Essential Crochet. Erika Knight {Review}

Essential Crochet by Erika Knight cover Erika Knight dedicates her book to all stitch makers passionate for their crafts. Subtitled “30 Irresistible projects for your home” this bookful of bright ideas by Erika Knight is filled with beautiful photographs that would set any yarn lover’s crochet hooks aquiver.

There is a variety of patterns to choose from aimed at a range of different abilities.  Everything from small scented pillows to large afgan throws, detailed filet cushion cover patterns to a free form camisole. None of the patterns in this book are particularly ground breaking but that’s part of its charm. If Erika had chosen the title “Fiddly and Frustrating Crochet” it would be a different story but the simplicity of the patterns makes them not just irresistible projects in their own right but also great inspiration for a project tailor made by you to suit your own taste.

I couldn’t write a review of this book without trying out a pattern. I picked the Corsage Pin as I had some new mercerised cotton and plenty of scraps of fabric and sequins to make the leaves. The pattern is clear and easy to follow and I am pleased with my brooch, I don’t think I would wear it on my coat but I have a bag to pin it to and I will definitely be making more in other colours.

Anyone who has ever bought or borrowed a book of knitting or crochet patterns will know that they are very rarely perfect. When I was reading around about this particular book online I found that there were several comments from people saying that some of the patterns Essential Crochet by Erika Knight pageswere missing stitches and that in some cases complete rounds had been missed out. Like I say, it is not unusual in a book of knitting or crochet patterns for there to be a few errors and not having made every pattern in this book I can’t say whether or not there are as many errors as people might have you believe. What I can say is that from the comments I have read it doesn’t sound like these errors are going to hold you back from completing any of the projects.

Essential Crochet is full of beautiful and inspiring photos but they are more for decoration than for function. When I am trying to follow a crochet pattern I tend to look at the written instructions, the stitch charts and the photographs to make sure that I am staying on track. There are no stitch charts in Erika’s book. I know not everyone likes them, but once you have learnt the different symbols I think they are extremely useful (click here for the Yarn Council guide to crochet chart symbols) and when the photos are nicely shot but don’t provide much information to help follow the pattern I can see how it might be easy to get a little lost following the patterns.

Overall I loved this book, I was hooked as soon as I saw the drool-worthy bedspread on the front cover, and the photos inside are just as lovely. If ever I leave this book out on the table I can pretty much guarantee that any visitors will pick it up and start flipping through whether they are yarn lovers or not. Inside the patterns are split into several chapters ranging from BasicContemporary to Vintage, so there is something to suit most tastes in this attractively presented book.

Overall rating: 4/5.

Essential Crochet. 30 irresistible projects for you and your home is written by Erika Knight and published by Quadrille Publishing Limited.

ISBN 1-84400-308-6.

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{How to} make a fabric bowl

Because all of your beautiful things need pretty places to live. No more tangled necklaces or frantic searches for house keys as you are rushing out the door, these bowls are a great way to use up all scraps of fabric and add some style to your storage solutions at the same time.

You will need:

  • {How to} Make a fabric bowl: you will needfabric
  • rotary cutter and cutting board and scissors
  • craft glue, water and water-based varnish mixture (recipe below!)
  • bias binding
  • glue brush / foam applicator
  • bowl to use as a mould
  • plastic wrap
  1. Cut your fabric into stripsCut the fabric into strips that are roughly 1 inch (2.5 cm) wide and long enough to overhang the edges of your mould. The fabric you use is up to you. Cotton-y fabric works best as it soaks up the gluey slop nicely and is thick enough to hold its shape and whatever you want to put in your dish once it is dry. I’ve tried this with just about every scrap of fabric I could find, you can layer up nets and chiffon and other spangly fabrics to make things a bit more textured or glitzy as long as you keep in mind that you need a reasonable glue-to-absorbent fabric ratio for you creation to hold its shape once it is dry.
  2. The slop. To make your magical wonder glue you will need equal parts of craft glue, water-based varnish and water. I mix the glue and the varnish together first, then thin it with the water to help get the right consistency, you are aiming for that international standard of ‘a pudding-like consistency’. You want your mixture to be thin enough to soak into the fabric but thick enough to stay in the fabric and set the shape of your creation rock solid. Lay your strips onto the mould
  3. Cover your mould in the plastic wrap as smoothly as possible to stop your fabric strips sticking to your mould. Soak your strips in the slop and then lay them onto your bowl crossing them over the centre and filling in the gaps as you go. (I put mine on the inside of the bowl but you can use the outside instead, it just depends what you want the final shape to look like.) The first bowl I made got quite bulky on the base where all of the strips overlapped in the center of the bowl and it wouldn’t sit still. To stop this from happening lay the first four strips in a star shape and then cut your remaining strips in half and use these to fill in the gaps. Build up two layers.
  4.  The easy step. Let it dry. Completely.
  5. Lift your bowl out of the mould, peel off the plastic wrap and trim off the excess fabric at the top.Trim off any excess
  6. Cut your bias binding to length. Apply some glue mixture to the inside of the bias binding and glue it over the edge of the bowl. A fiddly business at the best of times, but made slightly easier by gluing the tape and the edge of the bowl at the same time and allowing them to go tacky before pressing them together. Once the binding was finally all glued in place I covered just the bias binding in a layer of the glue mix so that it would have the same finish as the rest of the bowl.
  7. You can always add a layer of varnish to your finished bowl if you want it to be super sealed and sturdy. (I decoupaged a trunk when I was a teenager which I sealed with a couple of layers of varnish and my son uses it as a toy chest now. The colours have faded a little but the magazine pages are all still perfectly intact!) I don’t think I’ll bother with varnishing mine, I’m happy with how solid and sealed they seem, once yours are dry it’s up to you!

and you are finished! There is something really pleasing about making these bowls, it’s one of those cutting-sticking-paper-mache-being-a-kid-was-the-best happy places that finishes up with a grown up bowl that you can personalise to your heart’s content and show off to all your friends.

For more bowl based inspiration see my {Gallery} here.

{How to} Grow borax crystals

Home grown crystals to add a little sparkle to your life in a few short hours. I made some of these to go on our Christmas tree but with Spring in the air (or at least it was!) it’s time to take the snowflakes down and make room for a new season full of makes. I wondered if the decorations would get brittle as they dried out but they seem just as solid as when I made them back in December, so I am going to put them away to next year and see how well they fare. They are so simple to make though if I have to make a whole new batch it wont be much of a problem.

To make your own borax bling you will need:

borax pipe cleaner jar crystals

  • borax powder
  • hot water water
  • pipe cleaners
  • jar/ heat proof container large enough for your pipe cleaner shape to be suspended in the solution without touching either side.
  • thread
  • a pencil
  • food colouring (optional)

 

 

  1. Bend your pipe cleaner into shape. I have tried this with super fluffy pipe cleaners, normal pipe cleaners, metallic pipe cleaners and twisted metallic pipe cleaners. They all worked fine but you can see from the photos that the crystals grew differently on each one. It’s also worth knowing that I untwisted the same type of silver and blue pipe cleaner I used to make the snowflake to make the heart and the star. Weirdly the crystals grew differently on the pipe cleaners after I had separated them… although maybe that was to do with something else. I guess we’ll never know!
  2. Tie a  loop of thread around the pipe cleaner shape. Then thread the loop over the skewer so that you can suspend your decoration in your jar so that it is not touching the sides or the bottom.
  3. Boil enough water to fill the jar and completely cover the decoration.
  4. Pour boiling water into your container (allow it to cool slightly first if you think your jar might pop!). Add one tbsp of borax powder, stir until dissolved, then keep adding a tbsp of the powder and stirring until the borax stops dissolving and starts collecting at the bottom of the jar, at this point the solution is saturated. If you want to you can add food colouring to the solution and grow coloured crystals, (I haven’t tried this but if you hop on over to the Yoyomax12 YouTube channel they’ve given it a go. [If you aren’t already hooked on Yoyomax12 click here and prepare to loose hours of your life] )
  5. Gently lower your decoration into the solution. In all the tutorials I have read it says that you should see some crystals growing after a couple of hours, I don’t know if I got a bad batch of borax (is that even possible?!) but I have found that I need to leave mine for at least 4 hours to get a good covering of small crystals. As far as I can make out you can leave them to grow as long as you like I think but the crystals will only ever grow so big. Out of curiosity I  left mine over night and ended up with some really great cubic crystals, which leads me on to step 6…
  6. When you are happy with the size of the crystals gently lift your decoration out and either hang it up somewhere to dry, or lay it down on some absorbent paper away from prying fingers.

Cleaning up – Crystals will grow on the inside of the jar but these will wash straight off with  a little warm water and you can pour any unwanted solution down the sink. Just like you would with any laundry detergent type chemicals it might be worth wearing gloves when you are washing up and obviously be careful not to splash it in your eyes and to clean the sink carefully afterwards so that it doesn’t come into contact with anything you would use for cooking.

Make you own Sock Monkey. {Review}

Sock Monkey Kit BoxI wasn’t given this kit, my sister was. She is big fan of Monkey, the cuddly, knitted, tea drinking kind, but not such a big fan of sewing. So, excited by the prospect of owning a Sock Monkey but with no intention of actually making one, she handed the box over to me (cue me trying to look pained and despairing but not convincing anyone).

A tried and tested design, straight forward to make but with enough different tasks to keep you interested and with plenty of opportunity to customize your finished monkey and give it your own spin, what’s not to like? It is also one of those brilliant ideas where once you have learnt how make one monkey the possibilities for making a whole sock based society are only limited by your imagination and the contents of your sock drawer.

This kit proudly proclaims that is contains absolutely everything you need and indeed it does. (Well, everything except a pair of scissors, but it’s close enough right?!) Obviously there is a pair of socks in the box, there is nothing on, or in, the box to say what the socks are made from, but they have a soft cotton-like feel. Along with the pair of socks there is:

  • an instruction booklet
  • a bag of polyester filling
  • a needle
  • 2 buttons
  • red and white embroidery floss
  • a piece of red ribbon

( I’m sorry that I don’t have more pictures to show you for this one but I selfishly started this project without a second thought for you guys, I just had to start cutting and sewing immediately)

The instruction booklet has 16 pictures explaining each step but there are no written instructions. The steps are easy enough to follow but there are no tips on what stitches to use, or how best to attach the limbs or other extremities to your toy.  I have started a pinterest board with a few toy making tips since making Miss. Monkey. You don’t need any special expertise but knowing how to do some blind hemming is a handy skill to have up your sleeve.

Sock Monkey yellow skater skirtOnce the body was made it was time to pick her accessories. Rather than use the blue buttons in the kit my sister choose different buttons for eyes and decided that she would like a girl chimp with a bow in her hair rather than a boy monkey with a bow tie. She also wanted her monkey to have one ear up and one ear down. I chose to hand stitch this little lady, all in all I guess she took about about 3 hours to make, but you could sew the body, arms, tail, and ears on a sewing machine and then attach them by hand to save time.

As a final flourish I stitched the bow onto a tiny safety pin so that she can move the bow to suit her mood and made a very quick, no sew golden tutu and this summery yellow skirt from some scraps I had. (Somehow managed to miss that her skirt was lifting up in this one, maybe she is an aspiring Miss Munroe?)

It just so happens that it was my birthday while I was making this monkey and my son bought me this book of sock monkeys as a gift*. The perfect source of inspiration! There are some fantastic photos and some clearly well loved friends in Sock Monkeys  and what I didn’t know was that they a history all of their own. The Etsy blog has a good brief history, click here to find out more.

Make Your Own Sock Monkey, imported by Funtime Gifts Ltd, is available from various online retailers.

Overall score: 4 / 5. One mark lost for lack of sewing tips.

Difficulty: Easy. The box says 5+, I think this would be good first make for a child learninglearning how to sew. I’d say personal taste and not age would be the deciding factor on this one.

Trickiest part: Sewing the mouth on. This is where blind hemming would come in useful!

* Sock Monkeys (200 out of 1,863) by Arne Svenson and Ron Warren is published by Ideal World Books. ISBN 0-9722111-2-8.

{How To} Turn an old shirt into a cushion cover.

{How to} Upcycle a shirt into a cushion cover 2

This simple twist on the classic envelope cover is a great way to give new life to an old shirt; 4 straight lines of sewing and someone has already done all the fastenings for you. Here’s how you do it…

You will need:

{How to} turn a shirt into a cushion cover, sewing, handmade

 

  • 1 shirt
  • 1 cushion inner – I bought mine but you could make your own.
  • measuring tape/ ruler
  • chalk/ pen/ pencil to mark out your pattern
  • pins (in the altoids tin!)
  • scissors
  • thread

 

 

I made my cover on a sewing machine but you could easily make this by hand.

You will not necessarily need to make your owl tape measure look like it is flying a kite, but it does help.

1. Find/ steal a shirt from unsuspecting partner/ housemate/ father/ brother. Mens’ shirts are probably best because they are bigger and tend not to be fitted. I got this one fair and square by helpfully offering to put it in the recycling box and secretly snaffling it away into the fabric stash.

appropriated shirt

2. Measure your cushion inner, mine is 45 cm (18 inches) square. To make your cover you need to add on 2 cm (1 inch) to the height and width for seam allowance.

Iron your shirt before marking out your pattern. Yes I know it is a pain but do it anyway, you will thank me when you have a beautiful square cushion cover.

3. Measure and mark out a square on the front and back of the shirt. For my inner this will be a 47 cm sided square.

front and back

This is where you get to choose. If you are lucky this will fit perfectly within the sleeves of your shirt. If not the choice is yours. You can:

a.) Just ignore the sleeve seams and cut right on through ( I think this adds to the upcycled-shirtiness effect)

OR

b.) You can just re-adjust your pattern making it slightly smaller to sit within the seams of the shirt. Cushion inners are squishy and forgiving to this kind of behavior.

4.) Decide that despite having gone out and bought an inner specially that your shirt would look much better as a bolster cushion than square and grab a cushion off the sofa to use instead. (Optional)

5.) Pin the front and back pieces together, right sides facing each other and sew the four sides together. I have allowed for 1 cm (1/2 inch) seams in my pattern, you can leave more if you wish. I used a line of straight stitch and then a line of zigzag stitch running parallel just to keep the edges from fraying too wildly.

pin right sides together

Once you’ve finished sewing you can turn your cushion cover inside out and iron it flat. (Yes, iron it again, it DOES make a difference.)

All that is left to do is unbutton the shirt, slip your inner inside and sit back and relax on your latest sewing triumph. Shirts will never be safe in your house again.

finished productIt doesn’t need to stop at shirts either. I made an old cardigan into a cover to fit the square inner, before finding yet another old shirt and now have more covers than cushions! They are so simple to make that all three of these covers only took me an afternoon.

 

The pockets are a handy extra too. You need never loose the remote control again…

Chandni Chowk shirt