Monthly Archives: May 2019

French Knitting Carrick Bend Mat Knot

I’ll bet lots of you had a go at French knitting when you were little?  These little dolls are also known as knitting Nancies and they’re great fun.  They produce a lovely knitted braid like an i-cord which you can use as embellishments for bags, hats, blankets etc or coil into mats of various sizes.


If you’d like to make something a little more advanced, there’s a lovely tutorial showing you how to make a knotted coaster from a long length of French knitting.  A note of caution though – the tutorial mentions a braid of 1.8m but I’d be inclined to make 2m to be on the safe side.

Once you’ve made your braid, this incredible animated knot tying site will show you exactly how to turn your braid into a Carrick Bend Mat knot.  Once you’ve made the knot, it’s simply a case of adding a felt back and you have your coaster.  Of course, you could always pop a brooch fastening on the back if you fancied, as it really would make a rather splendid brooch!



Embroidery Thread Purse


I was lucky enough to be given a big box full of fabric bits and pieces recently, one of which was this gorgeous piece of thick woollen fabric (it would have made a gorgeous coat!).  The piece in my box had one straight end which had obviously been cut, whilst the opposite end was the natural selvage and it had a beautiful ruffle effect to it.

The shape and size of the material lent itself beautifully to a small bag or purse, so I set about finding some suitable lining fabric and a couple of buttons.



I hand stitched the lining in place so that it wouldn’t show up on the front of the bag.




Once the lining was done, I used 2 strands of embroidery thread to sew up the sides using a large, decorative blanket stitch.



All that was left was to sew on two buttons for decorations, and then pop some press studs under the buttons to close the purse.


I think this purse could very well be the new home for my embroidery thread stash!

Rag Rug Wreath

I first learnt the traditional craft of proggy mat making about ten years ago when I attended a course to make a proggy Christmas tree which was great fun.  Since then I’ve had a go at hooky mat making and rag rugging too.  They’re all great ways of using up scrap fabric and really easy to learn – just make sure you wear an apron as you’ll get covered in little bits of hessian as you work!


I’d starting making this particular rag rug wreath last year, but since then it had lain abandoned in my WIPs pile.   It was lovely to come across such bright fabric, particularly when the weather outside was so miserable!


Ragged Life have produced an excellent blog post that takes you through all the steps of making your very own hessian wreath, but it’s beautifully simple to do.  Basically, you want to draw a large circle on your hessian (I used a dinner plate to draw around).  You then need a smaller circle inside this one (a smaller plate!) and the space in between the two is where you’ll be doing your rag rugging.   Leave a good hem all the way around your wreath and tack the seams as it will fray terribly otherwise.


Next you need to make a smaller circle still, right  in the centre of the hessian, and it’s useful to stitch all around this to stop it from fraying as you’ll be cutting here later.  (In the photo to the left you can see the thick black line which is where I need to rag rug up to).

I used a selection of different cotton fabrics for my wreath, but you can use whatever you have to hand really.  The cotton frayed a bit but to me that just adds to the rustic look of the wreath.  Cutting it on the bias will reduce the fraying though.

To rag rug a piece of your fabric you hold it behind the hessian, push your rugging tool through the hessian from the front to the back and use the hook to grab hold of your fabric and bring one end of it through to the front.  You then repeat this procedure to bring the other end of your fabric piece to the front of your work, leaving a gap of about 3 holes in between.


You’ll see from the back of the work that you don’t need to fill all of the hessian in.  The fabric flays out on the front and covers the holes so you don’t need to worry too much about where you place the pieces.  Hessian is a very forgiving fabric to work with!

Once you’ve filled in all the space between the two largest circles, you’re ready to attach the hessian to the backing.  To make the backing you need some strong cardboard (I used an old packing box in the garage).  The backing needs to be exactly the same size as the wreath.


Now it’s time to cut out the very centre circle of plain hessian and make a few snips up toward the rag rugging, being careful not to cut into your fabric.



Place the cardboard backing onto the wrong side of the rag rugging and work your way around, stapling the hessian into place as you go.  Make sure you pull it tight.  If you don’t have a staple gun, you can open up an ordinary stapler and use that.



If you like, you can attach a felt backing to the wreath to cover up the staples and the cut hessian, or you can simply attach a piece of ribbon and hang it up ready to be admired!





If you’re interested in finding out a bit more about the history of these traditional crafts, there’s a really handy guide to proggy and hooky produced by the Shipley Art Gallery in Gateshead here.  It even includes details of how to make your own frame if you fancy having a go at a larger mat.




Quilted Laptop Cover

I was lucky enough to get a Chrome notebook for my birthday in April.  It’s the perfect size for taking with me to do my writing when we go out for coffee, or on longer trips further afield.  However, I was conscious that it didn’t have a case and worried about damaging it.  The only thing to do was to make a case myself!

A couple of years ago I’d bought a duvet set in a charity shop only to discover it was a single and not a double when I got it home!  As a result it’s sat in the cupboard upstairs since then, but I really loved the colour and the pattern so didn’t want to part with it.  The pillowcase turned out to be the perfect size for my notebook case!

The case is basically a sleeve with a velcro flap to secure it.  You can find the full tutorial here, but I’ll take you through the various stages involved so you can see what I did.

To begin with you need to measure the height and width of your notebook adding an extra 1.5 inches to both measurements to allow a little wiggle room.  You also need to know the depth of your notebook.


Cut out 2 identical fabric pieces, one for the front and one for the back, plus 2 pieces the same size again which will be for your lining. (4 pieces the same size – 2 for the outer cover and 2 for the lining).


You need to pad the cover which requires some kind of quilting batting.  The batting I had in my stash wasn’t adhesive so I had to stitch some freestyle quilting stitches to secure the exterior pieces to the batting.  I just used one of the quilting stitches that was available on my machine to do this.


Now you’ve got the front and the back pieces fixed to the batting you can trim off the extra batting and it’s time to focus on the flap.  You’ll need to attach the front of the flap to a piece of batting and work some quilting stitches on it just like you did with the main cover, and add one half of a strip of velcro onto the back portion of the flap about 1.5 inches down from the top.


Put both pieces of the flap together, right sides facing, and sew up one long side, along the top edge (where the velcro is) then down the other long side leaving the bottom open.

Trim the seam allowances, snip the corners and turn the flap back to the right side.


Now you can pin the flap to the back panel of the cover and attach the second half of the velcro to the front so that both pieces will line up.


Next place the front and back of the cover together with right sides facing and sew up both long sides leaving the top and bottom open.


Repeat this with the lining.  Slide the padded cover inside the lining so that the right sides are together.  Sew across the top joining the lining to the padded cover and through the flap too.


Turn the cover right side out and top stitch all the way around the top.

Turn the cover back inside out again and hem the bottom.  Turn back the right way and there you have it – one padded notebook cover ready for action!




And Here’s One I Started Earlier …

When I came across this piece of sewing the other day, I realised with shame that it was almost four years since I started it!
I was going to make a label for Coco’s food jar and I started it whilst on holiday down in Wiltshire.  I’d bought some scraps of fabric from a charity shop and hand embroidered ‘Coco’s food’ on a piece of cream linen type fabric before hand stitching that to the larger patterned piece using blanket stitch.

Since then, the sewing has lived at the bottom of a basket until the other day when I decided it was time to finish it!

As you can probably see from the photo above, I’d managed to sew the cream linen on lopsided so the first job was to cut the patterned fabric nice and square.  I then set about finding a suitable backing fabric that I could attach the patterned fabric to and that was long enough to go almost around Coco’s food jar.  I ended up with a rather nice purple material that had small flowers on it.

Once I’d cut this to size I folded over and ironed a small hem all the way around, before sewing all the hems down on the machine.  I’d made sure that the fabric almost joined at the back of the jar, but not quite.  This was so that I could add some elastic that would enable me to pop the label on and off the jar easily in case it needed washing.


After that I placed the multicoloured fabric in the centre of the purple fabric and sewed it in place.


All that remained now was to attach 3 pieces of elastic to the back.  Because the pieces of elastic were so small I just hand sewed them in place on the inside of the label.

And there you have it – one finished piece of sewing and a much prettier food jar for Coco!


Handmade Paper

For a long time now I’ve been meaning to have a go at making paper.  My lovely Dad bought me a deckle and mould a couple of years ago and i finally got the chance to put them into practice over the weekend.  If you don’t happen to have a deckle and mould (and I suspect not many people will!) then you can make your own quite cheaply using picture frames.

Handmade paper is a great way of recycling used paper – non-glossy, without too much black ink on it is what you’re after.  Unfortunately recycled paper isn’t suitable as the fibres are too short and won’t gel together particularly well to form new paper.

Once you’ve collected the paper you’re going to use you need to tear it into thin strips or simply shred it if you’ve got access to a shredder.

It then needs to soak in a bowl of cold water overnight so the fibres soak up as much water as possible.

You’re now ready to start the messy process of making the paper itself, so it’s a good idea to get everything organised.

You’ll need a pile of newspapers on the table, covered with an old towel.  This is going to be where you’ll place your sheets of handmade paper as they come out of the mould (you’ll need plenty of tea towels too – one to lay over each piece of paper to soak up the water).

Next to the towel covered pile of newspapers you need a large container into which you pour cold water to a depth of about 2 inches (it’s better to have too little water than too much as you can always add water later).

Now it’s time to prepare your shredded paper that’s been soaking.  Squeeze a few handfuls out, pop them in the food processor, cover with water and blitz until they form a paste.

Transfer this paste to the shallow water bath on your table and give it a stir.  Repeat the above stages until you’ve turned all your shredded paper into paste and stirred it all in the water bath.

At this stage you can add glitter, scraps of yarn, or dried flowers to the mixture and stir them in carefully.

You’re now ready to make paper!  Holding the mould so that the net section is nearest to you pop the deckle on top of the mould.  The deckle will give you a nice neat edge to your paper.  Holding both the deckle and mould together, slide them into the water bath at an angle of about 45 degrees and gently scoop up some of the water pulp.  Gently withdraw the deckle and mould making sure the pulp is evenly distributed on the netting.  If you give it a little shake as you pull it out of the bath this will help.  Make sure all the water has drained through the netting (if you tilt the deckle and mould the water should drain out of the corner).  It’s really important that your water bath is big enough.  Mine was only just large enough and it was quite a struggle to get the pulp onto the deckle, but it was the largest container I could find.  I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for something larger that I can use for my next batch!



Lift off the deckle and place a clean tea towel on top of the layer of pulp which will become your paper.  Carefully flip it over onto the pile of newspapers on your table.  If you rub your fingers over the netting then the paper should start to come away from the mould and stick to the tea towel instead.  You can then pop another clean tea towel on top and get on with making your second sheet.  Continue in this way until you’ve used up all of the pulp, layering up your sheets of paper with tea towels between them as you go.


To get as much water out of your paper as possible, pop a chopping board and a heavy pan on top of the pile of papers to weigh them down and leave for a good half hour.



Once the half hour’s up, you can remove the pan etc and take off the top cloth.  You’ll find that the handmade paper sticks to the tea towels.  What you do next is to hang the tea towels, with the paper attached to them, and leave them to dry overnight or longer (mine took two nights).

You should then be able to carefully peel away your handmade paper and give the sheets a gentle iron if the edges have curled up.

I’m definitely going to experiment with adding different bits to the pulp and I might try putting tea bags in the water bath to see if it will give my paper a sepia colour!






Embroidered Flower Paper

Last summer I had great fun making some gorgeous flower paper with the lovely Annie from Dragonfly Studio in Skye.  If you look back to Project 9 you can see exactly how I made the paper, but basically we layered up flowers and leaves between sheets of good quality paper, tied them all together and left them to soak in a basin of water and vinegar for as long as possible.


The result was a wonderful selection of subtle coloured paper with the imprints of what we’d pressed.  Certain foliage worked better than others, but I ended up with a good stash of paper for future projects.



At the time Annie had mentioned the possibility of sewing onto the paper, so I thought I’d have a go at that.


Once I’d chosen my paper, I looked through my embroidery thread collection and picked out a few complimentary colours that I thought would work well.  There was a pale blueish tint to a couple of the flowers, along with browns and greens too, so I selected a few thread options and laid them on the table where I was working so that I could place them on the paper to see which ones worked best.



I knew I’d have to be really careful as the paper would rip easily, and the stitches would have to be fairly well spaced apart or a hole would form if the needle marks were too closer to each other.

The aim was to subtly enhance the shapes of the foliage by stitching along the out edges to highlight certain parts of the picture.  You can see below that I used a selection of chain stitch, running stitch, whipped running stitch and blanket stitch.


All that I need now is to find a frame for the picture and it’ll be ready to hang.


For the moment though, it’s resting on the mantle place so I can keep looking at it in case I decide it needs a little more adding to it.  The hardest part is definitely knowing when enough is enough!


A Bee Tree

There is a wonderful Pass It On Skills group where I live.  They organise all sorts of free sessions for local folk from short story writing to beginner’s Spanish – I really must get along to Cake Club soon!  For Knit In Public day (June 8th), they’ve organised a session at a local park and we’re going to knit bees to hang on a tree to promote the plight of these amazing creatures.

I thought I’d better get some practice in, so set about making some bees as well as some colourful butterflies to keep them company.  There are lots of free patterns on line, but the best bee pattern I could find was by the wonderful Attic 24.  The French knots used for the eyes were quite tricky because of the size of the bees, and tiny beads would work well if you have any.

As for the butterflies, they were a joy to crochet too.  I made 2 using acrylic double knitting yarn, and 2 using cotton (they’re the slightly smaller ones in the photos).  You can find the pattern, by Re-Made by Sam here.


They crochet up in just 3 rounds then you fold them over and tie a row of chain stitches to hold them together.



Once I’d crocheted my bees and butterflies, I needed somewhere for them to live.

I remembered I have my advent poetry tree in the garage and thought that would be ideal. (In case you’re wondering what an advent poetry tree i, every day during advent my lovely husband writes me a little poem and pins it to the tree which is just a few twigs bound together with twine).


In order to hang them, I sewed a loop of ribbon onto the back of them.  It was then just a case of showing them their new home!




For Hands That Do Dishes

I’ve seen so many posts recently about cotton dishcloths that I thought it was about time I made some myself!

There are dozens of patterns available, but basically you’re looking for a simple square.  I thought I’d try 2 crocheted and 2 knitted dishcloths and the plan is to see which is the most efficient.

As far as the crocheted cloths went, I made the first one using the corner to corner pattern and the second was rows of half treble stitches with some different coloured stripes thrown in for added interest!  Just use the hook size recommended for your yarn, and make the cloths as big or small as you like.

Once the squares were finished I put a border around them both to finish them off.  On the half treble square I went all the way around the edges working a double crochet in each stitch (3 in each of the corner stitches).  This is easy on the top and bottom of the square where you have individual stitches to work into, but the right and left sides are slightly trickier because here you’re working into the end of the rows.  Basically you’re just looking to space your stitches out evenly so don’t worry too much about being really precise.

With the corner to corner square I worked a 2 round border.  For the first round, I joined my yarn in one of the chain spaces produced in between each of the treble clusters.  I then worked 2 chain stitches followed by a slip stitch into the next chain space and continued this all the way around the square.  For the second round I worked one double crochet, one half treble and one double crochet into each of the chain links formed on the first round.


For the knitted dishcloths I followed free patterns I found on-line.  You can find them here and here.  They were both really enjoyable to knit and worked up nice and quickly.


Now all that remains is to give them all a try and see which one works best!

Paper Bag Noticeboard

My latest project used up some of my ribbon stash and an old copy of Booktime.

These paper bags are so easy to make and are a great way of using up old magazines.  If you have any old gift bags you can take one apart and use it as a template, or simply follow the method below which I discovered here.


Take your piece of paper (any size) and fold over a small ‘hem’ along one of the long edges.  This will be the top of your bag (this stage is optional really, but it reinforces the top of the bag where you’re going to punch holes).

Next you mark the centre of your paper and fold the right side and then the left side into the middle so they meet exactly.  Tape the edges.

With the back of the bag facing you fold over the bottom of the bag (as much or as little as you like) then open out each of the sides as in the photo above.


Next you fold the bottom half of the base up to the middle and then do the same with the top half.  Tape the join.



All that’s left to do now is to punch holes at the top and thread your ribbon through.

Thread your ribbon so the two ends are at the front.  You can either glue them together and glue your bow on to cover the join, or do what I did and sew them.  It’s really quick and is nice and secure.


Make as many of these bags as you likes, all different sizes




You can use the bags as gift bags for presents, or you can pin them to a notice board and use them to keep your receipts, tickets, bits and pieces etc in.

You could make the bags stronger by putting reinforcement rings around the holes, and popping a piece of cardboard cut to size inside the bag so it sits snuggly on the base.