful ‘Really Useful Box’ with different sewing accessories, which had previously been either cluttering up my stash of cotton reels, lying loose at the bottom of a larger box, or just forgotten about sitting in a boring old plastic bag that was far too big.

Now each little bit of useful stuff has a colourful home to enjoy. Such as my safety pins…

Safety pins

Safety pins

I like how the contents of each box are so secure – I could take this box out with me and no matter how much my bag gets shaken up, those pins ain’t goin’ nowhere!

But the little grey clips undo very easily so you can remove the lid quickly…

Box with lid

Box with lid

The set came with boxes in eight different colours, and two boxes of each colour – for anyone good at maths, that’s 16 boxes. They originally came in a random colour arrangement, which I played with until I got a nice-looking rainbow effect from one corner to the other.

I’d like to say that I colour-coded the contents of each box, but I didn’t – it’s surprisingly hard to make a link between colours and sewing bits and bobs. So the safety pins are in the red box. If you have a cleverer suggestion for the right colour, do let me know.

Here’s a run-down of what’s in each box, in case you have a colour-coding suggestion for each one – I’m very happy to move the contents around if you have a good idea:

Red: safety pins, crewel embroidery threads
Orange: Miscellaneous, poppers and hooks & eyes
Yellow: Zips, small pieces of sticky felt
Green: Sewing machine accessories, sewing clips
Turquoise: Wide elastic, long pins
Blue: a long piece of denim ribbon, long thread ends for hand sewing
Purple: shirring elastic, empty cotton reels and thimbles
Pink: metallic threads, cards of random sewing threads

You see, how could you colour code that!

 
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Posted by on October 17, 2015 in Sewing

 

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Crafty ideas on the bus

My journey to work is an hour on the bus each way, which can get a little dull. Usually, I take a crochet project or something to read with me, but the other day, I was caught out with nothing to do. Sometimes it’s nice just to look out the window and watch the world go by, but on this occasion, the bus was so busy that there were no window seats left.

So I resorted to looking through my handbag for interesting items to entertain me, and I came across a couple of crafty business cards that I’d picked up the last time I went to St Ives in Cornwall.

One was for Grace Face Boutique, www.gracefaceboutique.blogspot.co.uk:

Grace Face card

Grace Face card

They primarily make lovely vintage-style dresses using quirky printed fabrics, but there’s also adorable buttons, cute purses and inspirational notebooks – I love the one that says ‘Don’t quit your day dream’. Apparently, Emma has since closed her studio in St Ives and moved to Northampton, but it seems like she’s still brimming with creativity.

The second card was for Little Binks, www.littlebinks.co.uk:

Little Binks card

Little Binks card

They make unique handmade clothes for little ones, many of which have a seaside theme, which would just look adorable on my nieces during the summer. They use vintage and recycled fabrics for an eco-friendly edge, and there are a fair few dresses with a hint of 1970s floral bedspreads, which is oh-so cool right now. Prices are reasonable, too.

On the back of the Little Binks card, I’d written this:

Leila Shepherd

Leila Shepherd

I remember that she didn’t have a card, but I really liked her handmade lampshades, particularly one made with a map-style fabric. So I’d written down her details on the back of the other card. Her website is leilashepherd.com, although you can see many more of her creations on her Pinterest page, www.pinterest.com/leilashepherd

Finally, I found a receipt with the cards from the Poppy Treffry shop, where I got this felt flower brooch:

Felt flower

Felt flower

If you’ve not discovered Poppy yet, she creates lovely freehand embroideries. Go to www.poppytreffry.co.uk and check out her gorgeous seaside-themed goodies – I love the purses and bags, the mugs, the kits and the embroidered pictures.

Anyway, I love seeing the creativity of other crafters, and I had a lovely bus journey in the end, remembering my time in St Ives and all the inspirational makes that I saw there. Makes me wish I was in St Ives now…

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2015 in Embroidery, Sewing

 

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Review & resolutions

All in all, it’s been a pretty good year for Make Me Do. Some posts have been surprisingly popular while others have flown under the radar somewhat. I didn’t quite manage my posting once-a-week aim, but 37 posts out of 52 is pretty good.

Since I posted a review of 2013 at the start of last year, I felt like I should stick with tradition and review 2014. From a strictly numbers-based perspective, my most popular posts have been for my peaked baker boy hat patterns, whether that’s sewn like this one

Denim hat © Becky Skuse

Denim hat © Becky Skuse

Or knitted, like this one

Baker boy hat

Baker boy hat

I love the shape and style of these hats and I like the idea that there could be people walking around wearing a hat made from one of my patterns! You can buy both patterns here. I’d really like to make a crochet version of the hat so I think I’ll make that my first crafty resolution of 2015.

One of my favourite makes, personally, in 2014 was this laundry bag, which makes me smile every morning when I wake up…

Laundry bag

Laundry bag

I have the pattern for this bag on my ‘to post’ list so I think I’ll make that my next resolution for 2015, alongwith plenty of other patterns I’ve got ready to post.

Another popular post has been my Doggy doorstop and you can now buy the pattern here

Doggy doorstop

Doggy doorstop

Talking of cute crafty makes, I loved making this crochet amigirumi bear, which I called ‘Cookie’…

Cookie bear waving

Cookie bear waving

Cookie happily sits on a shelf next to me when I’m sat on the sofa in the evenings – he’s no trouble and always has a smile on his face.

Back to the numbers and apparently, the most popular day on my blog in 2014 was in May, when I posted the step-by-step on hairpin crochet

Hairpin Step 11

Hairpin crochet

So in 2015, I’ll try to do a few more technical guides. Any requests?

I think three resolutions is a good start, so here goes for 2015…

 
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Posted by on January 8, 2015 in Crochet, Knitting, Sewing

 

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