Craftiness, baking and other lovely things.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Lovely little beret for the Innocent Smoothie Big Knit

It takes a while to make a blanket, even longer if you are designing it and writing the pattern as you go along.  Sometimes I need a break from a big project but my fingers still itch for hook and yarn.

The Innocent Smoothie Big Knit (or little crochet in my case) is perfect for just such an occasion, but typically I have to make my own little pattern up.  I thought a beret would be sweet, a flower trimmed beret even sweeter.  See below for the pattern and if you make one yourself, please share it with me on Instagram with #veraandbessmaker before you send it off to do some good.

A very small amount of any DK yarn (I used some Sirdar Baby Crofter)
Coordinating button or bead
4mm crochet hook
Darning needle for those ends and stitching on the flower

Instructions are written in standard UK terms.

To make the beret:

R1: Chain 4 (counts as first stitch) and working in last chain from hook, work 11 treble crochet and join to top of chain 4 with a slip stitch (12 st)

R2: Chain 3 (counts as first stitch) and work 1 treble in same stitch, then 2 treble in each stitch around and join to top of chain 3 with a slip stitch (24 st)

R3: Chain 3 (counts as first stitch) and work 1 treble crochet in each st and join to top of chain 3 with a slip stitch (24 st)

R4: Chain 3 (counts as first stitch), work 2 treble together over next 2 stitches then work (1 treble in next stitch, 2 treble together over next 2 stitches) to the end of the round and join into top of chain 3 with a slip stitch (16 st)

R5: Chain 1 (does not count as first stitch) and work 1 double crochet in each stitch.

R6: Repeat R5 and fasten off.

To make the flower:

Chain 2 and in last chain from hook work 1 treble, chain 1, slip stitch then (chain 1, 1 treble, chain 1, slip stitch) 4 times.  Fasten off.

Sew flower to beret with button or bead, darn in ends and admire your creation.  Don't forget to show me #veraandbessmaker.

For more information about The Big Knit or to find more patterns, just click here.  Every bottle of Innocent Smoothie wearing a hat that is sold adds 25p to pot for Age UK.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

The Leftover Shawl

Ah, the Leftover Shawl, aka Granny Stripes Get Together or The Shawl I Shouldn't Be Working On Because I Haven't Finished The Boy's Blanket Yet.

The Boy's blanket, as I mentioned before in this post, is very grey.  And very square.  It's cool and interesting and a great adventure too, but I took a little break from it to make up the Hearts and Flowers bunting (free pattern!), but it turns out that it was a bit like a gateway drug, just one little hit and all of a sudden I'm reaching for the pretty colours and making a shawl.

The Leftover Shawl WIP, in white, pomegranate and duck egg so far.
In my defence, I am using yarn leftover from the Hearts and Flowers blanket, so it's not like I went out and bought more yarn for it.  I'm actually doing a good thing, using some stash yarn. But still, I should be working on The Boy's blanket and if he notices that I've started a shawl he won't be happy.  So I should have stopped.  But I haven't.

It's a really easy shawl to make, just a simple twist on granny stripes.  After 2 set up rows, there are 2 pattern rows, repeated until the yarn is used up or your shawl reaches the desired size.

A quick note, I use chain 1, treble at the beginning of each row.  It's not as perfectly neat as using a starting treble, but it leaves less ends for darning in and I like to have a proper stitch to work the next row in rather than fiddling with the top of a chain 3.  Use whatever works best for you - so when I say chain 1, treble in first stitch, you can substitute a starting treble or chain 3 if you prefer.

Set up row 1: Chain 4 and working in last chain from hook, work 2 treble, 2 chain, 3 treble.

Set up row 2: Chain 1, treble in first stitch, chain 2, work 3 treble together, in the first stitch already worked and the next 2 stitches, chain 2.  In the corner 2 chain space, work 3 treble, chain 2, 3 treble, chain 2  Work 3 treble together over the next 3 stitches, chain 2 and work 3 treble together over the next 3 stitches.  Chain 2 and work 1 treble in the first stitch (which was where you worked the last of your 3 treble together).

Now, on with the pattern.

Row 1: Chain 1, treble in first stitch.  Work 3 treble in each chain 2 space to the corner.  At the corner work 3 treble, 2 chain, 3 treble.  Work 3 treble in each chain 2 space to the corner.  Work 1 treble in last stitch.

Row 2: Chain 1, treble in first stitch.  * Chain 2, work 3 treble together over next 3 stitches.  Repeat from * to the corner and work 2 chain, 3 treble, 2 chain, 3 treble in the corner.  Repeat the chain 2, work 3 treble together over next 3 stitches up to the last stitch, work 1 treble in the last stitch.

These 2 rows are the pattern, lovely and easy to remember and perfect for Netflix crochet, or Car Share crochet as I was doing last night.  (Crochet and comedy, made for each other.)

I am using oddments of yarn and will keep going until I have a fairly large shawl, but I can't give you a precise yarn requirement.  I am working 1 repeat of the 2 rows in different colours, alternating with white and using duck egg for every other colour, just because that arrangement pleases me.  I have a feeling that I will add some sort of pretty border at the end too, and I'll add that here when I get to it.  I just wanted to share this now, because it's the perfect project for a long bank holiday weekend.  The stripes of colour make it interesting, I love seeing how the colour combination develops, but it's easy enough to work on while you're in the car, talking to someone or watching a movie.

My yarn is Stylecraft Special DK and I have white, duck egg, pistachio, fondant, pomegranate and lemon.

What are your making plans for the long weekend?

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Hearts and Flowers bunting, just in time for Easter

I took a little break from The Boy's very grey blanket (it is so grey and so square, not a flower or pink tone in sight) to make this little bunt.  That's a word, right, bunt?  And lots of bunts make bunting.

So, I have a pile of these lovely colours left over from making the Hearts and Flowers blanket, very easy to play with some yarn and the idea of hearts and flowers to come up with this.  I used Stylecraft Special DK in lipstick, pomegranate, fondant, white, lemon, pistachio and duck egg, but it's perfect for using up scraps in any colour combination that makes you smile.

The pattern is below and is the perfect introduction to the Hearts and Flowers blanket pattern (here on Ravelry or here on Etsy) as it uses some of the same stitches and techniques that I am fond of using.  If you make any bunts (or you are adventurous and decide to make the blanket) please share them with me on Instagram or other social media with #veraandbessmaker.

On to the pattern.  You will need your chosen yarn with appropriate hook (I used Stylecraft Special DK and a 4mm hook) plus a needle to darn all the ends in.  It is written in UK standard terms.

In lipstick, chain 4 and join with a slip stitch.  Do not fasten off.

R1: Work 1 double crochet into the ring chain 1, work (1 double crochet, chain 1) 5 times and slip stitch to the first double crochet.  Fasten off.

R2: In pomegranate, join with a double crochet in any space, chain 2, then work (1 double crochet, ch2) in each space, slip stitch to first double crochet and fasten off.

R3: Join with a slip stitch in any space.  Work 1 double crochet, 3 treble crochet, 1 double crochet and slip stitch in same space.  Work slip stitch, 1 double crochet, 3 treble crochet, 1 double crochet, slip stitch in each 2 chain space.  Do not join.  Fasten off.

R4: In fondant, work a front post double crochet around each of the 6 double crochet stitches from round 2.  Slip stitch to first stitch and fasten off.  You can just see these stitches in the photo below, at the base of each petal between the white spike stitches.

R5: In white, working into the centre ring and between each petal, work spike double crochet, chain 3 6 times.  Slip stitch to first stitch to join and fasten off.  Ease each petal through the chain 3 space and tweak as necessary to make them sit neatly.

R6: In pistachio, and starting with a starting treble (simply a treble stitch worked as the first stitch, rather than a chain 3, which you can of course use if you prefer), work 2 treble together, the first treble in one white 3 chain space and the second treble in the next space, so that the leaves appear between each petal.  Chain 3.  Work 2 treble together, the first treble in the same space as the last treble and the second in the next space.  Chain 3.  Continue around with 2 treble together, chain 3 and slip stitch to the first stitch of the round.  Fasten off.

R7: In white, working in the 3 chain spaces, work 3 double crochet, chain 1 in each space.  Slip stitch to second stitch of round (this creates a neater, almost invisible join as the slip stitch sits in front of the first stitch).  Fasten off.

R8: This round creates the heart shape.  Join with a double crochet in any chain 1 space.  Work 1 treble in the next stitch, 2 double trebles in the next stitch, 3 double trebles in the next stitch and 2 trebles in the chain space.  Work 1 double crochet in each of the next 3 stitches, 1 double crochet in the space and 1 double crochet in each of the next 3 stitches.  Work treble, chain 2, treble in the space (point of heart).  Work 1 double crochet in the each of the next 3 stitches, the space and the next 3 stitches.  Work 2 trebles in the next space, 3 double trebles in the next stitch, 2 double trebles in the next stitch, 1 treble in the next stitch.  Slip stitch to the first stitch and fasten off.

R9: In fondant, join with a double crochet worked under the double crochet from round 8, to exaggerate the centre top of the heart.  Work double crochet, chain 1 in each stitch to the point of the heart.  Work double crochet, chain 2, double crochet in the point.  Work chain 1, double crochet in each stitch to the beginning of the round.  Slip stitch to first stitch and fasten off.

R10: In pistachio, join with a double crochet in the stitch at the centre top.  Work (double crochet in ch1 space, ch2) in next 7 spaces.  Work (double crochet, chain 1) in next 9 spaces.  In point work double crochet, chain 2, double crochet.  Work (chain 1, double crochet) in 9 spaces then (chain 2, double crochet) in 7 spaces.  Double crochet next to the first double crochet of the round, in the same stitch.  Fasten off.

R11: This round shapes the bunt.  In white, join with a starting treble in the last stitch of round 10 and work 1 treble in the next stitch.  Then working in the chain spaces, work 2 double crochet in space, 1 double crochet and 1 half treble crochet in the next space, (2 treble, chain 2, 2 treble) in the next space, 1half treble and 1 double crochet in the next space, 2 double crochet in the next space and the 1 double in each of the next 9 spaces to the point.  Work 1 treble, chain 2, 1 treble in the point.  Work 1 double crochet in each of the next 9 spaces, 2 double crochet in the next space, 1 double and 1 half treble in the next space, (2 treble, chain 2, 2 treble) in the next space, 1 half treble and 1 double in the next space, 2 double in the next space.  Slip stitch to second stitch of round to join and fasten off.

R12: Starting in the last stitch of round 11, join with a starting treble and work 1 treble crochet in each stitch around with 1 treble, 2 chain, 1 treble in each corner.  Slip stitch to second stitch of round and fasten off.

R13: In duck egg, work 1 front post double crochet around each stitch, starting in the middle of the top section, with chain 2 at each corner.  Slip stitch to join.

R14: Working in the back loop only of the white trebles from round 12 and both loops of the stitches from round 13, work 1 double crochet in each stitch, with 1 treble, chain 2, 1 treble at each corner (encasing all chain stitches from previous rounds).  Slip stitch to second stitch of round and fasten off.

Make as many as you find pleasing and join with a simple chain, working double crochet stitches across the top of each bunt.

Don't forget to share photos if you make your own bunting.  Happy hooking and Happy Easter!

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

My design process

I should be starting on my next blanket later this week.  My first two designs were blankets that I wanted to make.  This third blanket is something that my 11 year old son has asked for.  He loves all things snuggly, squishy and comfortable (of my three children, he has the most cushions) but he also has an aversion to pretty and floral and has suggested that I make something more boy-friendly.

Why doesn't he love this as much as I do?

I've really been struggling with this and it's made me think about my design process.

Hearts and Flowers, well, I knew exactly what I wanted.  I wanted a beautiful floral theme, definitely working with hexagons, more realistic than stylised flowers and lots of white space to show them off.  Duck egg is one of my favourite colours, so that was a no brainer for the edging and I knew it would be the perfect balance to the bright shades in the flowers.

I started off with just four flowers and the heart, but when I started to put it together, I felt that it needed two more flowers to be perfect.  I didn't have a specific plan for the layout.  I started with a heart at the centre and worked outwards, trying not to repeat flowers in each circle of hexagons.  (I made one little mistake with that, but perfection is for gods and I am a mere mortal.)

Old Romance was a little different.  I started by choosing my colours - my local haberdashery has a a huge wall of Stylecraft Special DK in all the colours - and then came home to play with them.  My original colours included cream, which looked completely off when I started working on the design.  I also added plum at a later stage and changed how I used the raspberry, which was going to be little highlights, but ended up being a fully fledged member of my final colour cast.

Pattern should be published later this week

I was very much inspired by the colours and style of vintage tapestries, carpet bags and rugs and my colour palette really seemed to echo that vibe, so I knew that the design would end up being quite detailed and would probably include surface crochet, but it didn't really come to life for me until I added the simple embroidery.  I didn't have a specific plan for the size or shape of the motifs, but once I had the lime spokes embroidered in the flower centres, I knew where I was going.

This next blanket is a different animal.  I couldn't make the colours work, no matter how long I loitered in front of the yarn wall.  Nothing called out to me.  I couldn't settle on a design.  I had a vague idea about creating a tartan style with crochet, but it was all very vague and unexciting.  Since I started designing, I've begun to see pattern and colour palettes everywhere and it was seeing a woman carrying a white, grey and black bag with little pops of red on it that settled me on a colour theme.  The Boy seemed happy (or at least not unhappy) with the choice, so then it just came down to design.

I'm not much further along on that just now, although I have some ideas about angles and I definitely want to work this one from the centre out in one piece, rather than making up squares or hexies and joining them later.  I've spent a lot of time down a rabbit hole on Pinterest looking at patchwork quilts, which as an occasional patchworker and the daughter of a patchworker I love and I think it will help me take this blanket down a completely different path to my earlier, girlier blankets.

Watch this space.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Granny does gingham

Granny squares meet this spring's trend for gingham (Woman's Hour told me this is spring's hottest new look so it must be true).

Reduced to its simplest form, gingham is just squares of colour.  Take white (or ivory for a more vintage vibe) and two shades of a colour.  For the sample in the photograph, I used cotton dk in white, palest blush and a peachier blush.

I made up tiny little one round granny squares and then sewed them together.  You could definitely go larger with the squares, but I think it's better to sew than crochet the squares together for the gingham effect.

Quick pattern:
Ch5 and working in fourth ch from hook, work 3tr, ch2, 3tr, ch2, 3tr, ch2, 2tr and ss into 3rd ch to join.  Fasten off.  (In the sample I made up I only used 1ch at each corner and the squares are a little bit curvy and round.  2ch at the corners will give a sharper corner.)  Make up as many squares as you need for your project.

Yarn details:
The white and very pale blush are Rico Essentials cotton dk and the peachy blush is Sirdar cotton dk.  I raided my stash, but recommend that you use the same yarn for all three colours for the best results.  It's not obvious in the photo, but the Rico yarn has a slight sheen and the Sirdar is very matte.

For more gingham inspiration, have a browse through what Pinterest found me for crochet gingham.

Friday, 1 July 2016


Sadly not my beautiful sewing room.
Photo credit: [ ] via Source / CC BY-SA

I need to admit something to you, and it makes me very uncomfortable to say it: I have too much.

Too much fabric (a lot of which I will never use but it's pretty so I keep it).  Too many old beads from broken bits of jewellery (because I did a course 4 years ago that required me to have some beads, but of course I have no need of them now).  Too many bits of ribbon and trim (because they are handy for making cards etc, which of course I don't do, or at least not with ribbon).  Too many sewing patterns (given to me, found at car boot sales, most of them not my style or size).  Too many things to mention in a basket marked 'Christmas', fabric and all sorts, which haven't been considered for at least 3 years.

You get the idea.  The problem is, I live in a small house; there are 2 adults and 3 children in our 3 bedroom semi.  I don't have a studio, garden room or even a defined area for making. 

I also think that I'm getting overwhelmed by this huge stash of crafty goodies.  Somewhere under all the stuff I don't use are things I want to use.  I'd like to get started on lino printing, but that would involve moving 3 large baskets, a pile of notebooks (oh, the notebooks and old diaries!  Am I the only one that can't bear to get rid of them?) and a couple of bags of ribbon ends.

 I need to be brutal and dramatically reduce my fabric stash and all the other things that are taking over.

So, first I need to establish some rules about what I can keep.  Logically, I think if I know that I won't use it in the next 6 months (with 1 or 2 exceptions, such as a length of dress fabric that I know I will make up when I find some time, or the little jingly bells that I do use at Christmas) then I should let it go.  That's hard.  I can already hear the voices in my head: but it's so pretty; it would make a lovely bag; oh, but you loved that when you bought it.  You get the picture.  Maybe you even have some of those voices yourself.

I'm going to start today.  I'll let you know how I get on.  

Thursday, 30 June 2016

How to make a dress: a cautionary tale

There are rules in dressmaking and, whilst some of those rules can be broken, most them (to my mind at least) are rules for good reason.  Let's take my latest dressmaking adventure as an example and highlight just a few of them.

Rule 1: Buy the right amount of fabric

If you see a gorgeous bolt of fabric that you have to have, but you're not sure exactly what you will make with it (and by exactly I mean which pattern you will use, not just some vague notion of a lovely dress for summer) then you must be sure to buy enough fabric.  I know that for me a dress length can be anything up to 3 metres.  I am generously proportioned and when you combine that with a circle skirt or other fabric munching style, anything less than 3 metres will limit which patterns I can use.  So standing in John Lewis, murmuring to yourself that 2 metres is fine because you didn't really have fabric in your shopping budget today is a mistake.  Buy enough or buy none.

I did at least buy a forgiving print, which was very handy when I broke rule 2....

Rule 2: When you trace out your pattern, if you are making any alterations - such as adding a button front to the skirt piece - be sure to include that on your new pattern piece.  See those extra seams and the buttons squished as far over as possible?  That's the result of cutting it out wrong.

Random notes written on the pattern piece reminding you to add 2" at centre front" will not be noticed when you are cutting out with your youngest child sitting under the table talking to you, your son complaining that the table is in the way of the TV and arguing with his teenage sister.  You will not see the note.  You will cut out your skirt fronts without the extra bit for buttons and buttonholes.  You will then be forced to try and put together enough fabric from your scant remains (see rule 1 above) to stitch bits on.  Thank goodness for that forgiving print,

Rule 3: Try it on as you go, before adding zigzagging to raw seam edges or topstitching.

Even if you've used the pattern before and especially if you haven't or you've changed something (like adding a different skirt to the tried and tested bodice), trying it on before you go beyond the point of unpicking and fixing fitting problems is absolutely vital.  Otherwise, your slight sway back which mysteriously didn't manifest itself in previous versions of this exact same bodice will pounce.  Too bad the dress was completely finished when I realised.

My sewing machine through a wobbler and the buttonhole lever refused to work.  I threw the dress on the floor, packed the machine away and picked up some knitting instead.  My husband medicated me (large glass of red) and withdrew to a safe distance.  A few slurps later, I realised that I could stitch the buttons in place through both centre fronts and stick a zip in the back.  If I had only remembered that my daughter also has a sewing machine.  Oh well, too late now.  Because I almost always wear a cardigan over a dress, because a concealed zip takes seam allowance and because I had a regular white zip, I went for an exposed zip.  Not pretty inside and boy, does it highlight that sway back, but oh well.  You can't tell if I pull the dress slightly below my natural (quite high) waist and pop a cardigan on.

Despite all of the problems, I am actually very pleased with the result.  I wore it the day after I finished it to go shopping with the teenager and felt comfortable and well dressed all day.  I particularly like the belt loops keeping the belt securely in place and the lovely pockets.  I do like a pocket.

The patterns I used were the Colette Seamwork Adelaide bodice and the Sewaholic Hollyburn skirt.  The Adelaide dress originally does not have separate pieces for the bodice and skirt, but having made a couple of dresses already from it, I thought I had the fit for the bodice nailed and I wanted a different skirt.  I've had the Hollyburn pattern for a while but not used it.  It worked brilliantly.  I topstitched the waistband on after I'd put the dress together, tucking the belt loops in and catching them in place at the same time.

I have plans to make more of these with some lovely Liberty fabric I got for my birthday and a couple of other pieces of fabric I have.  I love the fitted bodice and flared skirt, and the pockets, waistband and belt loops make it extra special. I might go with a concealed zip in the back and fake the button front.   And I will try to follow the rules next time!

PS I also made the cardigan and I cannot tell you how much joy and satisfaction I got from having a complete me-made outfit.  I used the Acorn Trail pattern by Amy Herzog as the starting point, but altered it from set in sleeves to raglan (I find they are easier to sew in and feel more comfortable) and I also added extra cables at the front edges to mirror the back.  The yarn was from Sirdar, just a basic aran acrylic (for reasons of price and I can't wear wool).