2016 – Looking back

Crochet: During the last year I have completed two different sides to make a cushion cover and a snuggle blanket for cold winter evenings, or even cooler summer ones! some shower puffs and an alternative that dries more quickly; though I didn’t keep these: they were more exercises. I also, as an exercise, worked up a crochet circle that was actually fairly circular rather than octagonal. And then there were the sea-horses that were rather fun to make and a pair of crochet socks to see how they compared to knitted ones. I have kept these and wear them frequently!2016-knitting-and-crochetI never do as much knitting and this year the main projects were a jumper/bed jacket and my temperature scarf that is finally finished. But having been given some red 4ply alpaca I also made a scarf for my daughter and a small cowl for myself.

I did find time for other crafting. Sewing a bean bag book or tablet support and a pair of trousers. Also in the sewing category I tried my hand at cross stitch and finding I could do it, I moved on to using it for some Christmas cards.2016-other-craftingI also made a never-ending card for a friend and some stitch markers. I have plans to make more of these. The only thing that can be considered a recipe was my tutorial on making marzipan fruits but I did also share photographs of some seasonal baking for Easter and Christmas.

I also spent extra time taking and looking out photographs for a Photo Challenge but as there were fifty-two of these they are two many to include!

Looking forward. I have already started a knitted cowl with a fairisle type pattern hoping to finally master this type of knitting. Probably a post about this next week.

I am continuing my crochet blanket between other things, have yarn and pattern for a knitted cardigan and hope to go back to some crochet ideas I never finished, including my plans for the crochet sea horses.


Monthly Montage – June

The topics for this month’s Photo Challenge were: Headgear, Native, Heat and Play, as you can see on the right.

June seems to have been the month for sewing as I finished the trousers I cut out last autumn and made a pattern for a bean bag book support which I then created in some scraps of fabric I had from last summer’s dressmaking.June montageI also finished one side of a crochet cushion cover. Although there is no knitting on show, I have been continuing to work on my ‘temperature scarf’ and will show you half a year next week.

A book bean bag

I so liked the bean bag I bough recently iBeanithat I decided to make a second one so I could have one upstairs for reading books as well as this one downstairs for propping up my tablet.

Using the bought bean bag I made a pattern. I didn’t have any suitable tissue paper so I used some really old fan-fold paper left from the days when it was used by computer printers.PatternNot being good at drawing circles I used various glasses and plates or bowls to get the approximate sizes for the top and bottom.

I had this piece of fabric Leftover fabricleft over from when I made this top. Cowl topIt was just enough to cut out the pieces for the bean bag.

Having cut out the pieces the day I made the pattern, last week on Wednesday I settled down to sew them together. This time I decided to use my old manual Singer sewing machine and a ball point needle and it behaved itself perfectly!Finished but unfilledI doubled stitched the seams to give extra strength as the material was stretchy and left a small hole in the seam at the base for filling. The original had had a pocket (for something like headphones) but I didn’t think I would need a pocket for this one and thought that I could always add one by hand later if I changed my mind.

The shop bean bag had a zip at the bottom and I’m not very good with zips so I decided just to make a gap in the seam. The zip in the bean bag, although it looked at first like an ordinary zip was actually I very long zip (They called it an inverted zip.) which was doubled up and then had a row of stitching across the folded bit so in order to open the bean bag you would have to undo the stitching. It appeared to be there more for ease of closing after filling than for topping up later.

All I needed to do now was buy some polystyrene beans. (I remember that we had small ‘bean bags’ for throwing when I was in school but those were filled with beans or split peas.)

On Friday afternoon I went out to Hobbycaft and came back with this. Bean Bag FillingI had thought it would be about the right amount but when I saw it I realised that I would probably only need about half of it.

By weighing the original bean bag, the new cover and the bag of beans I confirmed that about half was what was needed.

So I attached a cardboard tube for dispensing the beans. Filling tube fittedIt was working well until a moment of inattention resulted in this. Spilt beansHowever I decided that the best thing to pick them up would be one of my soup spoons. Soup spoon filled with beansAnd this picked them up easily. They almost seemed to want to leap into the spoon like fragments of egg shell in a broken egg will easily get picked up by a larger piece of egg shell.

I overfilled it at first and had to take some out (using the spoon). But when I thought I had got it right, by comparing the squashed height with the original, I tacked up the opening to try it out just to be sure. Opening tackedAnd it seemed to work as well as the bought one. Book on bean bagSo I sewed the opening neatly.

I had cut out the pieces so as to see my favourite parts of the fabric. Here is the front. Front of bean bagThe back is similar but not quite as good.

This is my favourite side. Side of bean bagAgain the other side is similar. (And that bit that looks like a crease is in fact just the pattern!)

Here is the underside. Underside of bean bagNow I have my new bean bag I was able to take the other one downstairs to use with my tablet. Just in time to follow second practice for the Canadian Grand Prix since the BBC were only broadcasting the practices and qualifying on-line.

A New Pair of Trousers

New trousers

Last sumer you may remember I made this top and trousers. Top and trousersThese trousers look alright under a long top but, although ostensibly on the waist, they tended to be tight round the bottom and cut in behind and below so I had to wear them quite low down to be comfortable. In measuring a pair of shop bought comfortable trousers, I realised that the back section of these was much longer and I adapted the pattern to be more that shape by lengthening both front and back pieces and then adding in a wedge to make the back even longer.Adjusted pattern

But I cut out the material for the second pair when it was getting too cold to wear them so I put them aside to sew up some time ‘during the winter’ of course good intentions and all that but when I cut out some material to make a bean bag I decided that I really had to make the trousers first or maybe I would never get around to it!

Those of you who are good at dressmaking can now have a good laugh and feel smug!

So last week I settled down to start. With the previous dressmaking I had intended to try using the electric machine that I inherited from my mother now that it had a new motor but couldn’t get it to work. Over the winter I decided that maybe all it needed was some oil – (What gave me the idea that modern machines don’t need oiling I don’t know!)

So, using the electric machine, I started on Monday and Tuesday, when I had a little time, attaching the pockets but really settled down to the making on Wednesday.

However it became a very stressful experience and I didn’t have a happy smile on my face like the suns on the trousers! 0478-Happy sunsIn fact I ended up not taking my normal care when making clothes just wanting to get it finished.

I realised on the Wednesday that the machine was skipping stitches not only when zig-zagging but also with the straight stitching. I wondered whether it had something to do with my stop/start approach to stitching but it was doing it in the middle of a run as well. I tried re-threading the machine several times, taking the bobbin section apart that is such a fiddle to put back together and in the end got so fed up that I changed over to my old manual Singer that I am much happier using.

However that was skipping stitches too and I even sewed one seam twice in the hopes that the skipped bits would occur in different places!

Then I remembered that I had a reel of cotton thread that was the right colour so I needn’t have bought the synthetic one and tried that instead but no difference. Last of all in desperation I changed to my only other Singer needle that was a thicker one and that seemed to do the trick. (Not that it was the right size for the weight of fabric!)

Exhausted, I managed to finish the trousers that evening.

Here is a closer look. Closer lookThese are still only just up to my waist but they are a much more comfortable fit. I also managed to get the stitching for the three rows of elastic of equal width this time!

And here is a photo of the zig-zag stitching on the electric machine. Electric edge finishI had thought it would be so much better than using the attachment that my mother had bought when I was a child to use with the Singer. Zig-zag attachmentBut here is how this went (when I had changed the needle.) Singer edge finishYou can see where I did the double seam before I had solved my problem!

Not sure of I can face any more dressmaking after this but I will be having a go this week at making the bean bag but with my manual Singer this time!

Another project perhaps!

In recent years I have been getting a pain inside my left thigh and also one over my right hip. A little research has suggested that both pains are due to my habit of crossing my legs.

When reading sitting up in bed, or even in a chair, I need to cross my legs to raise the book to a comfortable height. I have tried a cushion but the book tends to slip off. Another issue I have, though with no health consequences, is propping up my tablet when using it as a TV or watching a film. (Though I did get a stiff arm while holding my tablet for my granddaughter and myself to play a game.)

Recently I found a potential solution to both problems.

A small bean bag.

I came across the iBeani when searching for tablet stands. iBeani Now it is a bit pricy but it looked like a good design. I expect you can see why I chose this one! (They have an amazing selection.) though in fact I chose it primarily because I thought a fleece fabric would create a greater degree of friction to hold things in place than a cotton cover.

I did find a free pattern for a different sort of bean bag tablet support HERE but it had a piece of cardboard in it and it didn’t look as suitable for holding a book.

But it did make me presume that the iBeani had some inner support apart from the beans – but no! it is just a small bean bag. However it works really well.

I was surprised just how light it is but of course that is an asset.

Here it is holding a tablet in lanscape Tablet stand landscape orientation(for films) and portrait Tablet stand portrait orientationorientations.

It also held my library book at a comfortable height and angle. Book standYes my current story book has pictures!

It was suggested that it could also be used as a camera stand for long exposure photographs.

Well this was only 1/8th sec but longer than I could hold a camera steady myself. Camera stand photographSince it is just a bean bag shape lightly filled, I thought I could maybe make myself another so I can have one upstairs and one downstairs. Not sure when though! but I do have some fabric scraps that might be enough. Could be quite fun to try.


I can do cross stitch too!

I’ve been wanting to have a go at cross stitch for a long time.

Some time ago when someone was giving away things they didn’t want I acquired a small cross stitch kit to make a notepad with pretty cover. I thought that it seemed a good place to start, though I was a bit worried if the stitches would be too small. There were six different coloured threads. Two green and two red and two orange.

Kit labelI was very pleased when I finished the first green portion, having decided to start in the middle. StartThis is 14 count. I was however happy to discover that I could see well enough to do it even in the evening.

The only guide I had was the photograph of the finished design on the sheet I showed you above. I did struggle a bit to decide which colour I should be using for the red and orange part but decided that as long as I made it symmetrical it didn’t matter too much if I got the odd stitch in the wrong colour. MotifI was very pleased with the finished design. (I was also pleased at the result of using a piece of white polystyrene to reflect the light so that it was more even as advised by Deborah of Circadianreflections)

Here are the pieces needed to make up the notepad.KitI normally give my children money as the main present but I like to give them a little something as well. I decided to give this to my younger daughter for her birthday which is this month, so here is the finished present with the birthday card. Finished present

I hope to find time to do some more cross stitch in due course but my list of other things, expecially knitting, seems to be getting longer and longer!

September Montage

This month I shared two crochet patterns with you, both celtic knotwork inspired. One was for a celtic cross bookmark; the other was for a plaitwork coaster.

There was no knitting this month but I did a bit of sewing, repairing some old napkins so I could go on using them. September montageUnusually there were a lot of photographic posts. I shared the second quarter of my monochrome madness photographs, a holiday I had going on a Danube cruise and the event of a supermoon blood moon led to a few more. The last of these posts was actually in October but since it occured before this post I have included it.

“Make do and Mend”

This has maybe fallen out of fashion, even with myself to a certain extent, but recently I had a situation which I resolved with a little of the above.

When we got married we only had napkins that matched table cloths given as wedding presents and, as money seemed tight for a long time after that, it wasn’t, I think, until I went out to work that I turned my mind to having proper linen napkins as I had had as a child.

I found some in John Lewis and I really liked the textured pattern, Textureso I bought four. That was one for me and each of my three children.

When my children left home I used all four in rotation for myself and so they have lasted longer than they might otherwise have done but a few months ago they were in a really poor way with ragged edges and even holes in the middle after years of being folded neatly when washed!Torn napkin

I went to John Lewis to buy some more only to find that they no longer stocked them. Now they were available on-line, I discovered, but I only like buying something like that if I can feel them first and the ones I had found weren’t cheap!

Finally, when I had my machine out for making my cowl neck top and the trousers, I realised that I could patch up the present napkins to extend their life and that is what I did.

I seamed them down the middle to remove the hole .Seam

For a couple I cut the seam so it would lie flatCut seam

but I decided that that only left more edges to fray so on the others I left the fold uncut and tried to edge finish the torn part.Edge finishing

The junction between the selvedge and the rest of the napkin had worn Selvedge tornbecause the selvedge was so much thicker, Selvedgeso I turned the selvedge under and sewed along it.Selvedge sewn

On one, the selvedge had come off completely so I made a little hem and sewed that.Hem being sewnNow I had napkins that were so much more usable.Finished napkin

And yes! for any very observant people among you, most of these photographs are taken in black and white. I had experimented with taking photographs with my camera on the black and white setting and because I was photographing white napkins against a neutral background in a poor light I hadn’t even noticed. As some of the photographs couldn’t be retaken I just left things as they were.

Phone and iPod covers


Although I have had a mobile phone since 2002 when my eldest decided that I ought to have one and set up her old one for me, I have never actually bought a new one. Since then I have upgraded via several of my sons cast offs but I have never found a phone in the shops where price and features were both satisfactory. There was no way I was going to spend £400-500 on a phone (or even £200) or take up an expensive contract.

But recently my son, wanting his old phone, that was only ‘on loan’, back, pointed me in the direction of the Nokia Lumia 620. I found that here was a phone where the screen, though smaller than the one I was using, was ‘big enough’. It also had decent internet and I hoped a better menu system. It didn’t have “Teeter” which was just my sort of game but then you can’t have everything! 🙂

Anyway, not to bore you, since my mobile operator was offering the phone I went, paid out my money and brought it home.


But every phone needs a case, especially as I didn’t wish to go to the faff of applying, badly, a screen protector.

First I tried buying one but when I got it, it was much too tight a fit for my liking, so I decided the easiest alternative was to make my own.

Those of you who have been following me for a while may remember me cutting up an old cotton top to make my peg-bag.
Cutting out

Well, being a horder, I kept the off-cuts in case they might ever come in handy.

I decided that I could use the sleeves to provide a soft inner lining for a phone case.

I cut a piece out of each sleeve, utilising the hem as with the peg-bag,  folded them over and sewed an ‘L’ shaped seam. I then fitted one inside the other to provide a thick soft lining and sat down to crochet an outer cover.


This square from the CAL was about the right height and had fourteen rows so of course would be ideal for a ‘rainbow’ case.

I crocheted two rows in each of the standard rainbow colours and fitted it over the lining, sewed all three thickness together round the top and secured the corners through all thicknesses so they wouldn’t ruck up.

Here is a view of the back and one of the lining so you can see how it was made.


and produced this:-


Now I had bought an iPod Classic a little time before. (I know I’m spending a lot of money all of a sudden!) and I had plans to make a case for it. I noticed when making this case that it was about the same girth as the phone, just a little shorter. So when I realised that the phone cover was not quite as tall as I would have liked I decided to make this the iPod cover and make another one for the phone.

This time I used the fabric of the roll neck, made a long tube out of it, again with an ‘L’ shaped seam and folded it over double and seamed it closed at the bottom by hand, turning it the other way out to have the machine seam on the outside.

I thought I ought to have a different style of cover so remembering the interesting stitch I had seen someone using at ‘Crafty Coffee’ the previous Friday, which I was told was ‘Linen’ stitch, I decided to use this linen stitch, that is oh so easy, and similar ‘sea and sand’ colours to my cafetière, just adding the dark blue for extra interest.

Thus I made this cover:-


The covers only take a few hours to make and are very easy. You could make one in an afternoon.

But just making these covers was not enough …………………………

I am happy to be a female except for one thing – and that is that our clothing seems deficient in pockets. I much prefer pockets to using a handbag and always use a shoulder bag to at least keep my hands free.

But when it comes to listening to music on the go, if your coat doesn’t have an inner breast pocket like the one my son wears, you need an alternative.
So I decided that while I had the sewing machine out was a good time to make a neck pouch to hold my iPod or phone when out and about.

A very early post included a link to the the planning for my hexagon blanket where I made a bag for my daughter as practice. It included this photo.

My bag and the gusset I removed
My bag and the gusset I removed

As with the off-cuts from the cotton top, I have kept the gusset and now it seemed just the thing to use to make a neck pouch.

I bought some thick cotton tape to make a neck strap and found I could utilise the edge finishing of the gusset. So I cut a suitable length, sewed down the fold over at the top and sewed on the straps.


At this point I wasn’t entirely sure whether to leave the hem on the left to cover the raw edges but in the end when I had sewn the back seam, I folded it over and slip stitched it in place.

And finally sewed across the bottom along the original seam line.

And here I am wearing it.


And as a final little task before I put the machine away I made a little case to hold the earphones, just one thickness this time.


There is room for it to tuck inside or I could put a loop on it to attach it to the strap.

And here is a photograph for the Monthly Challenge.


Monthly Challenge – Peg Bag

The pattern and a chart for the hexagons used in this project are now available HERE

I decided to make this as the Monthly Challenge as I thought that was probably the only way I would get it done as I have been planning it for a few months now and am getting fed up of managing with plastic carrier bags. However it has taken rather longer than I anticipated and I’ve had to rush it a bit.

Back story

Years and years ago – maybe 25 – my son made me a ‘Knight Rider’ peg bag in school.

It was made from hessian and had the words ‘KNIGHT RIDER PEG BAG’ embroidered on it as well as a picture of a car.

It was especially useful as it could be worn round the neck and had two separate compartments for pegs thus allowing me to separate the strong pegs from the weaker ones.

About eight to ten years ago it was beginning to fall to bits so I bought some hessian and made a similar bag as a replacement. This hessian however must be an inferior fabric as it started to split a few months ago and became unuseable.

Ever since then it has been my intention to make a replacement and since I am now into crochet, I had the bright idea of making the outside from crochet hexagons and the inside from some old cotton polo necks that I can no longer wear except under jumpers.

And now, at last, I have got around to making it.

I am using some of the wool that was left over from my hexagon blanket but have decided to use my own hexagon pattern that is based on the one I used for the three colour 12-fold flower squares for my flower cloth.

The original hexagon pattern makes more of a lay-flat stay-flat hexagon but mine have the advantage of being quicker to make as they only have the four visible rows instead of having an extra row like the original ones. They also only use trebles (US dcs) worked into gaps not stitches.

I also like them because the rows work out pointier so they look more like flowers.

Original blanket hexagons ————— My more pointy ones

I had made a bag with hexagons for my daughter as practice for the blanket.

But I found a plan on the internet for a bag that used the hexagons the other way round which gave square corners and so was more suitable for this project. By printing two copies and cutting and sticking with sellotape I was able to make a plan for the peg bag in order to know how many hexagons to make and where to join them.

I was using up the oddments left from the blanket so this governed my colour choices for the hexagons to a certain extent. Also, as I was trying to make it quickly, I did not plan the colours as much as I had before but I did try to make them vaguely random and all different.

When the hexagons were joined together the pegbag looked like this:-

Front and back

and the reverse.


I then found my old cotton polo neck that is surplus to requirements and cut out two pieces to make a lining, utilising the hems in my design.

Got out my old sewing machine my mother passed on to me.

Sewed the two pieces together and then sewed side seams

(the seams came out surprisingly straight for me)

and created a lining.

I fitted the lining inside the crochet part and joined it along the edges, tucking the top hexagons inside to make access to the pegs easy.

I have suspended my previous peg bags round my neck by using a cut down wire hanger to hold the middle flat and adding a piece of string or tape. This time I decided to go for something that would hopefully prove both more elegant and more satisfactory.

So I found a piece of thin dowel from my collection of bits of wood left from earlier projects, cut a suitable length and crocheted a circular band.

I attached a length of tape I had used for the last peg bag to the dowel so as to stop the strap stretching.

I wrapped the dowel and tape in the crochet band finished the band and stitched it closed, suspended the peg bag on the dowel and sewed in place.

Here it is all ready to go!