Monday, 4 August 2014

Blog hopping...

A lighter post today. It felt good to talk about something that's important to me- charity and empathy, and even just selflessness. I live in a modern Britain that seems to be all about image, the 'cult of self'... and not about helping others, educating our children in basic things like being polite and helpful and being happy. I am a happy person. And very happy to invited to join in with the current blog hop! The very lovely Kim from the colourful What Peggy Said blog invited me to join weeks ago (sorry, Kim) and last week Georgina who writes Crafting not Cleaning also nominated me. So how could I say 'no'? Kim's blog is bursting with colour, and I adore her beautiful illustrations. Like me she is a retro and vintage lover, and her instagram feed is full of inspiration, as are her photographs on What Peggy Said. I first met Georgina at A Crafty Day two years ago, and she writes TWO blogs in between her time teaching and crocheting, sewing and looking after her two daughters. Two very different blogs, but linked by a love of craft and learning. 

Like me! So, here's a small peek into my crafty mind...

1. What am I working on? 

I am coming to the end of a project I started randomly a couple of months ago. Those of you that follow me on Instagram will remember that I picked up some random odds and ends of Drops Paris Cotton and started hooking up this beauty...

Since then I've seen countless V-stitch blankets pop up, including a beautiful bright one that Kim has made for her Basset Hound, Peggy. I've been dragging this out, squeezing it in around commissions from Simply Crochet magazine, and making a lovely Mina dress for a IG friend's little girl. (I'll tell you more about that later this week). I found some abandoned projects in my ottoman the other day, so stuffed and stitched up some cloud cushions, and dug out some yarn for I-don't-know-what-yet. But I see many more V-stitch blankets on the horizon!

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre? 

I don't know that it does, really. There is a limited number of crochet stitches, and there are certainly trends that I've seen come and go on Instagram. However, I think that any project is personal as it's handmade and chosen in very personal colour palettes. 
  I've enjoyed working with these brightly-coloured acrylic yarns for my crochet lately, but my best-loved projects are the ones that have cream as a dominant colour. I prefer using cotton yarns, and love vintage colours. In fact the V-stitch blanket is my favourite colour palette yet- the right mix of cream, scandi blues and greys, with vintage mustard, pale pink and brown. YUM. I am pretty sure that I'm the only crocheter that insists on using MUSTARD in EVERY project, ha ha!

In both my knitting and crochet I have definite ideas of what designer's patterns I like, and what my favourite yarns are. I guess these things make my work mine. But really, my original patterns both here and published in magazines and my book are what make my work differ. 

3. Why do I create what I do? 
I love to find a way of making something I'm inspired by, and love sharing my discoveries in this blog. I am so inspired and encouraged by blogs, and that's ultimately what my crafting is all about- encouraging, inspiring and sharing so that readers can go and adapt and create things for themselves. I've recently become obsessed with sewing- the idea of making something made-to-measure, in my style and in fabric I've chosen is really enticing. 

I also love having something to do with my hands. The bonus is that I have something unique and handmade- and you can't put a price on that. Well, you can, but I can't be bothered! 

4. How does your creating process work?
It starts with a seed. Usually a colour will sing to me, and tell me what it needs to be. I love Pinterest and magazines, so when I see something that inspires me I begin to think about what materials I'll need and start researching the perfect yarn or fabric. Then I wait, and think for a week or two- sometimes longer if it's an original idea for a pattern, for example. Then I'll collect and gather my materials, and refer back to the pin or magazine, and try to forget about it so I'm not too influenced- I don't want to just copy someone else. 
An original pattern idea is trial and error- sometimes it works out beautifully first time. But that's very rare. I'll start making a dummy version, before checking the pattern by re-making it in the final materials. Lots of frogging, cursing and frantic scribbling occurs. However, if I'm following a pattern or working on a longer-term project like a blanket, then I get stuck straight in and never look back! I rarely make the same pattern twice, unless I really love it. Then, finally, I share it on here! my little diary, so I don't forget what I made. ro how my house looks- it's in a constant state of flux!

Now, the idea next is for me to invite three other bloggers to join in the blog you can visit them and perhaps find new blogs and inspiration. However, I think all the people I would have invited have already taken part! So why don't you go visit them anyways? They are Lazy Daisy Jones, Bobo Bun, and Vintage Sheet Addict. Three inspirational women, all of whom are multi-crafters, and all of whom are totally different and unique.  And of course all the blogs right there in my sidebar still continue to inspire me each day. 

I hope you enjoyed that rather self-indulgent post! It was nice to sit and think about my creative process, it's inspiring in itself. So go ahead, I now invite YOU to join in the creative blog hop!


Thursday, 31 July 2014


Sometimes I turn on the news and weep at what I see. Sometimes I feel so angry at the injustice of it all and how humans can carry on they way they do. Sometimes I just take a deep breath, help when I can and think on how very different my life could have been had I not had the good fortune to born British. Of course, Britain is not without its problems, and no one is perfect. But I am grateful. 

Because I am lucky. So very lucky. I have been born in a country free from war and persecution. Born to supportive, hard-working parents who never batted an eyelid when I said I wanted to be a lawyer, a teacher, an interior designer or a writer. I have an education, a home and a job. I have clean water, a roof over my head and sanitation. I live in a free country, face little prejudice and inequality, and I can vote.

Sometimes I feel like humankind has gone mad and we're on the brink of destroying ourselves. I don't understand what's going on in the world, I don't think I can possibly help on a grand scale. But I do feel lucky. I have healthy children, a warm home, a belly full of food and a shelf full of books. I have a wonderful partner, a modest income and a life that permits me to create a little, and love a lot. I'll never take that for granted, I wish people born into this country could understand the poverty and fear that others live in. We are so very lucky.

Do something small today here, or help Oxfam to help families in Sudan have access to clean water by texting WATER to 70064 to donate £3. These are small things I've done, but if we all do it, then we can make a very real difference. We may not be able to solve all the world's problems, but we're fortunate enough to be in a position to help. My mad, wonderful friend turns 60 today. To celebrate, she has jumped out of a plane to help raise £100,000 for a charity that helps children on a real, daily basis here in the UK. She's real, and so are the problems she helps resolve with her psychotherapy work at Kids Inspire. I can't wait to see how much this incredible woman raises. 


Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Just one Sorbetto?

I have gone Sorbetto mad. And not just sorbetto mad, either. I have taken leave of my senses and hacked a Cath Kidston dress into pieces. The dress wasn't all that flattering; the spaghetti straps were not in proportion with the voluminous dress, the bodice was ill-fitting and the empire line made me look pregnant. Or is it my fat making me look pregnant? I am blaming the empire line. Anyways, the fabric is delicious and it seemed a shame to not wear something that had the potential to be loved. So I took my scissors to it and chopped off the skirt, estimating there was a good metre of light, breezy, gauzy cotton to be used. Initially I thought skirt. Then I decided that I'd like a nice, loose easy summer top to wear with denim shorts. These last few sweltering hot days in the UK have been unbearable. 

So I got out my trusty Colette Sorbetto pattern and here's how it turned out...
From 'Meh' to 'Marv'! 
 (sorry about my lily-white legs, they haven't been tanned since 1992)

 I added the bust darts as usual, but used the hemline of the skirt so I didn't have to hem it ha ha! SO easy. It was also to add extra length to the pattern, which has come up quite short and tailored on my other two Sorbettos. 

 Instead of the central pleat, I took advantage of the fabric's sheer drape and created a slight gather, so that top would hang more breezily. 

I cut it rather generously, too. I love the tiny bias binding. That took the most time, but it was worth it to get a neat finish. 

I wore it today to the park for a playdate with my Topshop denim shorts and crochet sandals that I bought in Rome in our honeymoon two years ago. 

I have to say I'm rather thrilled with the transformation! I hate the word 'upcycle', because I don't think it's performing a higher function than before. And its purpose as an item of clothing hasn't changed, so I can't say it's 'repurposed', either. Just re-used. Cutting down on waste- no money wasted, time well spent and a new top to boot! I'm sure Cath Kidston purists would object to any destuction of sacred garments, but I like to think that Cath herself would like this. 

Have you ever hacked up something old to make it into something new? 
Monday, 21 July 2014

Miette and Me

Did you think I'd stopped at 200 blog posts? Naaaaah. I hadn't realised I had been away for quite so long really. Blogging is a real luxury, a real investment of time and for over a month now I wanted to spend my time wisely. Meeting deadlines, enjoying summer and being a mother. My eldest son had his last day at pre-school on Friday and so for the past few weeks we have been busy with trips to his 'big' infant school as well as his usual pre-school journeys, built around my day of cleaning, feeding, writing and crocheting. Phew. 

But it's the school holidays and I have time to sew, crochet and perhaps even knit!

I started my summer stitching odyssey with some sewing. Yes, some sewing. I have been wanting to really conquer my fear of the sewing machine and while the last few projects I made haven't looked that great, they've really helped build my confidence. I had been poring over fabric websites, choosing my projects and thinking long and hard about what I wanted to make. Would I wear it? What would I wear it with? And when? So I felt pretty confident ordering the Miette skirt pattern from Tilly and the Buttons and some beautiful chambray fabric. I dusted off Betsy, set up a little work station in my kitchen and got to work, cutting the pattern pieces one night and sewing the next. Back door open, listening to the storm and sewing in my vest and pants made me very happy on a sweaty, hot evening. 

And here's the result!

Top stitched pockets!
 Stitching in the ditch (OK, so this is the only section where it actually went in the ditch...)!
 And a lovely A-line skirt with pockets!
 I wore it to the seaside yesterday. 
Yes we had a grand time paddling, eating cockles, building sandcastles, eating Rossi's ice cream and all those things one is contractually obliged to do in Leigh-on-Sea. The chambray fabric was lovely and cool.
 And the A-line shape is so flattering- I look so slim here! I am not this skinny in real life. 
My stripe top is from H&M and the red clogs are my trusty Lottas. 

All in all it took around five hours to complete. I spent a long time assembling the printed PDF pattern, and cutting the pattern pieces carefully one evening. Then the following evening I sat down and sewed it, checking each instruction on Tilly's blog once, twice and even thrice. I ironed every seam, trimmed every bulky hem and followed every tiny instruction carefully, and it took around four hours to sew. The only swearing I did was when I realised my bobbin had run out while I was sewing the waistband and ties on...silly the me. Apart from that, it was an absolute delight to sew. And I'm thrilled with my Miette! I am planning a winter one now in indigo denim to wear with mustard tights and a long-sleeve Breton. Perhaps even Tilly's Coco top?

A sewing success! Hurrah! 

I have plenty more to witter on about this week so I hope to see you soon. 

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Jumbo FIKA cushion

I'll keep it brief because I don't know how much time I have....I find it tough, these tiny snatched moments away from the constant demands of motherhood. I've been rather poorly with tonsillitis this week and having had no help with the children it has been especially difficult. But today I finally made it to the doctors and have antibiotics and blood tests tomorrow for glandular fever. Between endless loads of laundry, two extremely hungry children and avoiding the tiny dinosaurs and lego all over the house I've also started working on some writing commissions again. I'm thrilled to be working again, it does give me sense of purpose. I also have some projects for Simply Crochet coming up too which I'm really excited about. 

But for now, let me take you on a pictorial journey of a cushion...

And here she is...

and the reverse...
Little George's hand creeping in...

 Rather at home on this couch? I think it'd look better on a bench. 

The design is based on Ingrid's gorgeous Harlequin cushions, and last year you may remember I created my own harlequin cushion pattern- the Fika cushion. 'Fika' is a Swedish word, and it's a kind of social coffee break that's usually accompanied by a pastry. It's part of the culture in Sweden, and colleagues and friends often talk about and make big decisions over Fika or just relax and feel more productive afterwards. It's essential to their day. I thought 'what would make my coffee break more enticing? A lovely cushion of course!'

Anyways, here's the recipe for a jumbo FIKA:

Fika cushion pattern HERE
1 x IKEA Inner cushion (40 x 60cm)
Acrylic yarn- I used Stylecraft Special DK
3.5mm hook

Using the Fika pattern, I made my diamonds 20cm wide- which worked out as 38 stitches with my tension. The triangles I worked until they were also 38 stitches wide, the half-diamonds were increased until 19 sts, then decreased again. I left long tails for sewing up. The whole thing is sewn simply together. 

I love the clash of colours together and the overall effect, though I'm not sure it's quite right in my living room. It may be a present for a friend, who loves harlequins. Also, you may have noticed that fabulous Nikki McWilliams 'Custard Cream' cushion peeking into the pic there- an amazing anniversary present from my darling sister. She knew how much I wanted to buy one for my hubby but I was too skint. So she bought it for us. The start of a new collection? I think so....Tunnocks tea cake cushion next!

I'd better get back to work! My son is currently beating the heck out of an inflatable t-rex with a large Harry Potter wand. Life around here is never dull. 

p.s. Sorry about the TERRIBLE photography. I think there is a scratch on my iPhone camera lens :( and also neon pink is horrendous to capture!