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} 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.

{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

 

 

{How To} Upcycle an old jumper into a bag.

Featured

Every so often a friend of my Mum’s brings me a huge bag of hand-me-downs. It’s such a treat. After her last visit I plunged my hand into a bag, rummaged around and pulled out a huge knitted jumper. It was a chunky, grey wool knitted in loose, wide stitches. The body of the jumper was a T shape, two large squares for the body and four smaller squares for the arms. I loved it, it looked dreadful on me.

Tools of the trade

But did I give up and throw it to one side? Oh no, I wasn’t letting this one go to the charity shop. So here is what I decided to do with my new jumper instead…

1) First I cut both arms off the jumper leaving me with a vaguely square bag shape. When you cut into a knitted fabric you have to stitch along the edges you are about to cut otherwise when you snip through the stitches your jumper will unravel. For smaller knits you can do this on your sewing machine using a zigzag stitch. I used a tapestry needle and a strand of the wool I was using for my edging to catch in the stitches around the arm holes.

Single crochet edge2) Next for a nice chunky edging. Using three strands of double knit yarn together I single crocheted all the way around two sides and the bottom of the bag, closing all the openings as I went.

 

CAT BAG 01

 

Hmmm, not so much plain as blank don’t you agree? I decided to stuff new bag with squashy balls of yarn for some wooly inspiration. Once the bag was full there was really only one way to go…

3) I cut eyes, nose and whiskers out of some pre made felt and I had all the best intentions of stitching them on, but ended up sticking them to the front of the bag with fabric glue. (They will fall off eventually, there wasn’t much surface to stick them to but when they do I will actually take the time to hand stitch them on, promise!).

Yarn Bag

From misfit jumper to the cat’s whiskers of a yarn bag in an hour and a half, and I had everything I needed in the house already. Purrrfect.

A bevy of your beautiful baskets

Super excited at the arrival of the first basket photo. Massive thanks to Stan for getting the ball rolling with this little beauty! Who’s next?!…….

{How to} make a beautiful Easter basket

The lovely people at Bristol With Kids asked me if I would like to write a guest post for their blog so I shared this super simple, 5 minute craft with them. We LOVE living in Bristol, and if you’re looking for things to do here then Nichola and Fritha’s blog is a great place to find out the best sights and sounds in this fabulous and family friendly city.

Easter basket templates

I first started making these baskets about 6 years ago when I used to run drop in craft days for families. The shape of the baskets is pretty standard but I wanted to be able to decorate my own, printed ones from the supermarket weren’t going to cut it! So I made my own template that fits neatly on an A4 sheet and is so simple that you can put it together in 5 minutes. Making these baskets has become a much loved tradition in our house, if you want to have a go all the instructions are written on the template so print yourself a copy off using the links below and let your creative skills run riot. How to make an #Easter #basket 5 minute make #craft #kids

We’d love to see some of the beautiful baskets you’ve made, share your pics on my facebook page, tweet me a photo @picklepintweet, #LSEASTERBASKET on instagram or just drop me a line at info@laurastepney.co.uk.

PLEASE REMEMBER: If you want to share your photo of your basket these pictures will be on public display.

Printable goodies.

Basket template

Easter hunt this way!

egg template

(Each of these files will open as a pdf)The end!