Re-emerging from craft angst

As spring is tentatively starting to show its first shy flowers and buds, I have decided that I might also tentatively start blogging again. I have realised that it is a tricky thing to get right and I am not entirely comfortable with the endless sharing of the small and mundane. However, I have been looking back through last year’s posts and, as a personal record of the things I make, I have found it valuable. It will not change the world but it does make me happier in my skin.

First of all I will show you a round up of some of the things I have been making over the last six months or so, its a rag tag bag of stuff.  I suffer from craft angst where I worry that the stuff I make is not important enough and I should be directing my energy towards something more worthy and urgent. My craft angst also manifests itself in worrying about sharing some of the cutsier makes because I don’t want to be one of those cute-toy-making-crocheters, but people will insist on asking me to make them and I quite like doing it because it feels like magic to make something 3D out of a long piece of string and a hook.

So, in this year of blogging I hope to focus on the aspects of craft that I think make it important and the reasons why I, and many others, feel that it is something that they need to do as much as something that they like to do. I will also show you some of the things I make. That’s what it’s all about, right?

Norwegian Inspired Baby Hat

This is a baby/toddler hat that I have designed myself and is inspired by traditional norwegian knitted hats. I made it in my favourite Drops Merino and I love the yellow, cream and grey colour scheme. The larger red version is modelled here by my three year old and is very cosy. I have written up the pattern and I plucked up the courage to ask one of my crafting friends to try it out. Apparently I crochet very tight and very neat, so I may have to revisit the pattern and figure out the tension so it works for other people. Hopefully it will be ready to post here one day and not result in a whole load of giant bonnets!

Holly’s Crafternoon

My eldest has apparently picked up the crafting bug (can’t think how that happened) and asked for an Arty Party for her birthday. We made pom pom creatures, pipe cleaner and bead tree decorations and decorated party bags. Holly made her own mini-soaps to go in the party bags. We had such a fun afternoon with such a fantastic, creative bunch of girls.


Since then she has been really working hard on her sewing skills and has started to crochet a bit.

Some Christmassy Things

I think I can get away with posting these now as they are not classically Christmassy. I made these baubles from a AterG crochet bauble pattern and I loved making them. The inners are made from cheapo pound shop baubles (£1 for 12) and I just sawed off the little hanging nobble-thing. I had a pang of guilt at buying cheap Chinese tat but I think that turning them into something that will be treasured for years makes up for it a bit.  I like making Christmas things in non-Christmas colours and I think they looked really jolly on our tree, which is a riot of handmade bits and bobs collected over the years.

Some Cutesy Things

The giraffe is for a miracle baby due around now some time. I always make my amigurumi up as I go along as, for me, following a pattern takes away the pleasure of seeing the little characters emerge and develop. I tend to look at a few examples for inspiration and then just see how it goes.

The hedgehog and two little mice are for my youngest daughter’s Forest School sessions at nursery. A request was made for woodland creatures because the children like to make nests and dens for them in the woods. I am big fan of Forest School and child led, imaginative play and I thought this was a lovely idea. My only concern is that having made them in realistic brown, they will get lost instantly. I might have to make them some pink and yellow ones next time!


Some lino-printing

So, this isn’t crochet. I was bought a lino-printing course with local artist Amanda Hillier for my birthday and I spent a very satisfying day in Amanda’s garden studio making these yurt roof prints. Talk turned to crochet, as it does, and Mandy (we are on short-name terms now) invited me to join her craft group who meet to knit, crochet, eat food, drink tea/wine and share ideas. It’s an irreverent, noisy and creative group, and I love it. We eat crisps and giggle and sometimes we make stuff.


Sunburst Granny

And this is my current work in progress. It is a sunburst granny blanket for my daughter’s bed and she is very impatiently waiting for it to be finished. If the colours look familiar it is because I am using the Attic 24 Harmony Blanket pack but with a different pattern. There are some colours in there (some very sickly pinks and a boring baby blue) that I would never have picked out but in the mix it all kinda works and it will suit Holly down to the ground.


Finally, and in the spirit of International Women’s Day I will leave you with this thought.


This is not me, I wish it was me. Lisa Anne Auerbach‘s political sweaters are amazing and I think this sums up how I feel about activism, craft and the reasons I keep on crocheting.








Lovely Lola’s Bouquet

IMG_3639I wrote sometime ago about the bespoke wedding bouquet that I really enjoyed making for Caris. I also made one for her beautiful daughter Lola who has an equally flamboyant taste in clothes. She was persuaded out of the orange racoon option and ended up with an amazing flamingo dress with personalised turquoise baseball boots.

The bouquet was constructed in the same way at Caris’s around a polystyrene ball with a bit of wooden dowel and a long decking screw to hold it all together. I made simple crochet flowers from memory and added buttons in contrasting pink, turquoise, lime and yellow.





Like the original bouquet, this is actually more of embroidery and sewing project than a crochet project, but I like the mix of different techniques and the varied textures.

12 year old Lola walked her mum down the aisle and read a passage from the Velveteen Rabbit at the ceremony. There was hardly a dry eye in the house. She has also inherited her mother’s photogenic gene and I think you will agree that they make a very handsome pair. Much love to both of you xx


Rainbow Rattle Snake Amigurumi


Meet my new friend the rattle snake. For those of you who may be easily confused this is snake that rattles, not an anatomically correct rattlesnake! He was a quick make for little Poppy’s first birthday and was inspired by the left over rainbow cotton yarn that I used for my #MandalasForMarinke contribution. When I first started writing this blog I imagined that I would only post very tasteful, scandi inspired creations in grown up colours. However, it would seem that I am often making funny little toys and really enjoying myself.


My favourite thing about making amigurumi is that I can make it up as I go along. This was actually the thing that first appealed to me about crochet: the ability to make improvised three dimensional objects without a pattern. I rarely use patterns and, if I do, I tend to fiddle with them and change them as I go along. They are just guidelines, right? I also enjoy the process of seeing a character emerge as I construct a toy. This one is pretty simple and designed for being grasped in a little hand and waved around, and perhaps being vigorously chewed.

I think he is a jolly, if simple, little chap and he has proved particularly useful for whacking sisters over the head, as my two year old discovered to her joy. I put a rattly bell in his head that has been in my sewing basket for at least 20 years and makes a nice but subtle jingle.



I hope you enjoy your new home with Poppy!

Day of the Dead Skulls Shawl in ethically sourced Merino


This shawl was another commission from the delectable Ms Caris Jackson. It was a very specific brief. A skulls shawl, in turquoise Merino to match the wedding bouquet and bridal petticoat. She wanted something to throw around her shoulders in the evening if it got a little chilly. Caris has a particular thing for the Mexican day of the dead and the skulls motif. Funnily enough, I had already downloaded this pattern from Ravelry with Caris in mind, so obviously it was fate!

Caris and her partner Steve are also passionate about animal rights but had asked for Merino, which doesn’t have a very good animal rights record. Australian merino, which dominates the yarn market, is often from sheep who are subject to to the brutal practice of ‘mulesing’ in which the tails of the sheep are cut off to prevent fly strike. I did quite a lot of research and found that Drops merino is from South American and South African free-range merino and is Oeko-Tex® certified, which ensures that the yarn has been produced to a high environmental standard without the use of harmful substances. I found it difficult to find out information about ethical sourcing of Merino but I think that this is pretty good whilst also being affordable. I love Drops yarn by the way. I think it is brilliant that they take the time to let you know where their products are sourced and how they are made, whilst also keeping prices really very affordable.

Caris with her wedding bouquet, photo by Emma Playstead

So, the skull shawl pattern is available free from Ravelry by Kungen Och Majkis. It is from a blog post originally in Swedish with some English translation. There is also a pdf chart you can download but this has Japanese annotations! All in was a tricky little b3^%$d of a pattern to get my head around! It is a 16 row pattern and all of them are different!! I didn’t enjoy it very much, if I am honest, because I had to frog it so many times. However,  I was very pleased with myself when I finished it, and though I probably wouldn’t choose to wear skulls myself, it is so Caris and I knew she would love it.

2015-05-21 15.01.56IMG_3430She didn’t actually wear it at the wedding, we were far too busy dancing and enjoying the ever flowing prosecco to worry about chilly shoulders. Never mind, she has worn it since and tells me that she will definitely wear it many times into the future.

I have discovered that I really do love giving gifts and sharing my work with my friends. It gives me great pleasure to see people wearing and enjoying the things that I have made. Hopefully they like it too, well they are at least very polite about it xx

#MandalasForMarinke: Crochet Project in Memory of Wink from A Creative Being


I didn’t know Wink personally but I have come across her during my blog wanderings and was touched to read her story on the lovely blog by Kathryn of Crochet Concupiscence. Kathryn has started this #MandalasForMarinke project as a tribute to Wink’s life and as a way of raising awareness of the debilitating illness that is depression. Wink used crochet as a way of managing her depression but tragically took her own life a few weeks ago, which is just so desperately sad. The aim of the project is to gather mandalas and stories from the crochet community across the world and bring them together in what I imagine will be a glorious explosion of colour and collective crochet love.

I made my mandala to one of Wink’s patterns. I chose her basic mandala pattern because, although she designed a range of much more intricate mandala patterns, this one sings out to me in its simplicity. There is something in the simplicity of crochet that really appeals to me and I love the fact that, with a couple of simple stitches under your belt, you can make so many things. I also wanted to make it colourful, which it is. I don’t make colourful things very often (when I do they are usually children’s toys) but I have to say that I really enjoyed putting these vibrant colours together. I also learned that it pays to think about the colour order in advance! My first attempt used the same colours but just in the order that I pulled them out of the bag, and I have to say that it looked fairly horrible. I am not even going to show you, it was that rubbish.I like this version because it looks like it has a warm, glowy sunburst at its centre. IMG_3716

There are many stories out there in blogland of people who find crochet a therapeutic activity and one that is vital to maintaining their mental health. I would put myself in this group and, having tried very many crafts from spoon carving to sewing to writing, crochet is the one that has stayed with me and calms my noisy thoughts. I have always known that I need to make stuff in order to stay sane and there is something about the hook and yarn that I find both relaxing and exciting because the possibilities actually are endless. I know that I will never be physically able to make all the crocheted items that are on my wish list and range from woolly taxidermy and spectacular yarn bombs, to clothing and home furnishings. 

I haven’t had a serious bout of depression for some years now although I am always aware that it lingers somewhere behind me and from time to time it sneaks to the front. Suicide and the devastating effect it has on families is also something that is painfully real in my life, having lost my youngest cousin in this way seven years ago. And so, if making a pretty thing  out of yarn and sharing it with the world can raise even the tiniest bit of awareness of how important it is to recognise and treat depression properly, then I think it is well worth it.

So this mandala will now be making its way across the ocean to San Francisco to join its friends….Bon Voyage.

Goodbye Wink and thanks for your colourful and lasting contribution to the wonderful world of crochet x

Rock & Roll Crochet Wedding Bouquet

I think this deserves a Ta Dah!! I LOVED making this wedding bouquet for my dear friends Caris and Steve.


Caris and the yurt, photo by Emma Playstead

This has been a special commission for me and it seems like an age ago that Caris and I first discussed her wedding bouquet. I am SO excited that I finally get to write about it and share pictures of a very special day. This was never going to be a conventional wedding: think Mexican Day of the Dead, tattoos, circus, red and turquoise vintage net frock, giant yurt and flamingos. It was a lot of fun.

Henry and I contributed in various ways including providing the giant yurt (this is what I do in my day job) as part of our family business Yurtmaker. I also made crochet bouquets for the bride and the bridesmaid, and a crochet shawl for the bride. I warn you all, there a number of wedding related posts coming up….

So, I started with the theme of red and turquoise, a pile of broken jewellery, buttons and bits.

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I made a number of crochet flowers from memory and made other bits up as I went along. Not all of these made the final cut as, at the last minute, we realised that I had had leaned more towards the teal and away from the turquoise. Nothing short of perfection would do for this one.


The bouquet is constructed mainly from felt around a polstyrene ball and a bit of wooden dowel. I appliquéd the leaves with felt designs that are personal to the bride and groom including the date of wedding (which is another thing I got wrong the first time, must pay more attention). The bits of jewellery, beads and buttons are all things that are personal to Caris. I spent a lot of time pinning and repinning all the various bits in different positions to make sure that it was exactly right for her.

This is actually more of an embroidery/sewing project than a crochet project, but I think the crochet roses look really effective. It also really appeals to me that she will be able to keep the bouquet for ever. She did declare that she was throwing it nowhere!

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It was such a fun thing to make and it is great to see something I have made playing a small part in a big day.

Celestine Star with funny knobbly Noro


Hello little sad, neglected blog! Life has been a bit busy of late but I have been crocheting away on a number of secret projects, all of which will be revealed in due course. I have started my post today with the handsome Mr Tom who lives in Tel Aviv and is the proud owner of the first celestine crochet star I ever made. I have made four of these now which are owned by various small children: Tom, Arlo, Iris and Greta. I put a rattle inside made from the plastic capsule inside a Kinder egg and some lentils.

The pattern is available as a free pdf download from Berroco.

I made my most recent one for my gorgeous new niece Greta. We have just spent the weekend together so I have had a lot of blissful newborn cuddles. I have made the previous ones from self patterning merino which made for a lovely result. For this one I thought that I had found the perfect project for the Noro yarn that I bought some months ago and has proved a tricky customer with other projects. Firstly, it does this….twisty, twisty.

2015-04-12 13.24.09It is also really slubby and varies widely in thickness so the results are fairly knobbly and uneven. The colours are lovely though, so I persisted with the knobblyness. The star is made from 12 points that are joined as you go, it looks complicated but it really isn’t.

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urrrm, already looking quite knobbly


The finished article is a rather strangely shaped sea creature but the colours work well and I don’t think that Greta minds a few uneven bits. I will probably go back to my trusty merino next time but maybe I have made enough of these stars now.

Bye for now, Mary x

Treating myself to a new scarf

As I was rushing to a meeting in Cirencester last week I passed a really lovely looking wool shop in the aptly named Woolmarket shopping arcade. I managed to resist the temptation until after the meeting but I was just forced into a quick visit. It was Three Sheep Wools and if you happen to be passing it is well worth a look.

The woman in the shop was so helpful and excited about what I was planning to make that I was even more compelled to buy something and as a chilly wind was blowing a spring shawl/scarf was on my mind.

A warm welcome at Three Sheep Wools

I bought this stunning peacock blue silk merino blend produced by a women’s cooperative in Uruguay. The label even has the name of the woman that made it and where she lives but unfortunately I can’t read the handwriting. I am very committed to ethical sourcing, fair-trade and initiatives that promote and support women in enterprise, so this ticks a lot of boxes for me. It is also gorgeous and absolutely my colour. Have a look at the Manos Del Uruguay website to see how the yarns are produced, I think it is really interesting to know where my yarn is from.

Merino Silk blend from a women’s cooperative in Uruguay which aims to bring economic and social opportunities to rural women.

Anyway, provenance aside, this is what I made:

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It is the South Bay Shawlette which is a free pattern on Ravelry. I have made these before and I like the pattern which looks quite intricate but is actually very easy. I did a simple border because I am a simple girl and I added a small bit of embellishment in the form of two circles on each corner.

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Hope you like it. I do.


Tutorial: How to unravel a jumper to recycle the yarn

mohair jumper 001 If, like me, you are a keen knitter or crocheter you will probably have balked at the price of yarn, especially real wool, cotton or bamboo. The sad reality is that it is much cheaper to buy a jumper than it is to make one and you get none of the pleasure and beauty of a handmade garment. Unravelling a charity shop or boot sale jumper can save you a considerable amount of money and is also making good use of available, recycled materials.

Find your jumper – Charity shops and car boot sales are good sources of cheap jumpers. Look for real wool and cotton although don’t dismiss manmade fibres, they can be gorgeous and are worth saving from landfill where they will never degrade. Look for a chunky knit; many jumpers (to suit our centrally heated homes and offices) are machine knitted using very fine yarn which is difficult to unravel and fiddly to reuse. When buying wool check that the jumper hasn’t been felted when washed, you will never be able to unravel it. These are some jumpers that I have gleaned from various sources, mostly free:

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1. Irish tweed – badly felted from washing (reject) 2. Lambswool – very fine yarn and badly felted (reject) 3. Wool/Mohair blend – good stitch definition, lovely yarn (this is the one) 4. Irish tweed – good stich definition, lovely yarn but has Bad Seams!! (reject, I will come on to seams)

This jumper cost £1 from a car boot sale; it is a snuggly wool/mohair blend. The pattern will mean that I will have some wastage but this still a good candidate for unravelling. I do have pangs of guilt about unravelling wearable garments but I also love making things and don’t want to buy expensive, energy intensive virgin materials. mohair jumper 003 Check the seams – You want a jumper that has Good Seams.

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This is a Good Seam. It has been made by joining two knitted edges with a crocheted or hand sewn seam.
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This is a Bad Seam. It is has been made from a large piece of knitted fabric, cut into pieces and sewn together. If you try to unravel this you will end up with loads of short lengths of yarn. Don’t bother.

Don’t despair though if your jumper has Bad Seams. It can be felted in the washing machine and sewn into sturdy bags, cushion covers etc. Sometimes you will be caught out with a Bad Seam somewhere in your jumper where you didn’t expect it, usually on the shoulders! Don’t worry, you might waste a bit of yarn but it can still be unravelled.

Remove all buttons, zips and labels – make sure you unpick all the threads because they can make your life difficult later on. On the jumper I have chosen I also had to unpick the deeper purple pattern but as it was hand-sewn it came out easily.  

Find your joining thread

this picture shows a different jumper but is it conveniently joined in a different colour so you can easily see the stitches.

To undo this stitching start from the loop end (right to left in this picture), cut the thread, pull through to the back and it should unravel obligingly and quickly! It takes some practice but it is worth persevering because otherwise you have to snip all the threads making it much more time consuming and increasing the chance of snipping through the yarn you are trying to salvage. If you pull apart the seam you can see the joining thread and the loose end to pull. At this point you can choose to snip the threads if it is proving difficult to pull out the stitches.

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With a bit of luck you can pull that purple thread and it will come apart in your hands

Start taking apart the jumper – you can do this any way you like but I usually start with the side seams then the sleeves and the collar. In this jumper I found Bad Seams at the shoulders so I just snipped them off which will waste a bit but can’t be helped. The purple stripes in this jumper were just knotted on to the grey so when I got to these I just snipped them and rejoined the grey with a knot. Mohair Jumper 009 Start unravelling –the fun bit! Mohair Jumper 019 This is the sleeve. Start at the shoulder and find the end of the yarn. You might have to make a snip but it should make itself clear. Most jumpers are knitted from bottom to top and to unravel you go backwards (top to bottom). If you are struggling to unravel turn it around and try the other end.

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Your yarn will look like this. Wind it into a ball as you go to stop it getting tangled.
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Don’t wind your ball too tight as you will stretch the wool and it will lose its ‘give’.

At this stage some people wash and hang their wool in skeins to get all the kinks out. I personally think that this is too much of a palaver and I just want to get on with making something. The kinks do relax and the results in the finished article are good enough for me. If you are planning to store your balls of yarn for some time it may be worth using a wool winder which winds balls loosely and again prevents the yarn from losing its elasticity. With a wool winder you can also make balls that don’t roll about on the floor when you are knitting up your garment. I solve this by putting my balls in a heavy jar on the floor next to me: simple and time saving! Mohair Jumper 035 My balls of wool ready for my next project. In total I have salvaged 350g of yarn. With good quality yarn retailing at around £4-£8 per 50g I have saved £27-£55 and avoided the energy, land use, water and toxins associated with manufacturing new wool. It is also a treat to have some mohair because I would never buy it new due to animal welfare issues. Time to get to work on my project!

Upcycled Cotton Bathroom Rug

bathroom rug whole

Do I say Ta Dah? Do I say Hooray? Anyway, the rug is complete and I, after a bit of tweaking I am really pleased with it. It feels lovely underfoot and doesn’t slip around on the wooden floor as I had feared it would. We shall just have to see how that whiteness fares with the little ones around!

This Tek Tek yarn is not without its challenges, particularly the variation in weight meaning that keeping it square was a battle. In fact, it isn’t square at all but with some aggressive blocking and a border to even things out, it looks fine, if a little weebly. I call it ‘rustic’ or ‘characterful’. The yarn is made from factory waste, hence the manufacturer’s claim that it is upcycled and this makes it more sustainable than most cotton, although I don’t know anything about the factory it came from so I will reserve some judgement on its ethical credentials. I am personally very committed to reducing environmental impact wherever possible and on ethical sourcing so I do tend to think quite hard about my purchases and end uses for the items I make. I often think that the crafting community doesn’t think hard enough where its materials come from,

I made up the pattern based on this picture I had seen on Pinterest and I haven’t achieved the same level of finesse but I think this one must either be much bigger or uses a finer and more regular yarn. I simplified the pattern because this one wouldn’t have fitted between the sink and the shower!

lovely rug by


bathroom rug in situ

This is our bathroom with rug in situ. In case you are wondering, I am fairly sure that the avocado sink and bath will become ‘vintage’ some time soon!

And I believe that it is customary to take a picture with ones’ feet! Here it is, to prove that I am a person with feet:

bathroom rug with feet

You can clearly see the variation in yarn weight in this picture, some patches are very dense and other quite loose. It also looked RUBBISH until I put the final border on, in fact it very nearly ended up as mulch mat for the flower bed it looked so wonky. As it is, it will now grace my bathroom and soak up shower drips for years to come. It is also completely machine washable and dyeable so if that whiteness starts to tend to the grey I can always spruce it up. Thanks for visiting.