Thursday 30 January 2014

Inspiration: Hand Embroidery

I'm seriously digging hand embroidered decoration at the moment. I think it first started when I saw a t-shirt in Topshop with "Oui" and "Non" embroidered on it, and thought to myself - Hey! I could do that myself! I'm no embroidery expert, but I think you could achieve great results with some very basic stitches. It would take time to build up a more complicated pattern, but I actually find embroidery very therapeutic. Here's some pictures of hand embroidery that are inspiring me at the moment.
Pictures, clockwise from top right: Tea, Yoke, Aztec Patterns, Stars, Freestyle, Slogan
You could personalise a jumper, a dress or even a beanie hat. You could choose a slogan, a motif or even a pattern. This is open to so many options, the embroidery world is your oyster. It would also be a great option for gifts too, personalising a plain item you bought to make a truly unique item.

I'll be off now, to embroider a little something onto all of my plain t-shirts. Have you ever hand embroidered onto an already existing piece of clothing?

Wednesday 29 January 2014

Making Chunky Wool

I have mad ideas at 1am in the morning when I am trying to get to sleep. An example? How about sandwiches made in the style of a cake, with a large loaf cut down the middle and filled with ingredients. Then, people can help themselves to a slice of sandwich. And how exactly does one become a member of the magic circle? Anyway, I digress...

This was one of my mad 1am ideas that actually seemed worth following up. The idea is to turn standard wool into chunky wool, by using a crochet hook and simply making a really long chain. It took me a couple of days to complete the whole of this ball of wool, but it was a really mindless task that I could easily complete whilst watching TV.

I used an aran wool and a 4mm crochet hook for mine, but the possibilities are endless. Even after chaining your wool, you could use a larger crochet hook and do it all over again, for an even chunkier wool.

I'm using the results of this effort to knit a hat with, and I'm rather enjoying working with my Frankenstein's wool. It is lovely and thick, and has a slight tweedy texture to it. I'll keep you updated with my progress.

Have you ever had any crazy ideas that actually turned out amazingly well?

Tuesday 28 January 2014

What I'm Loving: January 2014

These are just a few things that have been firm favourites of mine over this last month.



Minimalist Nail Varnish. I love how sophisticated these designs look, and the fact that they work on shorter nails as well as on longer nails. Even though I'm a complete doofus when it comes to painting my nails, I'm sure even I could manage these. And yes, I did just say doofus in 2014. These also look really quick to do as well; maybe a quick base coat, but then just a simple line on each fingernail.

Cloud Atlas. I finished reading Cloud Atlas recently (a bit slow on the uptake, I know), and it blew me away. I read it in about a week, and it might even be my favourite book of all time. Which is a tough thing for me to say, as I loathe to pick a favourite book, but if I had to, then this would be it. It's impossible to say in which genre to class it, as it somehow manages to encompass many varying genres all at once. I just can't recommend this book enough. Should I see the film? I definitely need some more Cloud Atlas in my life, but I just know that the film wouldn't live up to my expectations.

Elbow - Fly Boy Blue/Lunette. I'm really liking this song at the moment, but then again Elbow have yet to make a song I don't like. This one took a while to grow on me, but now I'm a little (read: very) obsessed. Not full blown Seldom Seen Kid obsessed, but very nearly. The new album The Take Off and Landing Of Everything drops in early March, and I can't wait. Until then, I'm very satisfied with this offering. Lunette is particularly lovely.

What have you been loving this January?

Monday 27 January 2014

Free Crochet Pattern: Crochet Biker Gloves

I haven't crocheted in a while, instead focusing on improving my knitting skills, so it was nice for a change to pick up my hook and try a quick little project that I'd had on my mind. These crocheted biker gloves are a take on those fingerless, leather biker gloves that you normally see pop stars (and hell's angels) wearing. I think the crochet twist gives them a lovely tweedy finish and makes them a bit more wearable on a day to day basis (and a lot less Justin Bieber-like).
free crochet pattern biker gloves

free crochet pattern biker gloves
A big thanks to my hand model!

To make a pair of gloves you will need:
  • 4mm crochet hook
  • 100g double knitting wool (and extra scraps if you want a trim)
  • 2 Buttons
  • Tapestry needle (for sewing up)
Heads Up! I'm using English Crochet Terminology here, (I know the American is slightly different). The finished size is for an average adult's hand, although you could change this by simply chaining more or less stitches at the start of your project.

  • R = Row
  • Ch = Chain
  • St = stitch
  • Dc = double crochet 
  • Sl St = Slip Stitch
 Ready? 3,2,1... Go!

Main Body (red in diagram)
In your main colour, ch 33.
R1: Skipping the first st from the hook, dc in each ch. Ch1 and turn when you reach the end. (32)
Repeat this row for a further 13 rows (14 in total)

First Shaping (white in diagram)
R15: Dc into the next 7sts (do not ch 1, and turn) (7)
R16: Missing the first st, dc into the next 6 sts (6) ch 1 and turn
R17: Dc into the next 6 sts (do not ch 1, and turn) (6)
R18: Missing the first st, dc into the next 5 sts (5) ch 1 and turn
R19: Dc into the next 5sts, ch 1 and turn (5)
Repeat row 19 for a further 5 rows

Strap (blue in diagram)
Ch1, and turn your work so that you are working into the corner of the curve that you have created.
R1: Dc 2 stitches into the curve, ch 1 and turn
R2: Dc into each of the 2 stitches, ch 1 and turn
Repeat row two until your strap measures 7cm long.
Ch5, and sl st into 7th st from hook.
Cast off.

Second shaping (orange in diagram)
Insert your hook into the far side of your crochet, before the shaping began (row 14).
R15: Dc into the next 21 sts (do not ch1, and turn) (21)
R16: Missing the first st, dc into the next 20 sts (20) ch 1 and turn
R17: Dc into the next 20 sts (do not ch1, and turn) (20)
R18: Missing the first st, dc into the next 19 sts (19) ch 1 and turn
R19: Dc into the next 19 sts, ch 1 and turn (19)
Repeat row 19 for a further 5 rows.
Cast off.

To help visualise how all these sections look when crocheted together, I made this diagram, the colours corresponding to the sections above. These are all crocheted in one piece, without changing the colour (unless you kind of like the mad psychedelic effect below).

free crochet pattern biker gloves

This is what it should look like when worked all in one colour. I also pressed mine slightly using an iron to prevent some slight curling.

Then, if you like you could add a contrasting trim to your gloves. This one is a simple double crochet one.

You'll need to make two of these (unless you're channelling MJ, that it). They are both worked identically, but remember when sewing up that you need a right hand and a left hand, so take care to ensure that you sew them up right. You need to leave a hole of about 7cm when sewing, for the thumb.

Add a button for the strap...

Then, you're done!

These can be worn both ways, either with the strap at the wrist, or the fingers

They were also very quick to make, so I can see myself making numerous pairs to go with different coats. Don't you think they have a kind of rock & roll meets Miss Marple vibe to them?

Let me know if you try this, and if you have any questions (or notice an error!) about the pattern, please leave me a comment. I'll try my very best to help.

Thursday 23 January 2014

A Tartan Skirt Refashion

I don't know about you, but I think I would sew a lot more if it wasn't for the price of fabrics. This might just be one of my problems, with living in an area with limited fabric suppliers, but when I can buy a top or dress cheaper than when I can make one, it just doesn't make sense to me. Which is a shame, because sewing your own clothes means you can have unique items of clothing that you won't find anywhere else. And, of course, sewing is fun! My solution to this, is to keep an eye out for second hand fabrics that I can use - even when it is already a part of an existing garment. When I found this skirt I could see that it had potential to be bettered.

Tartan Skirt Refashion

The main problem with this skirt was the length and shape - it just came across as rather baggy. The pattern didn't help either - the large tartan print would have been better when contained to a smaller area. But I liked the fabric, and decided to see past the current state of it. I simply adjusted the hemline of this dress (hardly much sewing, I know), making more of a mini-skirt. The original idea was to create a skort effect, but I didn't have enough excess fabric to experiment. I'm still thinking of making a skort though.

Tartan Skirt Refashion

Tartan Skirt Refashion

This is what it looks like now. The shorter length of the skirt means the bright tartan pattern is less overwhelming, and is a lot more flattering to wear. I'm going to be wearing this with simpler pieces of clothing, to let the tartan do the talking.

There are a lot of horrendous looking skirts out there, but if you can see past the current state of the skirt, you could easily adjust it. Here are my 5 top tips for adjusting a skirt:
  • Always wash your skirt beforehand. Mine shrunk, a lot, leaving me with less material than I originally had. Better to shrink it before the alterations than to shrink it after and find it doesn't fit you after all that hard work.
  • If your skirt has a lining, alter the outer fabric first. This is the easiest way to ensure that your lining will not be longer than the skirt fabric.
  • Try it on after every stage of alteration, preferably before making permanent changes. What might look like the desired length of your skirt on the floor or table, can change completely when worn. Better to alter it a couple of centimetres either way, than to have to undo a heap of sewing (not fun).
  • Do the Pin, Press & Tack. Yup, it might sound like an exercise technique, but for me, this is the best way to get a sharp, neat hem. First, fold your fabric, pinning it place. Press the fold with an iron, before tacking the hem in place with a loose running stitch. It might sound time consuming, but ideally you should spend longer preparing your fabric than you should sewing. It makes the sewing process a lot easier.
  • Take your time when hemming. Yes, it's not the hardest of things, but as soon as you start to think "I could do this a bit faster" you start to make mistakes. Trust me.
Have you got any tips or stories of when you refashioned a piece of clothing?

Wednesday 22 January 2014

Mid Week Treat: No7 Lipstick for £2!

No7 Poppy King Lipstick Review

Lipsticks are becoming my new obsession. I usually focus on my eyes when doing my makeup in a morning, but more recently I felt like trying something a bit different. I'm enjoying my new love for all things lip, and whilst I hardly needed a new lipstick, I couldn't resist picking this one up for a mere £2.

No7 Poppy King Lipstick Review

This is from the Poppy King collaboration with No7, and most of the range is now in the sale at Boots, for completely unbelievable prices. With this lipstick being No7, it was a bit of a no-brainer for me, with the brand being renowned for their high quality makeup.

No7 Poppy King Lipstick Review

The shade I chose was Number Two "Power", and it is a lovely berry shade which I think would be very complementary for pale skin tones, but would also look great with a tan. I honestly expected the colour to be a bit more intense when I put it on, but it has the best texture of any lipstick I've ever tried. Seriously. It glides on, has a smooth, even coverage and feels lovely and moisturising. The best part though is that all day, I forgot that I was even wearing lipstick. Which is a novelty, because almost all the lipsticks I've previously owned make me feel like I'm wearing a clown's greasepaint. This wasn't sticky, overly thick and didn't transfer onto teeth/clothes/food/cups. The lovely berry colour stayed put all day, and didn't even need a top up after an emergency cup of tea.

No7 Poppy King Lipstick Review

I can see this lipstick becoming my firm favourite and having a permanent residence in my handbag.

What are your favourite products to use on your lips?

Monday 20 January 2014

How to: Make Artwork Jewellery

After seeing all the fabulous artwork dresses at Dolce & Gabbana, I have become a little infatuated with making clothing with iconic paintings printed on them. Here's my problem though - when exactly would I wear such an extravagant item of clothing, let alone a tiara?

Images from
So instead, I decided to make art-inspired jewellery - easier to wear and a lot easier to make. Although I still dream of nipping down to Sainsbury's wearing a fresco dress. *Sigh*
Gustav Klimt - The Kiss necklace DIY
You will need:
  • A picture of the painting of your choice
  • Shrinking plastic
  • A selection of coloured pencils and pens
  • Scissors
  • Hole Punch
  • Jump Rings
  • Pliers
  • Necklace Chain
First up, you need to find a painting that you want to use. I'm using The Kiss, by Gustav Klimt, although I'm now eager to use a Van Gogh or a Monet. Just choose a painting that inspires you, or one you think looks nice. Think about whether you want the whole painting to feature in your jewellery, or just a part of the painting. For this one, I'm just using the figures themselves.
Gustav Klimt - The Kiss necklace DIY
Place your shrinking plastic over your painting, and start to trace out the main features. This can be time consuming, but it is better to take your time and capture all the details from the painting.
Gustav Klimt - The Kiss necklace DIY
Firstly, I traced out all the main details using a pencil, and then built up the colours by layering my pen strokes. I started by using the lightest colours first. Then, use a marker to fill in any dark sections, or to give a sharp outline to parts of your picture.
Gustav Klimt - The Kiss necklace DIY
Gustav Klimt - The Kiss necklace DIY
Gustav Klimt - The Kiss necklace DIY
Wait for your ink to dry before carefully cutting out your drawing. Place your drawing on a white surface to easily see if you have missed any areas. Don't worry if your colours seem rather pale, they intensify after the plastic has shrunk.
Gustav Klimt - The Kiss necklace DIY
If you want your artwork to be a necklace, now is the time to puncture some holes in the top of your drawing.
Gustav Klimt - The Kiss necklace DIY
Now follow the instructions on your shrinking plastic to shrink your drawing in the oven. Wait for it to cool before attempting to do anything next.
Gustav Klimt - The Kiss necklace DIY
This next step is optional, but I'd recommend it. I like to paint the reverse of my shrunk drawing white, using acrylic paint. I just think it make the colours pop on the right side.
Gustav Klimt - The Kiss necklace DIY
Wait for the paint to dry before adding any jewellery fixings to your drawing. I've made a necklace here, but you could make a brooch, a bracelet, or even a pair of earrings.
Gustav Klimt - The Kiss necklace DIY
Now you're finished, and your mini-artwork is ready to wear.
I'd love to see any variations on this idea, and would especially love to see photos if you try this. Which artist or painting would you like to use on jewellery?
|Soundtrack - State Of The Art by Gotye|

Saturday 18 January 2014

Tartan and Plaid Scarves

Tartan still seems to be prominent as the pattern du jour, and it seems to be branching out into different colour ways. I'm always loathe to buy anything tartan brand new though - it is such a classic pattern that it is always easy to come across it in second hand shops, and at a fraction of the price. When I came across this beauty yesterday, I knew it was going to be heading home with me.

Blue and green tartan plaid scarf

Blue and green tartan plaid scarf

At £4.99, it was more than I would usually pay for a second hand scarf, but I think you'll all agree with me that, on this occasion, the price was worth it. It is a lovely, soft mohair weave, and I love the unconventional choice of colours. I've had some big scarves before, but this might actually be the biggest (trust me, it actually doubles as an emergency blanket).

Blue and green tartan plaid scarf

It would be very easy to make your own tartan or plaid scarf. All you would need is a fleecy tartan throw or blanket, which can then be cut to size and then hemmed if necessary. Sounds too much effort? OK, here's my pick from the high street, but trust me anybody could make one.

High Street Tartan
1 2 3 4

Found any bargains lately? Have a happy Saturday!

Thursday 16 January 2014

Why Not try to DIY

Here are some more musings from my DIY daydreams... and possibly my pinterest board. 
upcycled vintage watches LOVE THIS

I can't believe that I've never thought of this incredibly simple, yet adorable idea before. I am a little (read: very) obsessed with watches, clocks or timepieces of any kind, so this is right up my street. This would be an ideal thing to do with all those beautiful, but alas, broken, vintage watches that keep tempting my purse strings. All you'd have to do is take the back off the watch, remove the innards and place a photo behind the glass. You could also use the watch innards to make jewellery from (nice bonus!).
Cute mittens

Looking through my pinterest board at the moment, it's clear to see that I'm feeling the cold. If I had a pair of mittens as lovely as these though, I don't think I'd mind. It would be very easy to buy a pair of plain mittens and pimp them up, using fabric scraps, fabric paint or whatever else tickles your fancy. I might have to investigate into the possibility of using an existing mitten pattern and adapting it in order to knit a pair. If I do, I'll keep you posted!

I came across this rather beautiful bag in a local shopping centre, and it got me thinking about envelopes (as you do). You could use some plain fabric (and an envelope as a template) to fashion your own "envelopes". You could then sew them onto the front of a bag to make pockets, or even just use it on it's own, as a purse or clutch bag. How sweet would it be to embroider a special address on the back? Ooh, I have some fabric with an envelope pattern on somewhere...  Watch this space...

Have you ever tried any projects similar to these? I'd love to hear from you if you have!

Wednesday 15 January 2014

Mid Week Treat: Leather Punch Pliers

When I came across this pair of punch pliers in Home Bargains, my heart skipped a beat. I had been looking for a pair for a while, and didn't want to pay too much for my first pair as I was unsure how much I would use them. For £2.99, these were well worth trying.

Yes, I do realise that buying myself a pair of punch pliers is hardly a traditional "treat", but I've been thinking of some DIY projects that involve leather recently, and now I can't wait to try these out. They would even come in handy just for altering the holes on a watch strap or belt.

They come with a selection of eyelets and poppers, so you're ready to go straight away. Being just £2.99 from Home Bargains, I don't know exactly how long they'll last, but for a first pair, they were exactly what I was looking for.

Any ideas on how I could use this beauty? Keep your eyes peeled for me using it in the future!

Saturday 11 January 2014

60s Style Dress Inspiration

I came across this amazing fabric in a second hand shop yesterday, and I'm still absolutely smitten with it. Why would anyone want to throw it away? Well, more fool them because now it's all mine.

The bright colours (brighter in real life) and fun print made me think of the 60s, and I've got my heart set on sewing myself a 60s style dress. Or maybe even a high-waisted mini skirt. Here are some pictures that I might be using for inspiration.


I think this shape would be quite an easy shape to sew, and I love the pockets on the front.

This neck shape is pretty much perfect in my eyes, and that checked fabric is lovely.
I love the high-waisted, A-line shape of these skirts, and think the bright pattern wouldn't be overkill when just on a skirt.

Any thoughts on what I could do with this fabric?