A pirate’s life for me

The little one received an invitation to a pirate party and I think that I was more excited about the prospect of her dressing up that she was, well to begin with anyway.

Once she was dressed up she kept it on for three straight days, and wanted to wear it to bed, but we had to draw the line there.

All I used for the costume was a top (cream with small red spots), leggings (blue and white stripes), some red cotton fabric (red with white spots) and a parrot.

I started with the bandanna.

I cut a strip 115cm x 16cm, from the red cotton fabric and folded it right sides together then I stitched along the side to make a long thin tube.

I then cut a rough zig zag in both ends,

and turned in right side out.

This is one of the reasons that I find it so hard to throw anything away.

Both the top and the leggings that I used for this costume should have been in the charity shop months ago because they are too small.

But, once the bottom was zig zaged on the leggings they worked perfectly, and once I stitched a strip of the red spotty cotton fabric to the bottom of the top it fitted again.

For this sash I left the fabric longer than needed so that the excess can be cut with a zig zag and knotted at the side. I guessed that pirates don’t do a lot of hemming, so nether did I, I just stitched the red cotton to the bottom of the t-shirt leaving the excess to the side so it could be tied.

While talking to the little one she made it very clear that a pirate must have a parrot. After hunting though the soft toys I found a small blue, beany, parrot. Perfect. The parrot was stitched to the shoulder of the top. This worked very well and not only was I not asked to remove it within the first minute of little one putting on the costume but it even stayed in place after going through the wash.

We added a shop bought eye patch and hat, but even without, I hope you’ll agree she is most definitely a pirate, Aarrr.

Happy pirating


A red red rose

I started knitting a while ago and my little one was desperate to get involved. Remembering a wooden knitting doll from my childhood, I told her she could have her own doll to knit with and after finding one in the shops, buying it and bringing it home, we sat down to have a go.

This is when I remembered just how fiddly these thing are, and needless to say my head strong three year old soon gave up.

So, now I have a new toy!

I found some very red, red wool in Sainsbury’s of all places, and started to play around with the idea of making some roses.

I think they turned turned out alright, very rose like. I’ve been wearing this one as a brooch. This is how I made it.

I found it a lot easier to use a crochet hook to do the french knitting instead of the large wooden “pin” that was supplied with the french knitting doll.

I also found that I could get a nice rhythm going by holding the wool under a little tension with my little finger and rotating the knitting doll with my left hand.

It’s important to leave plenty of wool at either end of your french knitting once you cast off as this is what you use to stitch it all together. (I didn’t leave enough in the photo below, so leave around 70cm)

You need around 1 metre of french knitting to make one rose that will end up being about 6.5 cm across.

Make a small loop in one end of the knitting and stitch it together using a darning needle, at what will now be the back of your flower.

Add three or four slightly larger loops around your small starting loop, stitching in place at the back as you go. Now you need to build up more loops around the outside, try to overlap them as you go.

Continue to loop the knitting around.

You may find it easier to roughly lay out the last couple of loops in your hand before stitching to ensure that they are even and you have finished with the  end of your knitting at the back.

Once you have all your loops stitched in place and the end attached at the back then you need the tighten the whole flower up.

To make the petal shapes and tighten it up, stitch from the center out through the whole flower to the middle of the petal loops and pull them back in towards the center, don’t pull this too tight as you could just end up with smaller loops rather that pimpled petal shapes.

Take your time and make sure you are happy with the shape, then tie off your lose ends but leave them attached so you can use them to simply attach your choice of fastening to the back.

If you have a go I’d love to see your results and what you use them for.

Have fun.


The Mad Hatter Costume

Here it is, the Mad Hatter Costume and this time it is my daughter not Johnny Depp.

I’m not sure just what this says about me, but I pulled most of the mad hatter costume out of my wardrobe.

I had already dyed an old, gold, frock coat charcoal grey, it was waiting for me to restitch the button holes as the dye had not taken on the thread, but for this costume it seamed in keeping so I left them gold. I added some lace fabric I had to the sleeve ends.

I had a pink cotton shirt and the black waistcoat which was just a little large so I stitched two pieces of black ribbon on either side of the back of the waistcoat so they could be pulled together and tied in a bow to make it a little tighter.

The brown trousers were tucked into knee high stripy socks (the socks were my daughters) which made them flair out nicely.

I raided my ribbon box and stitched 7 or 8 pieces into the left hand pocket of the coat and I replaced the laces in my daughters walking boots with orange ribbon.

All in all not a bad starting point.

I had to buy some fabric for the pink scarf around the hat and the handkerchief in the pocket. I chose Caress taffeta lining fabric in Salmon and Doll pink. I hemmed a square of the salmon and stitched it into the right hand coat pocket.

For the bow tie I found some Liquorice Allsorts patterned cotton fabric on eBay which is pretty close to the original. I think the original looks like smudged allsorts on black silk. I really like this cotton, it’s fun, just not as abstract, but this costume is not a faithful reproduction, so I was happy with that.

My daughter and I made the Bandoleer and matching earrings which I posted a week or so ago, so have a look at them, I was very pleased with how they turned out.

We did buy a orange wig from a great fancy dress shop in Norwich Top Hat Fancy Dress and then there was the hat. Oh, the hat.

I think the hat deserves a post of it’s own, so watch this space.

I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed making it.


Does that bandoleer come with matching earrings?

My eldest and I have finished her fancy dress costume for leavers day. LEAVERS DAY !!!

Yes, she is about to leave school and I’ll have a panic attack if I think about it too much, so… on with the costume.

Bandoleer, how great is a costume that needs a bandoleer…

Answer, this great! Yes, that’s Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter not my daughter.

Now this is a lot of costume, so we started small.

The main ingredients for the bandoleer were;

  • Stylecraft double knit wool in khaki
  • Metal look beads, 3
  • Small metal rings, 2
  • Acrylic paint (a little diluted with water and in lots of colours)
  • Strong tea (no milk or sugar)
  • Wooden cotton reels

After asking around for wooden cotton reels in a few haberdasheries and craft shops with no joy, I found bags of mixed size new ones on eBay. Got to love eBay.

Now being new and empty they needed some thread. I like to do things properly where I have the knowledge and resources, but I also don’t like to punish myself when there is a reasonable alternative. So we painted them. I know I know, I still feel as if I cheated, but it’s done now and even painting them took long enough.

They needed ageing, so, once the paint was completely dry I dumped the whole lot in a large bowl of strong tea, it seemed very appropriate, and left them soaking for half a day, then hung then on the line to dry.

It was then a simple case of threading them together with the wool (using a darning needle) and attaching a ring at either end of the cotton reels. We plaited the wool which goes around the back with a 6 string plait but using 12 strands of wool to thicken the whole thing up (each one of the 6 strings then consisted of 2 strands of wool, I hope that makes sense). The end that hangs down from the front was a straight forward 3 string plait. We finished both plaits with the metal look beads.

I know The Mad Hatter does not have earrings, but this costume is not a faithful reproduction, more of a homage. Plus we had to, the mini cotton reels that came in the mix bag are just adorable at only 9mm long.

So in answer to the question I posed sometime ago… Yes, that bandoleer does come with matching earrings, yay.

I started by painting and tea staining the cotton reels just like the bandoleer. Then I found some button earrings that I wasn’t going to wear and removed the buttons so I was left with the flat pad stud earring posts.

Using needle nose pliers I bent the sides of the flat pad to fit around the cotton reel, I also scuffed up the pad so that the super glue would have a better surface to adhere to.

Once I was happy with the fit, I super glued the reel to the no longer flat, flat pad stud earring posts.

When the glue had gone off I wrapped the reel and the pad with a cotton that matched the paint colour.

I think that’s enough for part one.

The full outfit and more details of how we put it together, coming soon, now available here, The Mad Hatter Costume.


Wall hanging decorative earring and jewellery holder

My eldest got her ears pierced last summer and has amassed a significant earring stash. A couple of months ago she mentioned making a holder of some sort in a picture frame with net to hook the earrings through.

The idea stayed lodged in the back of my brain until I noticed an embroidery hoop in one of my favourite haberdasheries. In that moment the Wall hanging decorative earring and jewellery holder was conceived.


For this project I used;

* 3 x 15 cm embroidery hoops,
* 2m ish of 2.5 cm wide ribbon,
* 20cm from a 1.5m wide roll of netting ( lace or some kind of holy fabric Batman would also work ) I doubled up as the fabric was flimsy, I think two layers will be sturdy enough,
* paint, black acrylic mixed with a very small amount of water,
* a small metal ring 2 cm across.
* hot melt glue and super glue.

I started by separating the hoops, painting them black and leave them to dry.

I wanted the screws to be hidden behind the ribbon, and a glimpse of shiny brass would just be distracting, so I painted the screw heads but not the threads at this point, black as well. On the one I’m planing for myself I want to see the screws, I think there’s something quite beautiful about them.

I cut the netting so that there was some excess and placed it inside the embroidery hoops. As I doubled up the netting I cut two pieces for each hoop I was using, I lay one piece of netting on top of the other and from then on held the net together and treated it as one piece.

I then tightened the screws on the hoops just enough to hold the netting firmly.

I turned over the hoops and once I was sure the netting was tight in the hoop, I glued the netting to the inside hoop with hot melt glue  (inside hoop only, this was important as I was going to separate the hoops again).

I just glued the sections where the ribbon was going to run through the hoops at the top and bottom. I only glued down the netting for the same width as the ribbon I would be using.

Once the glue had set I trimmed off the excess netting, but only trimming at the top and bottom where I had glued it.

I was leaving the sides that were unglued, untrimmed. This makes it a lot easier to pull the netting tight when I put it all back together again.

Then I threaded the small metal ring through the ribbon before starting assembly.

I found one that looks like brass in the bottom of my craft box, no idea where it came from. It was perfect and makes the hole thing so much easier and neater to hang when finished. This is not essential, the loop of ribbon work also work.

Putting it all together took some time, it was more that a bit fiddly.

This is were pre- gluing parts of the netting really helped.

With the embroidery hoops back together, but very very loosely, I had to thread the ribbon through the back and keep the netting on the front.

I then tightened the screws again, just enough to hold everything in place.

Next I hung it up, adjusted the spacings, pull the netting tight, and made sure the ribbon was tight at the back. Once I was completely happy, I tighten the screws off and then rechecked.

Gently I took it down and placed it face down on my work surface.

I then ran a thin bead of super glue all the way around ( where the two hoops come together and the netting is sticking out ) once it was dry I trimmed off the rest of excess netting. I touched-up the paintwork and painted the screw heads again and the threads this time.

To finish I added a bow on top of the metal ring it was to hang from.

I hope you enjoyed my  guide to how I made my daughters earring holder.

I’ve got to make one for myself now, I will defenatly post some photos.

Any feedback on the tutorial is very welcome, especially if you have a go and make your own, I would love to see it.


Spiral wool decorative eggs

I’m loving playing with egg shells, husks, casings? Shells sort of implies they’re fragmented, note to self, find proper name for egg casing (ooh ooh… pod, I like that, egg pod).

Anyhow, I’ve been wrapping egg pods in wool and I think they’ve turned out really well, this is how I made them.

If you wish to hang the eggs once completed, then I found a neat way of creating a loop.

Start by selecting the opening  (made when you blow the egg, egg blowing link here,) which you would like to become the top of your finished egg.

Choose two colours of wool, don’t cut lengths of, just unravel some of it. Make a loop in one of the ends of wool and then tuck both ends and the knot (having covered the knot in PVA glue ) into the opening.

Now spiral the two lengths of wool around the egg. I use PVA glue as it’s viscous enough to hold the wool in place as you go along. Glue small areas of the egg and work your way down.

When you get to the bottom cut of the wool and your done. If you get a little hole right at the bottom after you cut the wool of, it can be filled with a small off cut of wool and becomes almost invisible.

The eggs also look great on a table piled up in a bowl. If this is your preference then just tuck both ends into the opening at the beginning, no knot needed and spiral away.

Great fun with quick results, the way all home made projects should be.


Milk Chocolate Easter Nests

Milk chocolate Easter nests are something of a tradition in our house and this is how I make mine.

To make 12 nests you will need;

200 g  milk chocolate

1 heaped desert spoon of butter ( I’m not big on measuring if I don’t have to and this rough amount works for me, if you need a number I’d go for 25 g.)

1 desert spoon of golden syrup

4 shredded wheat

I like to use mini eggs and only put 2 in each nest , so, you’ll need 24 of these.

Break up the chocolate and put it in a heat proof bowl along with the butter and golden syrup, put the bowl over a pan of hot, not boiling, water.

Don’t over heat this, gently warm, stirring the chocolate, as soon as it’s melted and combined take the bowl off the hot water.

Crumble the shredded wheat into the chocolate mixture, making sure to crush any large lumps. Mix well, then dollop out 12 heaps onto a non stick sheet. I really like the reusable Teflon cooking mats for this sort of thing.

Make a dip in the middle of each one and put in your eggs. You don’t need to be neat and they do hold together once cooled.

I don’t put these into the fridge as this makes the mini eggs sweat, just leave them in a cool place and they will set, if they don’t get eaten first.



When you just can’t find the right card

We received a lovely party invitation and I wanted to reply in kind. I quickly came to the realization that if I wanted the right sentiment I would have to make it myself.

So here it is, my very own We would love to attend card. 

I was inspired by a beautiful card with the word love written in scrabble letters. Once I got home, out came the little one’s wooden blocks.

I stated by trying to use just large blocks but was missing a couple of letters. I ended up swapping out a few large blocks for small ones. I feel that it works with the random, fun vibe I was going for. As usually happens I spent ages playing with the layout and ended up going with the second photograph I had taken.

In photo shop I didn’t do much to the photograph other than gray scale it and, in the image section, go to adjust, and change the brightness and contrast so that it was still legible once I had re-sized it.

Printing on paper was not up to scratch, so, out came the photo paper. I only use inexpensive photo paper from the supermarket but it makes a big difference to the clarity. The image on the right is on photo paper the one on the left is on plain paper.

It was then just a case of taping it into an aperture card, I use tape as glue buckles the card and you don’t have to wait for tape to dry.

I love aperture cards, this one is a Papermania 240 GSM square card 13.5 cm x 13.5 cms. I always have a stash set aside, they are so handy and mean I can whip up a very smart, personalized, heartfelt card in next to no time.

So, have fun playing with toys.