Friday, 2 December 2016

Free Christmas Star Pattern!

In the Christmassy spirit of Advent, today I have written up a little pattern to share with you, using the very lovely Paintbox Yarns Simply DK. It is a very quick and simple pattern but includes a spike stitch and both working in the round and straight so I will knock up some accompanying tutorials for you as soon as I can. I will also publish a PDF version on very soon.
I hope you enjoy making it, please do share your pictures of your own stars, can't wait to see which palette you choose!


Paintbox Yarns Simply DK 100% acrylic, 100g/276m/302yds 

Yarn A: Neon Pink, 156 x 1 ball

Yarn B: Buttercup Yellow, 122, x 1 ball

Yarn C: Rich Mauve, 144 x 1 ball

Yarn D: Rose Red, 113 x 1 ball

Yarn E: Washed Teal, 132 x 1 ball

Yarn F: Lime Green, 128 x 1 ball

4mm hook

Yarn needle

Toy Stuffing.


Exact tension is not essential.

Pattern Notes

Centre of the star is worked in the round. Points of the star are worked one by one on Round 6, but are worked back and forth, breaking the yarn after every point and rejoining the yarn to Round 5 to begin the next point.

Special Stitches

Cluster (cl): [yoh, insert in st, draw lp through] twice, 5 lps on hook, yoh and draw through all 5lps.


Star (make two)

With 4mm hook and Yarn A make an adjustable ring. 

Rnd 1: 6dc in adjustable ring, pull tightly to close ring, sl st to first dc to close rnd – 6dc.

Fasten off Yarn A, join Yarn B to any st around with a sl st.

Rnd 2: 2ch, yoh, insert hook in same st, draw lp through, yoh and draw through all lps on hook, 1ch, (cl, 1ch) in each rem dc around, join rnd with sl st – 6 cl and 6 ch-sps.

Fasten off Yarn B, join Yarn C to any 1ch-sp around with a sl st.

Rnd 3: 2ch (counts as 1htr), 2htr in same ch-sp, 1ch, (3htr, 1ch) in each rem ch-sp around – 18htr, 6ch-sps.

Fasten off Yarn C, join Yarn D to first htr of any 3htr group with a sl st.

Rnd 4: 1dc in same st and in each of next 2 htr, insert hook down into cl from Row 2, yoh, draw loop through st and up to the height of current rnd, yoh and draw through 2lps on hook, spike made, *1dc in each of next 3 htr, spike stitch; rep from * 5 times in total, join rnd with sl st – 18dc and 6 spike sts.

Fasten off Yarn D, join Yarn E to any st around with a sl st.

Rnd 5: 1dc in each st around – 24dc.

Fasten off Yarn E, join Yarn F to any st around with a sl st.

Round 6 will be making the star points one by one as follows:

Star point:

Row 1: 1dc in this and each of next 4 sts, turn – 5dc.

Row 2: 1ch (does not count as st), 1dc in each st across – 5dc.

Row 3: 1ch (does not count as st), dc2tog, 1dc, dc2tog – 3dc.

Row 4: 1ch (does not count as st), 1dc in each st across – 3dc.

Row 5: 1ch (does not count as st), dc3tog – 3dc.

Fasten off yarn.

With RSF, rejoin yarn to same st of Rnd 5 that the last dc of Point One’s Row 1 is worked into, so this stitch of Rnd 5 will be worked into twice. Now work next point and each following point from Row 1 in the same way as the last, starting each following point in the last dc of the previous point’s Row 1.

6 points in total.


Block pieces lightly to shape. Place two star pieces together with wrong sides facing.

Rejoin Yarn F to the top of any point and work evenly around the whole star in dc, working each dc through both layers of the star to join them. Before you reach the end of the round, stuff the star lightly to desired shape, then complete the round and join with a sl st to the first dc. Make 15ch, then sl st back down into bottom of the chain to make a hanging loop.
Hang on your tree and admire!

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Christmas Crochet Photoshoot

Sweater by Rhian Drinkwater, Image Kirsten Mavric, Hair and Make Up Nicki Henbrey, Decorations Pipii
As it is the first of December tomorrow, we can officially get Christmassy! So I thought I would share some images from the current issue of Inside Crochet, as I styled a rather festive photoshoot this month. The gorgeous shots are by by Kirsten Mavric, including some of a wreath and decorations that I designed for the issue.
Cardigan by Ruth Maddock, Image Kirsten Mavric,  Decorations

Wreath by me, Image Kirsten Mavric
Mini Wreaths by me, Image Kirsten Mavric, Decorations

Image Kirsten Mavric
Gloves Tracey Todhunter, Image Kirsten Mavric

Image Kirsten Mavric, Decorations Pipii
Hat by Rhian Drinkwater, Image Kirsten Mavric, Hair and Make Up Nicki Henbrey,

Friday, 4 November 2016

Reloved Magazine

This Summer, I made the difficult decision to leave my role as editor of Inside Crochet to spend more time with my daughter before she started school this September and so far it is proving to be the right choice. I am not only enjoying spending more quality time with my family but I also have the opportunity to contribute to other publications. One I have recently had some work published in is Reloved. It is a magazine devoted to upcyling and slow living, so of course its ethos is one I am very interested in at the moment, as I am both trying to encompass a slower lifestyle while at the same time trying to do up my new home on a budget and ensure that my daughter has a lot of craft and making in her life.
Image by Lucy Williams, Make up Nicki Henbrey, Styling Claire Montgomerie
I have had a feature in each of the last two issues. The series focuses on upcycling old sweaters, something I have been passionate about since my degree and MA in textiles. Reworking old clothes is a great way to extend your wardrobe on a shoe string, but in the first feature, I also give some ideas for other interior and accessories projects you can create with some felted knitting and a bit of embellishment, including these pictures.

Image by Lucy Williams,  Styling Claire Montgomerie
I had a fabulous old sweater, possibly from the fifties of sixties, which was sent to the charity shop because it had been felted in the wash. As its lucky new owner, I made not only a stylish hot water bottle cover from it, but also some cute cuffs and still had some lovely cabled fabric left over, which I need to decide what to do with! If you are careful with your knits and don't have any felted pieces to utilise, I also give my tips for successful fulling.
Image by Lucy Williams
In the second issue (out now!) there is an interview with me and I look at how to unravel old jumpers to utilise the yarn in new ways, creating a cute beanie from an old wool and mohair sweater. This way of upcycling is not new - people have been ripping back old knits for the yarn as long as we have been knitting. WWII was probably the last time the practice was performed in earnest due to the wool shortage cause by the war, but it is just as relevant now, with fast fashion filling our landfill sites at an alarming rate. I love the idea of a handmade wardrobe which is lovingly repaired and reworked with the seasons and fashions. I do love high street shopping, but I am much more thoughtful about my purchases these days and now I have more time on my hands, I am hoping to hone my sewing skills to match my knit and crochet ones to create more and more beautiful items for my family which will last a whole lot longer than some of the cheaply made items available in the shops contemporarily. If you feel the same, go pick up a copy of the magazine, it is full of great inspiration from wonderful designers like Annie Sloan, Kate Beavis and Charis Williams.

image by Lucy Williams, Styling Claire Montgomerie
Image Kirsten Mavric, Make up Nicki Henbrey

Monday, 31 October 2016

Maker Crafts: Hooked

I have been meaning to talk about my new book, Hooked for a while, but life has been getting in the way! Anyway, apologies for the delay, but here is a little preview of the loveliness inside, along with some of the work in progress sketches which I made while writing it.  
The book is for absolute beginners and the aesthetic is inspired by simple, modern, Scandinavian-style design and colours. I began by creating a mood board with inspirational images of the type of projects I wanted to include, along with the desired colour palette. 
  The designs needed to take into consideration the things I have learned from many years teaching people how to crochet – I wanted the range of patterns to be achievable for a beginner but also to appeal to more advanced crocheters, which I hope I have achieved. From there, I came up with some sketches and yarn swatches for the final designs in the colours and yarns I hoped to use. Using these sketches and swatches as a guide, I began making the projects. I usually design as I go rather than writing the pattern first, as this helps the project to evolve as you make it, allowing for unforeseen design problems or textures/stitches/colours that aren’t working. After ripping back and beginning again a few times, each project usually then progresses quite quickly and once complete, I can write up my hand scrawled notes into simple, clearly written patterns with as many tips for beginners as I can fit in.  
 Possibly my favourite project is the gadget cosies, as they are so very simple to make but the strong chunky stitch definition, simple double crochet stitch and the bold stripe of bright colour as a contrast to the neutral base really appeals to me. Plus they are very practical, so it is a good all rounder!
The how to crochet guide included everything you need to begin, but also to become a confident, competent crocheter. The three pattern chapters evolve in order of difficulty, beginning with Getting Started, moving to Growing in Confidence and finally, Hooked on Crochet!
There is another book in the series, Stitched! by the very talented Ros Badger, which is just as lovely, so I do urge all you budding sewists out there to check that out, too.  I am very proud of this book and I hope you will love it as much as I do, as well as finding it incredibly useful on your crochet journey.  The publisher, Parragon, have given me two copies of the book to giveaway!* If you want to be in with a chance of winning, all you have to do is leave me a comment below, and if you want an extra entry, pop over to my Instagram account and leave a comment on the Hooked competition post. Good luck!
* Competition closes at midnight on Wednesday 30th November.  Prizes are as offered and are non-transferable, non-refundable, non-changeable. No cash alternatives are available. Only one entry for website and one for Instagram is permitted per person and the editor's decision is final. Entries received after the closing date of the promotion will not be considered. No responsibility is taken for entries lost or delayed, by way of technical errors including malfunctions via the website. The winner will be drawn at random. No correspondence will be entered into. The winner will be notified within 28 days of the closing date. Unless specified otherwise, if a prize remains unclaimed for six months it will not be awarded, provided reasonable attempts have been made to contact the winner using the contact details supplied.

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Edward's Crochet Imaginarium

I am very excited to have been asked by Pavilion Books to join in the blog tour for the latest in the Edward's Menagerie book series from Kerry Lord of Toft. Yesterday you heard from Sarah of Crafts from The Cwtch and tomorrow I hand over to Natasja from Crochetime. You can see the beginnings of her monster from the book over on her Instagram account and I for one can't wait to see how it turns out! 

The Menagerie's distinctive designs and aesthetic appeal to me and I always look forward to seeing what Kerry comes up with next. Once, when editing Inside Crochet magazine, I even had the chance to request an exclusive animal to be designed by Kerry for the publication - the result was an adorable Hedgehog called Francis.

Edward's Crochet Imaginarium is a diversion from the usual themes in the series as it is a collection of mythical animals - or rather monsters - as opposed to the usual critters which have generally been based on actual living (and extinct!) birds and mammals. It is also published in a rather unusual and extremely entertaining flipbook format. Kerry's books have always included an interactive element that was mainly aimed at children, allowing them to pick and choose their favourite characters, while the basic shapes of the animals remained fairly simple and similar and therefore easy for the maker to create. The Imaginarium takes things one step further by allowing you to create your own unique character from a myriad of different design elements - there are supposedly over a million variations, meaning practically limitless appeal! 
The spiral bound, flip book format is so gorgeous and engaging that my daughter read it for ages by herself, treating it like one of her picture books. The reader is actively encouraged to construct their own monster using the well-loved split-page layout familiar from a multitude of children's books, but something that I can't recall seeing in a craft book before. This is a great tool for those crafters who are a little scared to stray far from the design of the pattern they are making - it is very common for knitters and crocheters to want to make a pattern exactly as the one on the page, down to the yarn type and colour as they are unsure whether the finished result will be successful. This book doesn't give any single pattern for one creature at all, but simply the 'recipe' for a smattering of different body parts that can be used in different ways, actively encouraging you to play with body shape, limbs, hair, colours, embellishment and placement of the appendages to create a unique personality, suitable for the monster's new owner.
If you are still a little apprehensive at starting from scratch, there is a handy gallery of sample monsters, which is actually where my littlun started her design process. I was quite surprised that she loved Bella, as she isn't the 'pinkest' of little girls, but she liked Bella's long hair and horn mix (as did mummy!) and we tweaked her limbs and added in some other colours and design elements to make Bella just right for her new playmate.
Kerry suggests in the book drawing out the basic shape of the monster and then letting the child you are making for colour it in, which we loved the idea of. This resulted in the addition of a couple of other colours and a whole lot of stripes, which both of us are partial to...
When the yarn arrived, I was glad to find that the colours are bright and clean and the pink was a very pretty shade on the right side of coral - I think I have said before, I am not much of a pink lover to say the least! It is also really lovely to use. I have never used the coloured yarns before, only the naturals and it is a really nice experience to work in technicolour in such a lovely alpaca yarn.
There is only one point that I found a little clunky with this book. As one toy can be a mixture of many patterns, even though every effort has been made to make everything clear for the reader, it can get a little confusing skipping around the book, especially if you make the decision to add more elements to your design. I would suggest writing out your selected pattern mixture before you begin, so you don't have to keep flipping pages and referring to different sections of the book with your crochet in your hands.

Having said this, the project I am currently working on is really fun, and very simple once you have worked out the pattern. I have especially enjoyed the collaboration with my daughter on this - she really feels involved in the whole process as she often gets frustrated that she cannot yet crochet and help me out! She has also been hovering over my shoulder as I make Bella, getting more excited as each element becomes recognisable. 
Tune back in soon as I will be revealing the completed character as soon as she is finished.

Those kind folk over at Pavilion books have also given me one copy of this lovely book to give away, so if you are as excited about this new book as I am, please leave a comment below or on my Instagram feed under the relevant comp post to have a chance to win - comment on both for an extra entry! *

 * Competition closes at midnight on Wednesday 14th September. Entries from the UK only please, sorry! Prizes are as offered and are non-transferable, non-refundable, non-changeable. No cash alternatives are available. Only one entry for website and one for Instagram is permitted per person and the editor's decision is final. Entries received after the closing date of the promotion will not be considered. No responsibility is taken for entries lost or delayed, by way of technical errors including malfunctions via the website. The winner will be drawn at random. No correspondence will be entered into. The winner will be notified within 28 days of the closing date. Unless specified otherwise, if a prize remains unclaimed for six months it will not be awarded, provided reasonable attempts have been made to contact the winner using the contact details supplied.
Please note that the publisher provided the book for review and the competition prize and Toft provided the yarn to make Bella but I have received no other reimbursement for the review and all views are my own.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

The Cold Never Bothered Me Anyway

Probably some of the most common questions I am asked when people find out what I do for a living have something to do with how much knitting and crochet I do for my daughter. No doubt when asking, they have pictures of a poor little urchin bundled from head to toe in mismatching handmade items...if only!

Usually my poor little one has to make do with things I have made for books or magazines but luckily she usually loves them. It warms my heart to know that she still adores anything that mummy knits her. Her current favourite is this simple balaclava from my book Knitting for Children, which sat in the cupboard for about 7 years waiting for the day it would fit a child of my own. I knew that I had to make her something that was just hers, designed with her in mind and that she would love regardless of whether I had made it.

Finally, a couple of months before her third birthday, I decided that I would make her something for her gift, and settled on some toys inspired by a film that she loved. To try to illustrate just how little leisure craft time I have, I finally finished them in February of this year. Just one year and 5 months after her third birthday, so just a tad late! 

Luckily, it was worth the wait, because although she is less obsessed with the film these days, she still knows all the words to the songs and dresses up as the characters. Incase you haven't guessed, the film is a certain animated and very cold story of sister princesses! I have always thought that the little rag dolls the sisters own as children were very cute (if you haven't spotted them, keep an eye out in the Do You Want to Build A Snowman song!) These cuties are my crochet take on their dolls. 

Of course, the ridiculous length of time this project took wasn't helped by the fact I wanted to make the dolls underwear so they were decent, along with removable dresses, not to mention a full head of yarn hair to plait and style, which I painstakingly hooked into their heads one thread at a time – I used a whole ball of Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino for each doll!

Fortunately, the toys have passed muster with the littlun; she took them both to bed with her on the first night I gave them to her and enjoys dressing them and styling their hair as well as pushing them in her buggy. Huge sigh of relief!

I will get round to writing up a pattern for the basic doll and dress so that you can make your own versions and customise them. I find the finished toys so lovely, that I keep thinking of what other characters I could make. Littlun has started watching Brave again, to my delight, so I may have to find time to make a Merida, although I must admit that the thought of all that hair is making me have second thoughts....

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Patti Wrap

My Patti Wrap crochet pattern is now up on Love Crochet. A very simple beginner pattern that can be worn as either a scarf or a wrap and that can be whipped up in no time. Made originally in Rico Essentials Big and Rico Essentials 365 Aran, the Aran is now discontinued but any other Aran yarn will substitute. The pattern is written in both UK and US terminology so nobody need miss out!

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Happy Easter

I am aware that I was getting into a blogging swing but March has been so busy that I haven't had a chance to post much. It was this time last year that illness saw the beginning of my longest break from the site. In a strange coincidence, exactly a year to the week, at the beginning of this month I was again undergoing surgery, related to the ongoing problems from last year, and I am currently having a little time 'off' work to recuperate. (I use the inverted commas as part of my problem is that I am never fully 'off' and have been trying not to answer too many emails or do too much work related knit and crochet!)

Anyway, I have been spending my 'free' time quite constructively, by finishing off a lot of non-work related projects, mainly baby themed for the baby boom that seems to be occurring presently! (More on that in a later post).
So do not fear, I don't plan to disappear again for any length of time. For now, I just wanted to wish you all a Happy Easter and remind you of a cute, simple, free knitting pattern for chick and rabbit egg cosies that I posted at Easter a few years ago. The images come from an Easter knitting class I ran showing some beginners how to make them. As usual, I love the quirky interpretations of the simple design that create distinctive personalities with only a few stitches and notions.

I have plenty planned for after the Easter break, including a new set of how to crochet tutorials and a post about some dolly beauties - the feet you can see below belong to them - who I was crocheting for over a year on and off and recently finally finished (sound the triumphant trumpeters!!)
Keep an eye out for all of that and more coming soon and in the meantime have a very lovely, relaxing Easter - don't eat too much chocolate!