One of the reasons why I prefer crochet to knitting is because there is such a variety of different stitches. The other reason is that I am the world’s slowest knitter and crochet just seems to be quicker.
I like shell stitch because it is pretty. That’s a good enough reason, right? It’s very easy to do and it looks lovely. If you would like a pattern for a little purse using shell stitch, please sign up for my mailing list
Here are three variations of shell stitch. The first is the simplest. The second is a spaced shell stitch with the shells in vertical rows. The third is a combination of the other two, a semi spaced shell with staggered rows.
Basic Shell Stitch
Make a row of chains in a multiple of 6, plus 1 extra chain.
1. Into 4th st from hook, work 2 tr, sk 2, dc into next st, *sk 2, 5 tr into next st, sk 2, dc into next st* to end of row.
2. 3 ch (to count as 1 tr), then 2 tr into last dc of previous row, *1 dc into 3rd tr of shell from previous row, *5 tr into next dc, dc into 3rd tr* repeat to the end of the row.
Row 2 forms the pattern, so you just keep repeating row 2. Because you finish each row with a whole shell followed by a dc, you startthe next row with half a shell into the last dc from the previous row.
Spaced Shell Stitch
For this stitch, the shells are in vertical rows and the spaces are formed by an extra row in between the shell rows.
Make a row of chains in a multiple of 6, plus one extra.
1. Into the 4th ch from hook, work 5 tr, sk 2 ch, 1 dc into next ch, *sk 2 ch, 5 tr into next ch, sk 2 ch, dc into next ch* repeat to the end of the row.
2. 5 ch, then 1 dc into 3rd tr of previous row, 2 ch, 1 tr into dc of previous row, *2 ch, 1 dc into 3rd tr, 2 ch, 1 tr into dc* repeat to the end of the row.
3. 1 ch, then *5 tr into dc (on the top of the shell), dc into tr (stitch between the shells)*, repeat to the end of the row.
Rows 2 and 3 make the pattern, so just keep repeating those!
Staggered Spaced Shell Stitch
This one’s a little bit more complicated. There is a row of chains and dcs between the shell rows similar to the previous stitch. Because the shells are staggered, the shell rows alternate between starting with a whole shell and finishing with a half, and starting with half a shell.
Make a row of chains in a multiple of 6, plus one extra.
1. 2 tr into 4th st from hook, sk 2, dc into next st, *sk 2, 5 tr into next st, sk 2, dc into next st* repeat to end.
2. 1 ch, then dc into dc from previous row, 2 ch, dc into 3rd tr, *2 ch, dc into next dc (between the shells), 2 ch, dc into 3rd tr* to end of row.
3. 1 ch, then dc into dc from previous row,* sk 2 ch, 5 tr into next dc, sk 2 ch, dc into next dc* to last but one dc, 3 tr into last dc.
4. As row 2.
5. 1 ch, then 3 tr into last dc of previous row, sk 2 ch, dc into next dc, *sk 2 ch, 5 tr into next dc, sk 2 ch, dc into next dc* to end.
With this version of the stitch, rows 2 -5 make the pattern.
If you like this stitch and are stuck for ideas of what you could make with it, sign up for my mailing list and I’ll send you a pdf pattern for a little purse and no spam ever!
Ever since Boy 1 permanently lost his book bag on the way home from gymnastics, I planned to make him a new messenger bag.
I was on the lookout for the perfect fabric and, during the Easter holidays, I found it! He loves everything to do with transportation generally and buses in particular, and as it is laminated cotton and therefore waterproof, it was ideal.
The bag is large enough to carry a slim A4 folder and a couple of books.
It’s very easy to make. The main part of the bag is a simple rectangle with squared off corners. The flap is tucked in between the bag main and the lining and stitched all the way round. The strap is attached to the bag using D rings.
I allowed 1 cm for the seams.
How to Make a Messenger Bag
You will need: Fabric for the outer and the lining (half a metre of each will be enough, however if you are using a directional print you will need might need more), 2 D rings, usual sewing supplies.
1. From both the outer and lining fabrics, cut 1 rectangle 40 cm x 72 cm and another rectangle 36 cm x 25 cm.
2. Take the larger rectangle in the outer fabric. With the wrong sides together, sew up the side seams. Trim seams.
3. Squash one of the corners flat so that the side seam is over the bottom of the bag. Measure 2.5 cm up the seam and mark with a fabric pen or a pin. Sew across the corner at right angles to the seam. Cut the corner off. Repeat for the other corner. Turn out.
4. Repeat Steps 2 and 3 with the lining.
5. Take the flap pieces and with the right sides together, sew round the sides and the bottom edge. Rounding the corners will make it easier to achieve a neater finish. To do this, I drew round a dish. Trim the seams and turn out. I top stitched around the edge to make it look nice.
6. To make the tabs for the D rings, cut 2 rectangles 7 cm x 5 cm from the outer fabric. Fold the raw edges on the longer sides inwards, then fold the rectangle in half lengthways. I used hair grips because pins would have left marks on the fabric. Top stitch along the longer open edge. I top stitched the other side too because I like things to be symmetrical!Repeat for the other rectangle.
7. Take the main bag outer and fold down 2 cm. Press with your finger to crease it. Repeat for the lining. You could pin the lining if you wanted to.
8. Put the bag lining inside the outer so that the wrong sides are together. Check that the lining is not visible from the outside and hold in place using pegs or hair clips.
9. To attach the outer, lining, flap and D rings, I did this in two stages. I started by slipping the tabs in between the lining and the outer and top stitching from one tab, then round the front to the other tab. Then I tucked the flap in at the back and sewed it in place. Then I went right the way round once more.
10. Sew the bristly half of the velcro to the wrong side of the flap, near the bottom.
11. Work out where the other half of the velcro will need to go on the main part of the bag. I put some books in it first! Either pin it or use double sided tape to hold it. Sew in place.
12. To make the strap, check how long you need it to be, then cut a strip from the outer fabric your desired length plus an extra 10 cm, and 7 cm wide. Fold the raw edges inwards and top stitch along the long open edge. I did the other side too.
13. Loop one of the ends of the strap through the D ring and sew in place. Repeat for the other end.Here’s the finished bag!
Pinning oil cloth will leave marks in the fabric, so to hold it in place, use pegs or hair grips.
Sometimes the presser foot sticks to the oil cloth and then it won’t move! Cheryl from Sew Can Do suggests using lip balm. I couldn’t find any lip balm, but while I was looking I found some hand cream! I tried that instead and it worked fine. Just smear a little bit on the fabric, then wipe it off afterwards.
Making a Sharpie teapot is something I’ve wanted to try for ages!
Ever since I saw some beautiful cups somebody very talented had decorated with a blue Sharpie on a link up somewhere.
I opted for a teapot because I drink gallons of the stuff.
The only slight problem was that I can’t really draw! Making things is fine but drawing usually is not. However, I decided to keep it simple and just to see how it turned out.
We decorated the living room a while ago (it’s not quite finished!) and I made some new curtains. I chose the fabric because I loved the flowers, so I decided to do something similar with the teapot. My other source of inspiration was this lovely Orla Kiely decorated bus from The Year of The Bus. I love her designs and, without wanting to copy, I wanted to do something similar.
I drew a design on paper first. As you can see I kept it very simple!
Next I wanted to check how easy it would be to remove the Sharpie ink from the teapot. I used baby wipes as these things remove all sorts of stuff!
Thankfully the baby wipes removed Sharpie ink even after it had dried, so I was free to make plenty of mistakes!
Then all I had to do was draw the design onto the teapot! I started with the flowers, then I did the stems, then the leaves.
I did have to have several goes at it, but I’m pleased with the results!
The last thing to do was to put it in the oven on 200 degrees C for half an hour, then let it cool completely.
I like the black and white but I might colour them in. What do you think?
Here are some tips if you want to try this yourself!
If you have small children, wait until they are asleep. It is very difficult to draw on a teapot while a two year old is climbing all over the table.
Keep a supply of baby wipes to hand.
If you are right handed, start with the design at the top right hand corner and work left to right so you don’t smudge your design.
I found it easiest to draw on the teapot with it on my lap. However this will only work for the first side.
If we ever move house, the house will probably fall down because I suspect it is the books that are holding it up, and
We will not be moving to a boat because the weight of said books will cause the boat to sink.
Here is my shelf of craft books…
And here 5 of my are my favourites!
An Introduction to Crochet Golden Hands
Golden Hands was a series of craft magazines published in the 1970s. My mum had them and probably still does! They were jam packed with crochet, knitting and sewing patterns and craft ideas for doing with kids.
This book was produced by the same people so dates from the same era. The publishing date inside the front cover says 1975, so it’s a quite an old book!
The reason I love this book is because the first half comprises of not only an introduction to the basics, but a catalogue of pretty much all the stitches you could ever need, including Tunisian crochet and Irish crochet. It’s the first book I reach for if I need to know anything crochet related.
I probably won’t ever make anything from the patterns at the back. A skirt made from granny squares, any one? Or how about this fetching cardi for the menfolk in your life?
I do quite like this jumper though. Hmm.
I haven’t included an Amazon link for this one because the book appears to be out of print, but if you happen to see one in a second hand book shop or a charity shop, I would grab it!
Dressmaking The Complete Step By Step Guide
This is another very useful reference book. If there is something I don’t know how to do or I want to check, this is where I go first.
It includes detailed instructions for different kinds of seams, how to sew darts, collars and sleeves, buttons and button holes.
There is a guide to using patterns which also covers taking measurements and altering a pattern. This section also includes a couple of pages on making a toile and how to alter it if it does not fit.
In the second half of the book there are patterns for several skirts, dresses, trousers, tops and jackets and a section on how to customise clothes.
It is a very good guide for a beginner, although the size of the book might be off putting! However the information is all clearly organised and insuch a way that makes sense, and there are a lot of pictures, which is why the book is so huge! It’s also a useful reference guide if you have been sewing for a while.
The patterns section and the section that deals with collars, sleeves and waistbands are worth reading if you are considering making your own clothes from scratch without using a commercial pattern.
Donna Kooler’s 555 Cross Stitch Motifs
Cross stitch is a craft I used to enjoy that I don’t really do any more. I took it up when I was at university as my friend Kirsty liked cross stitch and always had a project on the go!
The book includes patterns for 4 samplers and countless other designs. They are arranged in themes: family, home, children and animals. There are also alphabets.
For each design there is a colour chart for DMC thread and, at the back of the book, a conversion chart if you prefer to use Anchor.
If you wanted to design your own sampler, this book makes it easy to do. Just pick the bits you like! This is in fact what I did, although having the attention span of a gnat, I actually started it about 5 years ago and it’s in my pile of unfinished projects!
Crocheting Easy Blankets, Throws and Wraps
There is no Amazon link for this book!
My husband bought me this one. This is also a nice book for beginners. At the start of the book there are instructions how to make the stitches with lots of pictures.
If you are British though, be warned! The stitches are under their American names. I was interested to discover that there was a half double crochet stitch, which I had previously never heard of, then realised it was actually a half treble! There is also a yarn guide and conversion charts.
The projects in the book are lovely and if a full sized blanket is too much, the patterns would be easy enough to adapt to make something smaller.
The variety of stitches, colours and yarns used mean that this book is great as a source of inspiration, even if you don’t want to follow each pattern to the letter.
Christmas Crafting in No Time
One of the reasons I like this book is because I won it! Making magazine have a Monday Makes competition and I won this book with a dress I made.
The crafts included are mostly sewing, paper crafts and baking. The projects are generally not ones I’ve seen replicated elsewhere, although there are some that take a slightly different approach to projects that are already out there. For example, instead of gingerbread houses, there are instructions for making gingerbread Russian domes.
The book is divided into decorations, cards and gift wrap, cooking for Christmas, gifts and table decorations.
My favourite projects include the felt owls, the curled paper star and the embroidered winter throw.
Some of the crafts would be pretty quick to make but some of the others, like the little mice, would probably take quite a lot longer than “no time”!
It’s still a lovely book though!
Here’s a bonus one!
Craft Bomb Your Bike by Shara Ballard
Pedal power is great when you live somewhere as flat as we do!
This book has 20 sewing, knitting and crochet projects for your bike and there is absolutely no day glo lycra in sight. Thank goodness.
Some of the projects are practical, like the bags and the tool roll. Others are just to pretty it up. There are a number of ideas for jazzing up the basket (bunting, hooray!), crocheted flowers to attach to the spokes, and crocheted covers for saddle and helmet.
I just love it all so much I don’t know where to start!
I have been sewing my own clothes since I was 10 years old and I can honestly say that it is a lot of fun! I love walking down the street in something I have made myself, knowing that I could walk past 1000 people and none of them would be wearing the same as me.
When I was a little girl my mum made all our clothes and her mother sewed for a living! So it was my mum who taught me how to sew and I’ve gradually honed my skills as the years have passed (there is still some honing to do! 😉 ).
For people who are beginner sewists it can be so difficult to know where to start that it can be overwhelming. So here are 10 ish questions that you might be considering if you are new to sewing, with answers!
Is it hard?
It’s not! Seriously, the number of people who look amazed when I tell them I made the thing I am wearing myself, it’s crazy! If you can drive a car you can definitely operate a sewing machine. I can’t drive and I can operate a sewing machine!
Having said that, keep it simple at least to start with and try stuff out with cheaper fabric first if you are worried.
If it does go wrong, don’t give up! This is where having an unpicker is handy. Even experienced sewists have to unpick their work sometimes.
What sort of fabric should I use?
The easiest fabric to work with holds its shape well and isn’t too slinky or too stretchy. Cotton and polycotton are good fabrics to use and come in all kinds of colours and prints. They also have the advantage that if you need to unpick a seam, the old seam wont leave marks on the fabric.
Does the brand of thread I use matter?
Lots of people will tell you that Gutermann threads are the best ones to use but they cost a little bit more. I have used cheaper threads from Lidl and Hobbycraft and although they usually do the job, I have had trouble with the thread breaking on occasion.
What kind of sewing machine should I buy?
It’s probably best to avoid the very cheap beginner sewing machines as they are often not great machines and what they can do is very limited.
Equally there is no point in forking out for a massively expensive machine that has a load of features that you probably won’t use.
A decent mid range machine is the way to go. I have a Silver e8000 which according to Husband (who bought it for me!) is the machine they use at colleges. Before that I had a 1970s Singer!
The functions I use the most are straight stitch in various lengths, zigzags, overlocking style edging, button holes and the stitch for knits. I haven’t really used any of the decorative sitiches, although I might if I had girls instead of boys!
What should I make first?
Stick with something simple to start with. A circle or A line skirt would be a good way in. You can find a tutorial for making a circle skirt here!
Which patterns should I use?
Patterns can be unbelievably confusing and being able to make sense of them can be a skill in itself! Although I haven’t used them myself, I have a friend who always says that the Colette patterns are very good and very clear.
The problem I often find with patterns that claim to be easy is that, in my experience, you usually end up with something shapeless!
It’s perfectly possible to make things without using a pattern. You can find plenty of tutorials here on my blog and there are lots elsewhere on the web too.
What skills are useful to know?
Knowing how to attach a waistband is useful and the same technique can be applied to using bias binding to finish armholes, necklines and hems . You can read about attaching a waistband and using bias binding to finish a hem in this circle skirt tutorial, and finishing armholes and a neckline in this dress tutorial.
Being able to sew in a zip is also handy. You can find a tutorial for doing that here.
Knowing how to and where to sew darts can be the difference between making something that fits well and something that just ends up taking up space in your wardrobe.
Why are my stitches are loopy?
Check the tension on your sewing machine. 4 is usally a good number for most fabrics. If it is on 4 and still the stitches are loopy, adjust the tension dial.
If the loops are at the bottom, increase it.
If the loops are at the top, decrease it.
If that does not work, take the bobbin out and give the bobbin area a clean with a dry paint brush, then rethread the machine.
Why does the thing I’ve made not fit?
If you are using a pattern, do not be fooled into thinking that the size guide on the back bears any relation at all to normal dress sizes.
Measure yourself with a tape measure and check your measurements against the sizes on the back of the packet.
Make sure that when you are sewing up, you follow the guidance about how much to allow for the seam allowance.
The surest way to end up with something that fits is to keep trying it on.
If you have already made it and it’s too big, try taking it in. Put the garment on inside out and pin the side seams. If there are darts, you might need to take those in too.
If it is too small, unfortunately that is harder to fix. You might be able to let the seams out and darts if there is enough fabric. If it is still to tight, you might have to consider upcycling it into something else.
The thing I made is shapeless. How do I fix it?
If it is shapeless, it is probably because it doesn’t fit very well. The way to fix this is to try it on inside out and pin the seams so that it is a closer fit. If the seams are fine but it is baggy in other places, try adding some darts. You can read about darts here in this post, A Guide to Pattern Pieces.
If none of that works, you might have to get inventive! A belt? Or maybe you’ll just have to cut your losses and turn it into something else.
You can read about how I turned a shapeless disaster of a dress into a wearable skirt here.
Here’s a bonus one!
Why does the thing I made not hang right?
In order for clothes to hang right, the grain needs to be straight on the up and down lines of the pieces. So is you are cutting out a sleeve, the line running from shoulder to wrist should run parallel with the selvedge (the woven edges on each side of the fabric). With a top or a bodice, the grain should run parallel with the centre line. Skirts are the same, the grain needs to run up and down the centre. If you are cutting out a skirt piece on the fold, the folded edge will usually be on the grain.
And here’s another bonus one!
I want to make my own stuff without using a pattern. Where do I start?
The first thing you will need to do is take your measurements and record them somewhere.
Starting with something simple is a good place to begin, like a circle skirt or a simple top.
Identify clothes in your wardrobe and on the internet that you like. Draw a sketch and try to come up with a plan for how you will make it. Keep it simple and if you are worried, try practising with some cheaper or old fabric first.