Tag Archives: craft

A finished baby blanket

14 Apr

As I mentioned in my last post, I managed to summon up a burst of knitting energy recently and finish off the blanket that I started about three months ago for the impending new arrival (aka sproglet mi).

Knitted baby blanket | Wolves in London

I’m loving this snuggly blanket a lot…

After sewing in all the ends (oh, such a tedious process, I always put it off and off and off for days…) and blocking overnight, I took a few photos this morning.

Knitted baby blanket | Wolves in London

A little close up of the pattern

A few knitting notes for anyone who might be interested… The pattern is the heirloom blanket by Madeline Tosh. (Costs $4 for an instant download on Ravlery. Well worth it, in my opinion.) It’s the second time I’ve made it and I think it’s a lovely pattern; difficult enough to keep you interested, simple enough to memorise.

Knitted baby blanket | Wolves in London

Just showing off my neat edges…

Knitted baby blanket | Wolves in London

…and my neat stitches

The yarn is Debbie Bliss baby cashmerino and sadly you can’t reach into your computer screen to give the blanket a stroke because it is soooo deliciously soft and stretchy and generally just the perfect thing for putting against a newborn’s skin.

Knitted baby blanket | Wolves in London

Sooo soft and squishy.

Full project details over on Ravelry as always: Blanket for bump.

In other knitting-related info, thanks so much for everyone’s comments and advice on my quandary in my last post. You made me realise that, yes, I really did feel like knitting something and I cast on that very evening. In fact, a bit of a knitting frenzy has since ensued and I am half way through the project already. Will share more details and photos once it’s finished and given away!

Related articles:

  • This blanket was the first thing I’d cast on for a while, back when I started it, and reminded me exactly why it is I love knitting: the joy of knitting.


Homemade baby presents; a quandary

10 Apr

Can you give my weary brain a little help this fine spring morning?

I’m having a quandary about what to make for the imminent arrival of my future niecephew (tbc) and could use some advice…

When my sister had her first baby, last summer, I put together a lovely little box full of homemade goodies: a blanket that I’d been knitting for the previous four months or so, some homemade baby trousers and some homeprinted babygrows.

In five weeks or so, my brother is having his first baby and I’d like to do something similar for them. Only problem is, in, oooh, two weeks or so, I am also having a baby (yeah, yeah, I know I’ve mentioned it a million times before) and my recent knitting has been dedicated to a blanket for him. (Which is, as of yesterday, finally finished. I’ll share some pictures after the weekend…)

So, I’ve got (probably) a few weeks of late pregnancy brain fug and lack of crafting mojo to work on something now, followed by a few weeks of new baby brain fug and, I suspect, no time at all for any crafting, mojo absent or otherwise.

So, what I’m after is a quick make, but still of something really special. Does such a thing exist?!

I trawled my Pinterest board, I could make that, to see what had inspired me in the past and this is the shortlist. Does anyone have any advice on these projects? Or any suggestions for something completely different? I’ve been pondering over this for so long now, I could have made something really nice in the meantime!

Seven homemade baby presents

Click on any of the photos below to go through to the tutorials…

1. Purl Bee big bottom baby trousers

Purl Bee baby trousers

The cutest thing ever?

These trousers from the Purl Bee are just too adorable, aren’t they? I have some really lovely fabrics in my stash so I could almost certainly make these without having to go to the shops. In fact, I think I must certainly have a go at these, irrespective of anything else I decide to make…

2.Rainbow blanket from the Purl Bee

Purl Bee baby blanket

So colourful. So perfect for a boy or girl…

I am still tempted to go for a knitted blanket, but making sure I pick something simple and quick. I’ve long admired this simple block colour blanket, also from the Purl Bee, and am tempted to try and make one with four rainbow colours (red, yellow, green and blue) and then add a border around the edge in cream.

But, two concerns: is knitting that much garter stitch going to be so boring that I can’t bear to pick up the needles? And, am I simply setting myself up for a sure and certain failure in trying to knit in a blanket in two weeks? Hummmm…

3. Fabric stacking blocks

Homemade stacking blocks

Every baby needs a lighthouse

These stacking blocks from the Shabby Home blog have been sitting on my Pinterest board for about two years now I think. I absolutely love them: the long teetering lighthouse, the nautical stripes, the hint of Italian (“mare” means sea) that every cultured baby should surely have in their toybox…

Potential issue: is this one of those projects that looks quite simple, but actually takes a long time to make? I have a sort of feeling that I could be spending hours trying to get the perfect pointed corners.

4. Squishy bunny toy

Homemade bunny

He’s squidgy, he’s a bunny, he’s red and striped. What’s not to like?

Then, of course, I could go for a homemade toy (or two). I love this little squidgy red-tummied bunny from Chez Beeper Bebe. Why haven’t I simply started making one already? I’m just never quite convinced that toys are the perfect new baby present. I know the sproglet has accumulated a lot of toys over the 21 months of his life so far and maybe it is better to give something a little more useful???

5. Little puppy

Homemade puppy

Woof woof

Then again, this little scrap fabric puppy is almost irresistible, isn’t he? And would surely keep a child company from babyhood all the way through to… …well, who knows how old?

6. Yoked knitted cardigan

Yoked cardigan

Love these big red buttons

Back to the knits though. Maybe I should still aim for something with the knitting needles (easier to pick up and put down and work on little by little when I have time and energy in the evenings) but just focus on something a bit smaller than a blanket? This cardigan is really gorgeous, and if I knit it in a neutral colour like grey, I could always add buttons to make it more feminine / masculine after the baby’s arrival. Again, I already have wool in my stash I could use for this too. And the pattern is available on Ravelry as an instant download.

7. Homeprinted babygrows

Homeprinted babygrow

Modelled by the sproglet in his younger days

This is the only one I am sure about. I will definitely be making some homeprinted babygrows, with an appropriate picture on the front, once the baby has been born. (I’m kind of hoping they have a girl and call her something like Rose or Violet, so I can use some lovely botanical images…) Check out my tutorial for how to print on fabric for more info.

Well, even as I’ve been writing this, I’ve been vacillating wildly between all the different choices so, please, any suggestions to help my indecisive brain would be much appreciated!

Related articles:

Various other baby projects I’ve made are:

The joy of knitting

20 Feb

Now that my exams are over, I am itching to tackle my gigantically long to do list. And the very first thing at the top of the list is to knit a blanket for the impending arrival of sproglet number two…

Knitted blanket beginnings

Fresh on the needles. Ahhh, the relaxation of some good knitting…

What with one thing and another* I’ve hardly done any knitting for almost a year. I managed to whip up a bobble hat for my sister for Christmas, but, I have to confess, really disliked the whole process. I used cheap wool (we had a fixed budget for presents last year, I’m not just a total stinge-bag) that was horrible to knit with, on needles that were too small and from about the second round in already knew I wasn’t happy with how the end result was going to look, but had no time to frog and start again on a better pattern.

So it was, I had rather forgotten about the absolute joy of knitting.

This new project is made from some really nice Sublime yarn in a merino cashmere silk mix with a mellow taupey-mushroomy-grey colour. The wool is stretchy and soft and feels lovely, so I’m enjoying knitting every single stitch.

Sublime wool

Sublime in name, sublime in knitability

The pattern, Heirloom by Madeline Tosh, is one I have knitted before and that I know will look good when finished. It’s complicated enough to keep me interested, but not so difficult I worry about going wrong or checking the pattern all the time.

Knitting a blanket

Three repeats down, 24 to go…

But most of all, there is a huge pleasure in being able to quickly get my needles out and knit a few rows here and there when the sproglet is napping or temporarily distracted by Rastamouse. I had forgotten the enjoyment of a craft you can easily pick up and put down without having to get endless supplies out (or clear them away at the end).  One where the pleasure isn’t just in hurrying up and getting to the end result (being impatient, I tend to feel that way about most things) but in just slowly enjoying the making process.

Knitting a blanket

It’s going to be lovely when it’s finished.

So, knitting, welcome back to my life. It’s good to see you again…

As ever, project details for this are over on Ravelry if you want to see more: Blanket for the bump.

*Things = the exhaustion of pregnancy combined with looking after a toddler, revising for exams, not living in our house and trying to oversee a building renovation from far too far away…

Related articles:

  • I was more on the ball with knitting this time last year. Take a look at some knitted goods I made for Christmas presents or this rather nice lace scarf
  • If you’re after more inspiration for baby knitting, or baby presents in general, I put together a nice little homemade gift box for my nephew in the summer. Which, of course, also included a knitted blanket.

Liberty fabric baubles

12 Dec

I know, I know, I had you at “Liberty fabric baubles,” didn’t I? There’s not much need to write anything more…

Fabric baubles DIY

A plate of Christmas loveliness

I made up these little beauties a few weeks ago for my sister-in-law who was running a craft stall at a charity fair at the weekend. I’m not sure that nine little baubles will have made much of a dent in terms of making-an-entire-stall’s-worth-of-items-to-sell but, hey, hopefully they filled a small space somewhere.

DIY fabric baubles

The one in the middle is my favourite

I followed a tutorial in the Guardian by Hannah of the wonderful blog Seeds and Stitches, which I first Pinned two Christmases ago and have been meaning to make ever since.

It’s a great, simple, messy, very pleasurable project. The only extra tip I would add is that you need far, far more fabric than you expect, so cut out loads of tiny squares first and then sit down for the glueing part. I seemed to spend most of the evening going to wash the glue off my hands when I discovered I’d run out of fabric mid-bauble for the hundredth time.

I also didn’t worry about hanging them up to dry, just put them on a sheet of greaseproof paper and turned them over at sporadic intervals, which worked fine.

DIY fabric baubles

Oh, laziness, this one wouldn’t stand up on his own to be photographed and instead of searching for some blue tack, I just grabbed a roll of sellotape that was closer to hand… Don’t worry, I haven’t accidentally glued it onto the bottom

DIY fabric baubles

The blue bauble, though, can stand up all on its own

Most of the fabric I’ve used is Liberty scraps, with the exception of the blue and white stripes, which were cut from my old primary school shirt. I felt quite nostalgic sticking it all together…

This weekend, I’m planning on making some more to adorn our very own Christmas tree. I’ve stuck the fabric to some cheap supermarket-bought plastic baubles, so the very best thing about them is that they’re sproglet-proof. Even if he managed to shatter them somehow, any sharp pieces would stay inside all the fabric, which is just the sort of Christmas ornament I need on my tree this year.

DIY fabric baubles

One last lingering look at the lovely baubles…

Related articles:

  • Planning to make more than ornaments? Check out my top 17 tutorials for homemade Christmas presents
  • If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you might recognise some of the fabric from the original projects. The pink and blue geometric patterns were turned into these egg cosies; the red floral pattern was leftovers from my teapot cosy; and most of the rest is from the (still unfinished) quilt

17 homemade Christmas presents

9 Dec

This time last year, I put together a round up of my top 20 tutorials for homemade Christmas presents that I’d found elsewhere on the web, for the delectation of my lovely readers reader. (Ha! That is actually almost true. I had only been writing the blog for a few weeks and I was so excited that 20 whole people read that post in the first few days!)

This year though, oh frabjous day, I thought I’d put together a round up of some homemade presents from my very own blog posts, sharing some of my favourite presents that I’ve made over the past 12 months.

17 tutorials for homemade Christmas presents

Not all of these are my own tutorials, but all link to a tutorial for you to follow, so I hope there is some inspiration here for anyone planning on making some presents in this fine month of December. So, without further ado, here are my top 17 homemade Christmas presents…

For vintage lovers

A huge fan of a vintage or retro image myself, I’ve made a fair few things using some (copyright-free) vintage pics over the past year. These are the ones I’ve been most pleased with

1. Lobster necklace

Shrink plastic lobster necklace

Who wouldn’t want a pink vintage lobster strung around their neck?

This was my first experiment with shrink plastic and, I’ve got to say, I was pretty chuffed with the results. He’s rather spectacular, isn’t he? I also made some rather lovely shrink plastic teapots, which would work brilliantly as tags for presents…

Check out the full tutorial here: shrink plastic lobster necklace

2. Home-printed bookplates

Print your own bookplates

Looking at this photo, I’m reminded that I want to make some more of these for myself…

This was a gift from Christmas last year and one I was really delighted with. It takes no time at all to print out all the bookplates, but I think the (slightly time-consuming) additions of the little envelopes really added to the cute factor.

Read more: print your own bookplates

3. Homemade paperweights

Make your own paperweights

This is a little asparagus beetle caterpillar, ready for his transformation

A slightly cheat “do it yourself” because really all you do is buy a kit and add your own images. I’ve made these with the bugs, above, and also with a whole bunch of other vintage images…

Read more: check out my tutorial or have a look at some other suggestions for pictures that work well

Stocking fillers

All of these are pretty quick to make and small enough to fit into a stocking. Ideal for the homemade touch if you don’t have time to go the full hog on bigger presents…

4. Moustache mugs

DIY moustache mugs

What a fine selection of facial hair

Okay, okay, the moustache thing is a bit overdone by now, but these mugs are still pretty amusing to me. (It’s like she’s got a big moustache when she drinks tea, ha ha ha...)

Of course, you could also use the same method to create any artistic mug you fancy, or let your children have a go with some different coloured pens to make an artwork for Granny.

Read more: moustache mugs

5. Soap

Homemade soap

Lavender soap, complete with actual lavender

Of all the presents I’ve ever given people, my homemade soaps have got the best feedback (and requests for replacements when they’ve run out…) Using a melt and pour soap base, these are straightforward to make, but still give you that pleasing mad scientist feeling as you stir them all together.

Read more: homemade soaps

6. Business card holders

Homemade business card holder

I like the octopus one best

For the loveable executive in your life… …what better than some homemade business card holders?! I’ve got to admit, since I made myself one it has seen very, very little action — but then I really must start carrying my business cards around and handing them out a little bit more. Again, this is a quick project, perfect for when you’re half paying attention to something on TV.

Read more: business card holders

7. Plastic bag stuffer

Plastic bag holder

The world’s sexiest present

If you thought the business card holders were a prosaic present, let me introduce you to the plastic bag stuffer! Sexy? No. Romantic? No. Thoughtful? Erm, perhaps. Useful? Very!

The thing is, buying something like this in the shops costs a ridiculous amount of money and it’s really, really easy to make with some beautiful fabric. But, I reckon, don’t give this to someone unless you know they have a plastic bag mountain hidden in a drawer or cupboard. This is the sort of  present that could see you on the receiving end of a pair of socks the following year if given to the wrong recipient.

Read more: plastic bag stuffer

8. Felt food

Felt fried breakfast

Anyone for bacon?

Erm, what can I say about this? It’s a fairly weird present, I know, perhaps better suited to children with a toy kitchen, but this felt breakfast really pleases me. Those little yellow yolks on the eggs, the curly bacon, the bright red tomato. Visually, it’s rather glorious.

Read more: felt fry up

9. Egg cosies

Egg cosy tutorial

Yum, yum, eggs you can actually eat

Infinitely more practical than a felt breakfast, these egg cosies can keep your actual eggs warm and toasty on a winter morning. Also good for getting the most out of scraps of beautiful fabric…

Read more: egg cosies

If you’ve got a bit more time…

Ideally, if you were making these presents, you would have started a while ago. But, hey, I’m only posting this today so you couldn’t have known… If you’ve a fair of time before the big day, these would make lovely presents though.

10. Hot water bottle cover

Knitted hot water bottle cover

Just add a ribbon round the neck for some extra flair

This might take you a couple of evenings to knit, but it’s a really nice pattern and very simple to follow. I was delighted with the way it looked at the end and (as is the way with every present I make for someone else that I really like) have been meaning to make a version for myself ever since. It never happens, of course, because there is always another present to make for someone else first…

Read more: knitted hot water bottle cover

11. Apple and blackberry vodka

Blackberry vodka

Oh this is a sight for sore eyes!

Not that this takes a long time to make, but it takes a long time to get really tasty. If you knew a patient person (it’s not me) you could make up a bottle of this now and tell them not to drink it for a year. Otherwise, make up some bottles now, and save until next Christmas for giving out…

Read more: apple and blackberry vodka

12. Dog draught excluder

Dog draught excluder

Woof woof

I was umming and ahhing about including this, since I don’t have a (non-photocopied) version of this pattern to point you towards. But, this dog draught excluder is so amazing that I couldn’t resist including it. If you’re good at sewing, you could probably take one look at it and figure out how to make it. It’s just two main pieces for the body, plus a garter at the top of the head (and the ears, of course)…

Head over to the main post for more pictures: dog draught excluder

For babies

There’s something almost irresistible about making presents for babies. From their cute little tiny person clothes to lovely snuggly soft blankets for keeping them toastie and warm, there’s an almost infinite option of things to make you super broody while you whip them up.

Of all the presents I’ve made this past year, the large majority have been for little people. These are my faves:

13. Knitted blanket

Shale baby blanket

Looks so complicated, knits up really easily…

I knitted this for the sproglet while I was pregnant, working my way through a few rows every evening. It’s called the shale baby blanket and is one of the few patterns I’ve ever paid for. Worth every penny though, because it’s utterly gorgeous. The finished result looks really complicated, but it’s actually only four rows to remember so is quite a relaxing knit…

See more: shale baby blanket

14. Baby bibs

Baby bib tutorial

I couldn’t resist this 1950s cowboy fabric…

If there’s one thing every six-month old baby needs it’s a lot of bibs. I made this pattern myself (not that it is hugely complicated, ha ha) and the bibs are all backed with velour, for easy post-meal mouth wiping.

Best of all, it’s super easy to make so you could whip up a little bundle very quickly for a last minute present.

Get the (free) pdf pattern and step-by-step tutorial here: baby bibs

15. Printed babygrows

Home printed babygrow

The one on the far left looks a little evil, doesn’t she?

If you’ve visited here before, you’ll know I’m a big fan of using iron on transfer paper to add images to fabric. This works particularly well, I think, with babygrows, which can look adorable with an extra embellishment. This matryoshka is one of my favourites…

Check out the matryoshka babygrow or take a look at my tutorial for transferring prints to fabric

16. Quilted burp cloth

Homemade quilted burp cloth

Yet more 1950s fabric. Don’t you love it, though?

There’s no denying that little babies are cute. But there’s also no denying that they are very vomitous. Very, very, very vomitous sometimes. I sewed a burp cloth before the sproglet was born and it’s fair to say it’s seen a bit of use in the intervening year or so. This isn’t the most glamorous present, it can’t be denied, but it’s a super useful one. Perhaps pair with some bibs or babygrows to up the cuteness quotient…

Read more: quilted burp cloth

17. Baby trousers

Homemade baby trousers

Stomp, stomp, stomp go the elephants

I’ve saved the best til last with the baby pressies. I’ve made a few pairs of these baby trousers now and I think they are utterly gorgeous and great for showcasing a nice fabric. These red elephant ones are my most preferred.

Read more: a trio of teeny, tiny trousers

Related articles:

What better way to finish off a handmade present, than with some lovely handmade wrapping. Here are some suggestions to get you started:

DIY advent calendar

29 Nov

DIY advent calendar tutorial from Wolves in London

I’m a complete curmudgeon when it comes to advance Christmas preparations.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love Christmas. Just not in September. (Or August, October or November, for that matter…) And, as we all know, September is generally the time you start seeing Christmas bits and pieces popping up.

The first few times you tut to yourself in whatever giant multinational supermarket you happen to have popped into, “Tch, Christmas cards and advent calendars and it’s still September. Idiots.”

But, before you know it, the insidious pan pipe Christmas Carol music has crept into your brain and you’re feeling all Winter Wonderlandy and tinselly. And then, bamm, the middle of November hits, all of your Christmas joy has been used up already and you’re yearning for your next summer holiday.

So every year, I guard myself carefully against any Christmas thoughts at all until it’s December.

And so it is, that I have just, a few days in advance, allowed myself to think about making an advent calendar. And this is it.

DIY advent calendar

What’s not to love? Tiny little bags filled with chocolate and some vintage Christmas images

Lots of gorgeous little numbered bags stuffed full with chocolate and decorated with jolly vintage pictures, all found on the wonderful Graphics Fairy website. Here are a few of my favourites:

DIY advent calendar

I love the little gingerbread house for December 6th

If you’re a late preparer like me, and would like to make yourself one, I’ve put all of my images into a pdf and there are some really straightforward instructions below.

So, joyeux Noel, all. May the mulled wine drinking and mince pie eating officially begin!


DIY advent calendar

Scissors, bags, transfer paper

  • Small drawstring bags, approx. 9cm x 7cm. (I ordered mine through eBay ages ago, mistakenly getting a size that was too small for our wedding favours. Luckily, they were perfect for this purpose…)
  • This pdf template with all the images and dates
  • Some iron on transfer paper for pale fabric
  • An iron and scissors

What to do:

  1. Print out the pdf onto the iron on transfer paper. (The numbers and images are backwards, but don’t worry, this is as they should be!)
  2. Cut round the images leaving a small border of a few millimetres around the outside of each one.
  3. Position an image, face down, onto a bag.

    DIY advent calendar with vintage image

    Use the grid on the back to make sure the picture is straight

  4. Cover a wooden board (or your table) with a tea towel and, with the iron at its hottest setting, but the steam turned off, iron over the image for about 90 seconds. Make sure you cover the edges and especially any corners. (You can’t use a normal ironing board, because it’s too soft for the iron to really press the image onto the fabric.)

    Making an advent calendar

    Nice tea towel, isn’t it?

  5. Leave the transfer until it’s dry (you can iron on another one in the meantime)
  6. Carefully peel off the backing and tadaaa, you have a lovely little bag
    DIY advent calendar

    Start at a corner and gently pull the backing off

    DIY advent calendar

    Bag one, finished. Only 23 to go…

  7. Stuff with a chocolate, tiny presents or diamonds. Whatever floats your boat.

    diy advent calendar

    The perfect size for a Lindt Lindor, aka, the best chocolate ever created

  8. Repeat until all bags are finished and then hang somewhere festively…
    DIY advent calendar

    A lovely pile waiting for a treat

    DIY advent calendar

    I think they’d look very nice strung from a Christmas tree too

    homemade advent calendar

    Or use a bit of washi tape to hang them from the fireplace…

    DIY advent calendar

    Ah, just one more photo, so you can see this nice reindeer

If you want a bit more info on the process, check out my step-by-step tutorial for ironing images onto fabric, or my tips and hints for getting the best results.

I’m a traditionalist with advent calendars and only go up to December 24th, but I’ve included a 25 in there too for any of you newfangled crazy modernists out there.

Hope you enjoy this and do leave me a comment if you make one yourself.

Related articles:

  • I know that there must be lots of people out there waaaaaay more organised than me, because the round-up I put together last year for the top 20 tutorials for homemade Christmas presents has been getting lots of interest in the past few months

Busy Needles

27 Nov

It’s hard to admit this, even to myself, but I can’t foresee a huge amount of making things occurring over the next few months that we’re staying at my Mum’s while our house is a building site.

Busy Needles cover

I am not as busy as this woman

Sure, I packed a few bits and pieces in the optimistic hope that I would be able to work on some projects, but at the moment my sewing machine is still in its box on the kitchen floor while I ponder if there is anywhere to put it (there isn’t) and of course I’ve brought all the wrong wool for anything I want to knit and though I have a few secret projects packed and ferried over here, I’m not entirely sure exactly when the time for making them will present itself.

That’s not to say, however, that there isn’t plenty of inspiration and planning going on…

I was reacquainted with an ancient and rather fabulous collection of magazines called Busy Needles that my Mum subscribed to back in the ‘70s and ’80s.

Do you want to have a look? But of course you do…

All the magazines are bound together in this glorious folder, which, as you can see, is rather more tasteful and restrained than the covers of the magazines themselves.

Busy Needles magazine

Of course, the first magazine you’d turn to would be the one on the left

Inside is a treasure trove of delights. Some that I genuinely want to make. Others that just make chuckle…

The colours on this baby blanket are a little sugary sweet for me, but I love the look of the pattern:

Retro baby blanket pattern

I’m tempted to have a go at this blanket once I next pick up my knitting needles

And this fluffy jumper is so retro to be cool again (or at least, I certainly think so, but maybe that just shows me up…)

vintage jumper pattern

Would you wear this?

In non-knitting projects, putting aside the extreme amount of 1970s brown in this photo, the animal rug is something I would absolutely adore to make for the sproglet’s room:

Vintage children's rug pattern

Brown wood? Check. Brown basket? Check. Brown rug? Check. Must be the ’70s.

On the other hand, I can’t say I will be rushing to start on any of these projects quickly. Fancy painting some tigers onto your clothes? Nope, me neither…

Retro craft magazine

Perfect clothing for the English summer

…or how about this Valentine’s get up?…

Vintage knitting pattern

Looking more closely at the photo, I can see that it’s actually the accessories that are more hideous than the jumper, but still…

…though you surely couldn’t fail to be tempted by this pink blouse?

Vintage craft magazine

Even better, there was a batik pattern on the back.

By now, I’m sure you’re dying with jealousy and desperate to have a copy of Busy Needles for yourself. Fret not! A quick google has just shown me that you can buy the first seven editions on Amazon for a piffling price of, wait for it, £219!

My Mum’s clearly sitting on a treasure trove right here. I’m not sure I’ll tell her, though. Or at least, not until I’ve made a few of the projects anyway. First port of call, a sarong painted with tigers…

Related articles:

Knitting in Vogue

Advice please: T-shirt refashion

21 Nov

As a teenager in the ‘90s, I was a real little indie kid.

My best friend lived near the infamous Old Trout pub in Windsor, gig venue for every indie band ever on their way up to success (and many who would never again reach such heady heights as the 250-capacity audience at the Old Trout).

We went there religiously, every weekend, taking in all our favourite bands: Supergrass, Blur, Pulp, Oasis, Elastica, Sleeper, Suede, Echobelly… I could go on. Oh, we were obsessed.


Pulp, one of the greatest bands of the ’90s for sure…

Every spare minute that wasn’t spent actually attending gigs was devoted to obsessively checking gig listings and writing extensive dramatic renditions of implausible scenarios where we met Damon from Blur (my friend) or Alex from Blur (me) and they realised they were desperately in love with us and took us away on tour with them. (Genuinely. Going “on tour” with them was pretty much the pinnacle of our teenage longings…)

Well, either that or hopelessly stalking Peter, from Iver Heath, who had curtains*, was two years older than us and drove a VW Beetle. I was dedicated to finding out his surname, somehow, in order to practice writing Mrs Sabrina So-and-so on all my science books.

But, just as much time and effort was focused on our wardrobe. Looking back now, I see that the sartorial choices of the mid-90s indie kid were somewhat formulaic, but at the time they seemed daring, shocking, and hugely individual…

You could put together a standard gig-going outfit like this:

Top, select either: (All must be very tight-fitting and expose a good amount of navel)

  • “Ironic” Disney T-shirt, bought from the children’s section of M&S
  • Silver vest
  • Band T-shirt

Trousers, select either:

  • Black leather trousers
  • Combats

Shoes, select either:

  • Doc Martens (any colours preferred above black)
  • Army boots (I sprayed mine silver. Uh-huh.)

Accessorise with colourfully-painted nails, lots of black eyeliner, a few children’s hair clips and a lot of silver jewellery (ideally bought from “Kenny market” or Camden).**

But of all these ingredients, the most important, the one that conveyed the most respect and adoration among envious friends was the Band tee. Any of my newpaper-round money that wasn’t spent on attending gigs was spent on purchasing T-shirts at gigs.  I had hundreds, I am pretty sure, but over the years they’ve all been lost / discarded / used as dusters / thrown away in disgust.

And then, the other day, going through some clothes that had been packed away in a suitcase for years, I came across this crumpled Pulp “I’m common” T-shirt.

Pulp T-shirt

Ah I really should have ironed this before photographing…

Bought from Glastonbury in the summer of 1995.

I had just finished my GCSEs, and as a reward was allowed to go to Glastonbury for all four days with my best friend and boyfriend. We all shared one tent, though when it came to putting it up, we discovered that the inside was mouldy, so spent three nights sleeping under an open triangle. It was a scorching hot weekend, so warm that I burnt my hands so badly that my fingers swelled up to the size of sausages. My friends could spot me in any crowd with my bright red sausage hands up the air, the blue fingernails contrasting against the almost exploding skin.

We saw so many bands I can barely remember them all. I think we circled the programme to make sure we got the optimum route planned between each performance.

The Stone Roses were scheduled to headline, but they dropped out at the last moment. Instead, Pulp stepped in, one of my all time favourite bands, and started their set with their new song, Sorted for Es and Whizz.

As Jarvis, one of my ultimate heroes, took his gangly-framed body to the stage, the crowd cheered and cheered and the applause became deafening as he sang the first line:

“Oh, is this the way they say the future’s meant to feel? Or just 20,000 people standing in a field?”

That moment – the heat evaporating off the crowd, the sun setting, Pulp on stage, my best friend and I pogoing up and down like crazed things – is undoubtedly one of the greatest memories of my teenage years.***

And this little sunny yellow T-shirt, that now looks so small to me it could surely be worn by a seven-year-old, brought all those wonderful memories flooding back.

So, extensive reminiscences over, we come to the crux of this blog post. What should I do with the T-shirt?

I would like to refashion it into something that could be vaguely usable in some way, but I can’t think of anything suitable.

Pinterest is full of T-shirt refashions (of course), but the two most frequently recurring options don’t quite work for me. A popular choice is to turn your old T-shirt into a new summer dress for your daughter (this sun dress, for example, is gorgeous). Though I love the idea, in this instance this provides me with three problems: my old T-shirt is tiny, I don’t have a daughter, and even if I did, you wouldn’t want your daughter wandering round with this on her front, would you:

Pulp T-shirt

It’s only now, 20 years later, that I get why my Mum didn’t love me wearing this top.

The second alternative is to turn it into a cushion (like this Chuck Norris cushion), but again, I’m not really sure that I want a faded yellow cushion anywhere in my house.

So, dear readers, any thoughts? Genius brainwaves? All suggestions most welcome! Please drop me a comment and let me know…

For now, the T-shirt is going back into a suitcase, still crumpled, while I wait for inspiration to strike.

P.S. After the frenzied sorting and organising of a few weeks ago, the packing was stepped up a notch last week as we put all of our possessions into boxes and all of our furniture into a storage unit at the weekend and drove down to spend a month or so living with my Mum. Hence the recent radio silence. A little more sorting and organising this weekend and hopefully I will be in a position where I can actually find some clothes to put on in the mornings and normal life can resume again…

*I mean the classic ‘90s haircut, of course, not the window coverings. I wasn’t that easily impressed.

**Thinking back now, I can also remember some other slightly less formulaic outfits. There was a pair of red tartan trousers, which I matched with a blue V-neck t-shirt that said “Hooker” on the front. That was the name of a band. As I told my Mum repeatedly every time I tried to wear it out of the house. Now I think about it, I suspect the band – who certainly never made it past Old Trout status – probably only chose that name so idiotic 15-year-olds just like me would walk around with a T-shirt that said Hooker on the front…

Less sleazy, I also had a pair of purple dungarees with tye-die black moons and gold printed suns on them. Oh, they were a look! I wore them with a green combat shirt tied round the waist and a small T-shirt underneath (but of course, of course) and a permanent grimace. I actually have photographic evidence of this look, but I think it is evidence I should take to the grave.

***I feel obliged to point out, just in case my Mum is reading (she’s not) that we were not sorted for Es or whizz or any other sort of chemical stimulation. Indeed, despite the freedom of being allowed to go to Glastonbury on our very own at the age of 16, I think we didn’t even touch a sip of alcohol the whole time we were there. It was all about the music, man…

Sorting and organising

6 Nov

Regular readers will have heard me bleat on about the terrible state of our house many a time.

We moved in in September 2012, to a house with no central heating, no shower, no dishwasher (the thing I miss the most!), dodgy wiring that means we fuse the whole house if we turn on the light in the sitting room, and a dark, dark kitchen.

Of course, we planned to renovate it ASAP, but what with the structural surveys, planning permission (denied, new plans needed), builder’s quotes, choosing a builder and our chosen builder being exceedingly busy – 14 months have passed since that day.

But our builder came round on Monday morning and – all of a sudden – work is starting next week. Next week! Eeeeep.

So I’m in a flurry of packing, sorting and organising this week. We need to move out, to my Mum’s, while the work takes place and empty the house as much as possible in preparation.

Button jar

Ah, lovely buttons, you can just see one of my home-covered ones peeping through…

This morning, I’ve been wandering round taking photos of all the items we want to get rid of, planning what we’ll put in the attic and what we’ll take with us to my Mum’s.

The clothes / books part is easy. (Winter clothes only, all books to attic.) But then I got into my craft room and indecision struck.

That gorgeous kilner jar of buttons. Will I need that? Probably not, but, then again, what if I want to make something in the next two months that needs a button?

My plastic bag of scrap fabrics. Well, that should go to the attic, surely. But… …then again, there are probably mice in the attic. And what if I just took my fabric scraps and only made things from that.? Hmmmm…

Fabric scrap bag

I really must find something to do with the really teeeeny bits of fabric here…

And don’t even get me started thinking about my wool offcuts…

Wool in a glass jar

Little walnuts of wool

My knitting and sewing books. Okay, this one is easy, actually, I don’t look at them very often. They can definitely go to the attic.

But what about my work in progress box?! Some things in this have been in progress for about two years, surely I won’t decide to finish them now? But, perhaps I should just take it with me and get them sorted out and not start on a new project for a while.

What? Not start a new project for two months?!

Arrrggghhhhh.  I think and I’ll go organise my clothes one more time instead.

Related articles:

  • I talked a little more about the story of our new house earlier this year
  • And surely you’d like to see the classic 1950s wallpaper that we’re about to cover up
  • The one thing we’ve got round to so far is removing the giant cactus from the garden

A last minute present: the plastic bag stuffer

31 Oct

It was my Mum’s birthday a few weeks ago and, being the disorganised daughter I am, it got to the evening before and I realised I hadn’t yet bought her a present.

I rang up to apologise in advance that her present was going to be a bit late this year and the disappointment in her voice was tangible down the phone line.

I felt bad.

So, I scratched my little head and racked my little brain to try and think of a nice temporary present I could make her while watching X Factor that evening. Something small, quick to put together, that would give her something she could open “on the day”…

(My family are big fans of “on the day” presents: something small to tide over the birthday boy or girl til you get round to actually buying them a proper present. This chronic lateness and disorganisation is genetic, you see, I can’t fight it…)

And what did I come up with? This plastic bag stuffer!

Plastic bag holder

Utilitarian, but pretty

Not, I’ll grant you, the most exciting present in the world, but I knew that my Mum has a dark, dark cupboard in her house which is absolutely overflowing with hundreds of plastic bags, and she had admired my (ridiculously expensive) Cath Kidston version before.

The fabric was the last remnants of some glorious Japanese butterfly fabric that I bought when living in Hong Kong a few years back.

Butterfly fabric from Japan

Oooh, I love this butterfly fabric

(You might recognise it from the business card holders I made earlier this year.)

The construction was pretty simple. I cut myself two rectangles; the bigger one, at approx. 45cm x 35cm for the main bag holder, the smaller one, approx. 40cm x 10cm for the handle.

On both rectangles, I sewed the two long sides together to make two tubes.

Plastic bag holder

What a lovely tube…

For the rectangle that was to be the handle, I turned the fabric the right way round and ironed the tube flat.

On the large rectangle, I then folded a small hem at both ends, ironed this in place, before folding once more to create a second, bigger hem, of approx. 3cm. I pinned the handle into position at the top end of the bag and then sewed round the two large hems, leaving a gap to feed the elastic through.

Plastic bag holder

Elastic-filled hem

I cut two pieces of elastic, approximately 20cm long and, using two safety pins, threaded them through the holes and sewed the ends together. Finally, I sewed the gaps shut and admired my work.

Plastic bag holder

Plastic bags, model’s own

Of course, since I was also busy watching X Factor and it was night time, I didn’t stop to take any photos of anything along the way, so if you’d like to make one of these and any of those instructions didn’t make sense, do leave me a comment below and I will explain further if needed!

My Mum was really pleased with it and, as you can see, it is already in use. Now, I just need to figure out what to get her for her actual present. Hmmm…

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