Historical Sew Monthly 2016 – Introduction


On my first post for this month, I mentioned I was taking part in this year’s Historical Sew Monthly. The idea is to take clothing or accessories from the past up to 1938 and remake them. You can use authentic materials or take items from your stash. Each challenge can take up to 2 months to make and must be completed and entered by the last day of the month it is due. Items can be as simple, a bag or fichu or complex as you wish, up to a full period ensemble, complete with underpinnings, but must be researched and use authentic materials and techniques where possible. The Dreamstress, who organises the challenge has written a useful blog post, exploring what  historical accuracy means.

The Challenges this Year are as follows:

  • January –  Procrastination  finish a garment you have been putting off finishing (a UFO or PHD) or make something you have been avoiding starting.
  • February – Tucks & Pleating – make a garment that features tucks and pleating for the shape or decoration
  • March – Protection – make something to protect yourself (from weather or injury) or your clothes (from soiling etc.)
  • April – Gender-Bender – make an item for the opposite gender, or make an item with elements inspired by the fashions of the opposite gender
  • May – Holes – sometimes the spaces between stuff are what makes a garment special.  Make a garment that is about holes, whether it is lace, slashing, eyelets, etc.
  • June – Travel – make a garment for travelling, or inspired by travel.
  • July – Monochrome – make a garment in black, white, or any shade of grey in between.
  • August – Pattern – make something in pattern, the bolder and wilder the better.
  • September – Historicism – Make a historical garment that was itself inspired by the fashions of another historical period.
  • October – Heroes – Make a garment inspired by your historical hero, or your historical costuming hero.
  • November – Red – Make something in any shade of red.
  • December – Special Occasion: make something for a special event or a specific occasion, or that would have been worn to special event of specific occasion historically.

My Plans To Date:

January: Medieval Relic Bag – I’ve been putting off starting as they knitted on very tiny needles – 1 – 1.5mm

February: I’m still researching but its likely to be a baby bonnet with tuck pleating around the crown in crochet

March: A Sontag – A Victorian knitted Shawl that wraps over the front of the body and ties at the back, ideal for wearing out on spring days without having trailing bits to catch in my wheels

April – This is puzzling me, so I need to research this. Am wondering if an early male knitted cap might have been remade and restyled in late 19th / early 20th C for a lady who was interested in sport?

May – I have a couple of lovely tops that are just a little too low cut so I plan to make a crochet fichu / neck piece to wear with them.

June – I want to make something linked to travel for the wool trade: going to market, sheep droving, using a crochet method called shepherds knitting, gloves, a pouch

July – Monochrome, am thinking towards socks are there medieval examples of knitted socks and cushions with interesting monochrome patterns

August – Pattern, I’ve seen some beautiful beaded knit purses and reticules, with fantastic colour patterns!

September – Historicism – this will need research, ideally I would like to do something warm for the approaching winter or practical like a simple bag

October – Heroes – I bet you thought I was going to avoid naalbinding as I’d not said anymore about it! But my heroes are in part those medieval women who spent much of their time spinning, weaving and naalbinding clothes. There is an interesting pair of socks I would like to try to replicate!

November – Something Red – thinking back over my accessories, I don’t have gloves and I really like the long evening gloves so I plan to crochet a pair in red silk or cotton

December – Something Special – this is my tatting challenge, and I’m thinking I might make myself a collar, which could double as a necklace or adding a tatted motif to a simple, silk drawstring bag or pouch, brooch or hat band.

This will give me a range of accessories I can make over a number of eras of history and the opportunity to hone skills and develop new ones. In future years it is my intention to choose a period of history and make myself a full costume with authentic accessories, meaning that I will need to tackle dressmaking.

I’m assembling a Pinterest board and hunting through the Antique Pattern Library for inspiration and ideas. I also plan to do some reading in the local library and online to discover the techniques, yarns etc in use at the time each item was made.

Handmade Monday 188 – What Happens in a Class?

Welcome to this week’s Handmade Monday – pop over to Handmade Harbour and treat yourself to an hour or so browising the work of some very talented crafters and artists.


I’ve realised that although I spend alot of my time teaching I rarely blog about what happens in a class! So I’m aiming to change that in the coming weeks.

Today I’ll give a brief overview of the various classes that are running and the sort of things we do

Open to All

Beginners Crochet – Starts 13.10. 14 @ Hedge End, 7:30pm – 9:30pm

wpid-20140303_195614.jpgIn beginners classes there is usually a mixture of people, from those who have never picked up a hook in their lives to those who have learned a bit off the net or who crocheted years ago but have forgotten how to get going again.

For the purposes of this post I’ll focus on the 1st week: We start by finding the best way to hold the hook and yarn for you – I start by teaching the best way, both right and left handed and then work with individuals who are struggling to find a technique that is best for them. It might be holding the hook differently or threading your hand another way with the yarn. We then move on and practice chain stitch. When everyone is confident they are able to manage that, we start on the 1st lesson proper – making a granny square. I choose the granny square because the foundation chain doesn’t need to be perfect as its hidden inside the centre and its  a popular thing to make. Once you have mastered it you can go on to create anything from handbags to cushions to blankets. To achieve this we then learn slip stitch, joining a chain to make a ring and treble crochet, plus how to put them all together to make a square. After the 1sr couple of round I introduce pattern reading, so that the group start to get a handle on the abbreviations and how crochet patterns are written. I colour code the pattern and break each round down into manageable sections. Once we’ve covered this, I tend to find that those who have some crochet knowledge can work the following round with minimal support, giving me more time to work one to one or in a smaller group with those who need a bit more help. The ladies who are working more independently are not left to struggle however as I am on hand for them too. If the lesson is going well we also look at colour changes. The group is encouraged to practice at home, either starting another square from scratch or adding more rounds to their existing square. Practice between lessons is essential. We revise the granny square in week 2 and then move on to look at a variety of ways of joining them together.  Each week you receive a comprehensive learning pack that covers everything we have learned during the lesson. This builds into a beginners / improvers manual, including exclusive patterns that you can fall back on in the future.


Knit and Learn – Tuesdays, Bitterne Park, 7:30pm – 9:30pm

wpid-20131202_135408.jpgThis is a mixed ability group of beginners, improvers and more experienced knitters. There is usually a 1 hour workshop, followed by a further hour working on individual projects with support when needed. Handouts are supplied for any new techniques and beginners have access to the the full 6 week beginners manual. We are currently working on Christmas Decs as a group, with people learning colour work, shaping, experimenting with fun yarns and making up techniques, Individual projects include lace work baby blankets, hats, mitts, cardigans and fairisle squares for a blanket. We have recently covered blocking and mattress stitch as the large blanket is put together.


wpid-20131018_133210.jpgCrochet Thursdays – Various Dates, Eling Tide Mill Cafe, 7- 9pm

This group runs along the same lines as the Knit and Learn group, with a combination of beginners and improvers working on a range of projects. Sometimes the group chooses to have a 2 hour workshop, others we do an hour focusing on a specific technique and occasionally they all work individually and I float around the group to help. Beginners are welcome and you will get quite alot of individual attention. We usually meet once a month and the group is small and friendly. Currently we are making Christmas decorations and gifts. In the last session we created an amazing crochet rose!

Why not come along and joins us if you can! If you prefer to have individual lessons these are available too!

If you’d like to book a class, pop over to the events page and click the relevant link!


Specialist Groups

Headway Group

wpid-20140908_114913.jpgThis group is specifically for people who are living with an acquired brain injury. We have been running for 2 years and are now at a point where everyone is working individually on chosen projects in between sewing panels for a wall hanging quilt. Currently we have people learning to use sewing machines to make a variety of bags, loom knitting toys, crocheting fairies and sewing felt Christmas decs. The bag on the right is a box toiletries bag made by one of the men in the group. He has no use of his right side but is amazing on the sewing machine….this was very much a project where I was learning as I was teaching…. that’s one of the reasons I love this group so much, there’s always an interesting challenge and alot of fun!

Creative Options

wpid-20140729_110705.jpgThese are 2 specific groups for people experiencing enduring mental health issues. We work on a combination of small group projects such as a knitted / crocheted afternoon tea, egg cosies, Christmas Decs, flowers. The aim of the sessions are to build concentration, explore crafting as a way of managing symptom and to learn / extend skills. This group has a 50 /50 male female balance. Some members crochet and others prefer to knit. Not everyone wants to work on the group projects so the learning plan is flexible. Again learning packs and patterns are available to the group members. Many choose to work on their projects at home as a way of elevating mood, distracting themselves from troublesome symptoms and giving themselves a sense of achievement.


Workplace Groups

wpid-20140707_182146.jpgThese run over an hour and are based on the premise of supporting individuals with their chosen projects. I also supply handouts and offer a mini 15 min workshop covering a specific technique. Currently I have beginners crocheters learning to make granny squares or work from their 1st pattern, beginners knitters learning to make hats and flowers and more experienced knitters learning new techniques like the lace cast on and knitting on circulars using the magic loop.



I am of course busy working on commissions and getting some canvases made for an exhibition in December, as well as knitting for my gorgeous grandson…. I recently adapted a hoodie pattern and turned him into a very hungry caterpillar:


An Apple…. or is it a Yoda for the Teacher?

As the majority of my friends think I’m slightly eccentric with all the knitting and crochet I do, sometimes they set me interesting commissions that challenge me a little. The latest, a set of 3 teacher /  lollipop lady gifts definitely comes into that category!

My friend has 3 children, 2 of whom are school aged. Her daughter –  the eldest – had a sci fi mad teacher for her stay in year 3 and wanted to have a special present for him. So she was sent on a mission to subtly interrogate him to find out which movies and characters he like….. the answer was Yoda from Star Trek.

So I duly went on a hunt for images of Yoda, including some stunning amigurumi and hats on Pinterest for inspiration and came up with a few ideas for facial features and his cloak and staff. I then set to with hook and yarn from my stash and got creating. I had the most fun making his feet and ears! I wanted his face to have some features so used a combination of crochet circles and free hand embroidery to build his face and voila:

wpid-20140720_085624.jpg  wpid-20140720_085719.jpg








The teacher said he was “stupendous” and was over the moon, so one happy customer so far!

Child 2, a little boy wanted a thank you message for his Year 1 teacher, so after a bit of collaboration with Mum, I came up with a canvas. I knitted the blackboard and edged with with crochet to make a “wooden” frame. Next step was to embroider the words Thank You in a childlike script -which works well with freehand embroidery. I felt the finished item needed something else so crocheted a little apple to add to the corner of the board:


Then the toddler decided he wanted a present for the lollipop lady as she’s his friend! So could I make a World’s Best Lollipop Lady Badge says Mum…. so again I did a mini hunt on pinterest to make sure I got the colours etc right and this is my design, all in crochet, with freehand embroidery. I was a bit disappointed I couldn’t find an orange heart button but the pink works ok:


And finally the whole end of  the school year collection:


Creative Blogging Challenge Day 3 – Colours of Nature

I skipped yesterday essentially because I spent a fair bit of it travelling between Devon and Hampshire, passing through some amazing countryside, some bearing the signs of human occupation from over 6000 years ago, such as the bronze and iron age barrows, circles and hillforts that stud the Dorset landscape as you travel along the A35 between Lyme Bay and Dorchester. The whole area has a sense of timelessness and it is interesting that farmers over the centuries have respected the dwellings of their ancestors:


I often find myself inspired by landscape, whether is it the ever changing colours, shades and highlights caused by the seasons and the movements of cloud and sun, the sense of timelessness and allowing my mind to wander to the sheer determination our forefathers had to cling onto the land and make something of it or the play of water as it develops its path from spring to seashore.

2 hills dominated the village where I grew up, Brent Hill and Ugborough Beacon. The village is on the lee or rainy side of these hills plus other high ground of the Dartmoor National Park. They were the older generation’s weather station – if the Beacon had its hat on – was covered in fog – then it was sure to rain. They would often turn white long before the snow hit the village and as kids we anxiously awaited snowfall – although it never got us any time off school!

Image from the Brownston Gallery – Brent Hill


Ugborough Beacon, Dartmoor from geograph.org.uk

I have a ball of yarn in my odds and ends pile that I keep putting to one side for a special project.  And this trip has helped me realise why – the colours are redolent of Dartmoor – its a randomised ball of golds and greens, very like the beacon on a sunny day before it becomes covered in thick bracken. Sadly King cole have discontinued the line which is a pity as I am currently knitting a shawl for myself with the purple colour way and its looking gorgeous!

What I will do with it, I’m not certain but I want to capture the sense of undulating hills in the pattern. That suggests some form of waviness to the fabric – perhaps a cowl, perhaps a bag – something casual but beautiful, set off with beads to really highlight the changing heights across the rows? I’m not even certain whether I will use knitting or crochet – I just know I need to do something unique and special with it – something that will root me to the natural beauty I love.

Some Recent Makes

In between cuddling my gorgeous grandson I’ve also been knitting and crocheting away.

In the run up to Christmas I made up 2 custom orders and created a range of Christmas gifts for family and friends. I’m still working on my Dad’s final sock as I’m seeing him next week for a belated Christmas!

Today I’m going to focus on the commissions and the gifts I made for adults. I’m saving the baby knitting and crochet for Handmade Monday, and I promise its worth the wait 🙂

Here is a small selection of my festive makes  – I’ve just realised that I forgot to snap all my creations so I may well be asking friends to do the honours and share 🙂

wpid-20131226_152608.jpg Ladies handwarmers

I made 2 pairs of these, 1 in red chunky yarn which were much longer in the arms, specifically for school runs.

This pair were made for a friend who loves lilac and black and I added a shamrock accent to each glove to echo her Irish roots.

I really enjoy making personalised designs that say something about the person I’m making them for.

wpid-IMG-20130905-WA0000.jpg wpid-IMG-20130909-WA0000.jpg  Cuddly Cats

Made for 2 little boys who love kittens. Apparently they are rarely put down and their own kitties now have a bit of a break.

I used a variegated yarn for the brown cat and a brushed DK for the black cat which gave a beautifully soft feel to it.

wpid-20131211_204819.jpg wpid-20131211_204855.jpg  2 Christmas Jumper Makeovers

A friend’s children needed Christmas Jumpers from school, so she arrived with 2 charity shop jumpers for me to embellish.

I used a white yarn shot through with a shiny thread to create the snowflakes and embroidery

For Rudolph I crocheted a motif and then added crocheted eyes, nose and antlers.

Both jumpers were very popular and frequently worn by both children. Its given me an idea to pursue in the coming months!

wpid-20131204_161620.jpg wpid-FB_IMG_13862631606179271.jpg  Rudolph and Flowers

I picked up a couple of commissions at a local craft fair. I was helping my daughter assemble her reindeer and was asked to make another. The other lady is passionate about daisies so  designed and made her a trio of brooches. Do you think its worth making brooches in batches of 3 that match or co-ordinate?

I also made a beautiful crocheted beanie in a green DK shot through with primary colours, complete with curly tassels hanging from the crown for a friend who loves mad hats, a chenille cowl for a friend who’s a dinner lady and needs to keep warm and some bathroom accessories for my brother’s fiancee which I will show when she has had them delivered. I’m also working on a special present for another friend which got a bit delayed as I was shattered from being a birthing partner and then went a caught tonsilitis! Now I’m better the needles are flying as I start my next batch of special commissions.

Introducing my Grandson!

Hi I’m Kayden and I’m going to help my Nanny tell you all about me!

Before I get into the full on blogging for 2014, here’s an introduction to the little man who’s been keeping me very busy during December and January, my grandson Kayden. He was due on Dec 4th but tried arriving at 36 and 37 weeks….then decided he liked it where he was thank you very much, despite my poor daughter’s best efforts at eating curries and walking miles!

He eventually arrived on Weds 18th Dec at 10:28am by emergency c-section, weighing 9lb 3oz after 3 days of trying to persuade him to come via the usual route. My daughter coped amazingly with a very long induction process, followed by 14 hours on the drip to get her contracting, but much like she did, he settled back to back and had stuck his head in a very odd place. The difference in care she received when he was born and in the following 3 and bit weeks has been amazing, compared to when she was born. The midwifery and health visiting teams have really pulled out all the stops to help her and the way they dealt with the need for the c section was really gentle and lovely to see. I’d had a very similar experience but sadly not the same quality of care, but its been really healing for me too – although my poor body is still struggling to come to terms with being birth partner and helping with the night feeds! The medical team went out of their way to accommodate my needs too so that I could be in theatre when he was born, giving me time to slowly shuffle in on sticks – they’d even offered to spring clean the wheelchair if that would help!  – and providing me with a comfy chair to sit on. It was a real privilege to be there and because my daughter was so spaced out have first cuddles with him – I knew he was a chunky lad before he hit the scales!

All brand new, just had my first mummy cuddle 🙂

Ready to come home, wrapped in my shawl!

Kayden is a beautiful boy, very chilled and calm, he only really cries if he is in need of something or one of us mean people are changing his nappy or stripping him off for the tub when its not quite convenient! When he’s tell us off he sounds like the famous talking cat and says “Oh no no no” as part of his cry, its really cute!  He  gave me a lovely proper smile this morning, and loves to lay there looking at you and trying I think. to figure out how easy its going to be to wrap you round his little finger 🙂  He also loves nursery rhymes and the animals on his play gym and will lay there quite happily trying his best to chat to them whilst trying to figure out how to get hold of them. We often sit and have long chats and read through his board books. He’s a big distraction and its lovely spending time with him when he’s awake 🙂

“At the Gym”

He’s obviously been wearing some of  the outfits and blankies Nanny’s created for him, including the embarrassing Christmas jumper, a plethora of snuggly hats and mitts and his blankie and shawl. I really enjoy making things for him and my next creation will be something on the theme of Mr Sneezy as he does sneeze alot!

My christmas jumper….Grandad got me a reindeer suit to wear over it and I was so impressed I slept all day except for my milk 🙂

My daughter is fortunate too in that he quite happily fills up on food in the evenings and then goes 5 hours between feeds at night. He is bottle fed now because despite everything being tried including having his tongue tie snipped at 3 days old – he was more annoyed at having a piece of gauze under his tongue to stem the bleeding than he was at the actual snip – he just couldn’t get the hang of breast feeding. The midwives were really supportive of the fact that she tried hard for 2 weeks, expressing on an electric pump most of the time and have been really good about accepting her decision. She is well aware that breast is best, but has made the best decision for her baby and I fully support her in that. I remember the huge sense of failure that partly fuelled my post natal depression I felt when nothing worked with her and I’ve been so pleased that everyone has focused on how much good she did by persevering for so long. She’s only just 20 and has issues of her own and it was lovely to hear other older and experienced mums who were sharing her hospital ward praising her for her willingness to try too. She is a natural mother and its beautiful to watch the bond growing between them.

Me and my Mum

Me and Mum at home



Making It Your Own – Using Colour 1 – Design Tips

Welcome to the first lesson of a series of blog posts that will help the beginner and more experienced knitter or crocheter feel confident about taking a pattern and making it their own. The lessons will be themed in topics, starting with ideas for novices and ending with hints and tips for the experienced. Our first “term” will cover colour, and include tutorials on colour changing, fairisle, intarsia, tapestry crochet, swiss darning, switching yarn brands, checking and understanding tension.

By the end of the chapter I hope that you will feel confident to experiment with colour in your knitting or crochet. It would be lovely to see you work too and share it with others who are on this journey with you. You can either email me, post your images on Pinterest or Facebook or Tweet them. If you choose to share on Facebook or Twitter, please use the hash code #makingmyown and then I can find you 🙂

Simply Substitute

Rolled Roses

Rolled Roses

Ok so you’ve seen a pattern you love the look of but the colour just isn’t right for you. As a knitter or crocheter this isn’t a problem! Most yarn companies make their yarns in a range of colours. So often its possible to do a simple substitution of one colour for another, as I have done when crocheting these rolled roses.

You can also substitute a colour from another yarn manufacturer if you stick to the same weight i.e. you swap a DK yarn for another DK yarn. We will cover how to make sure that you have bought enough of the new yarn and checking tension in later posts about yarn substitution.

I like the idea of swapping colours but really…… I want it stripy!!!

That’s fine, there are many options for creating stripes – you could use a self striping yarn, so you have no ends to sew in or colour changes to work. Check that you like all the colours used in the ball and are happy to accept that  you might end up with a pair of gloves or 2 cardigan fronts that don’t match exactly!

To download the pattern for these beautiful gloves visit Knitting and So On

Hmmm sounds good….. but I want to choose the colours myself and make things that match!!

Ok, not a problem, decide on your colour scheme and then decide how you want to work your stripes as I did in this blanket. The original design was made in cream and edged in green. I was asked to make it for a customer who wanted it all in cream with a motif. Whilst I was making it my daughter fell in love with it and said she’d like one for her baby. As she is still pregnant she wanted a neutral but modern colour scheme and decided to go with turquoise, stone and cream. Changing the colour scheme makes this very simple crocheted blanket look very different without changing the surface pattern:

Colours - stripes  Ok I like that but…. Any Rules for Making Stripes?

Yes there are – this week we are talking about design – coming up with ideas. Next week I’ll be posting 2 tutorials on colour changing, one knit and one crochet.

For your stripes to look good here are a few guidelines to help you:

1. Colour matching – stripes can be worked in all sorts of colour combinations. You might decide on a particular colour and go for various shades to create an ombre effect. Alternatively you might want a classic combination such as black and white, navy and cream,  go for colours that compliment or colours that clash. You can even knit or crochet the rainbow.

2.Single Row Stripes – to create rows in single stripes, as I have done in the blanket, you need an odd number of colours, a minimum 3. This allows you to swap colours at the end of each line without cutting the yarn and having loads of ends to stitch in

3. Carrying Yarn – You can carry yarn up the side of your work as long as it will be hidden by a seam. However it is not good practice to carry yarn over more than 4 rows as this can cause the work to bunch up. More on this in the next tutorial.

4.  Even Numbers? If you are planning to work your stripes over an even number of rows, don’t be afraid to experiment. You can have one colour that only works 2 rows, 1 that works 4 and another that works 6 for example or 2 colours that work 4 rows each and 1 colour that works 2 or 8.

5. Bust that Stash! Stripes are great for stash busting, if you have lots of small balls of yarn left over you could create a crazy throw by knitting strips of stripes, or having a rule for each colour – for example any purple yarns knit 2 rows, red yarns work 6, brown yarn works 3. As a teenager, I had an amazing jumper knitted by a neighbour’s sister, created from 4 balls of red yarn, plus any and everything from her stash. She followed a similar system to the one I’ve described. I wish I had a photo of it or even better the jumper itself to show you.

Here are some stripe combinations you might want to try when planning out your designs:

Stripe samples