A panoply of (sometimes) lovingly handmade crud.

WiP Wednesday: Octopus Betty Dress

This week I have a sewing project to share. I’m very excited about this garment because it’s the first proper dress I’ve made by myself. I bought the fabric and pattern on a slight whim at the Knitting and Stitching Show.

I wish I’d looked more closely at the pattern before starting as it clearly states that the pattern isn’t suitable for strongly directional prints, which this is. Fortunately I have my personal sewing consultant at hand to help me make the necessary adjustments.


Of course, the first step was to cut out the pattern pieces. This probably took me about two to three hours in total due to the complexity of the pattern matching. The circle skirt of the Betty dress is meant to be cut in three pieces; the front half cut on a fold and then two back pieces to accommodate the zip. To match the pattern, it was necessary to cut the front in two pieces, ensuring the pattern matched across the new front centre seam, both horizontally and vertically. Here’s a little diagram indicating how you do this. You’ll need to flip the pattern piece when cutting the right-hand side of the skirt.


Throughout the cutting, I lined my pattern pieces up with the pattern rather than the selvedges as they were slightly misaligned.

I also had to cut my back bodice pieces separately to try and match the pattern.
The first step after cutting out all of the pattern pieces is to shape the bodice with waist and bust darts in the front

And a waist dart in each of the back pieces, which are then joined to the front bodice.

It’s worth pinning the shoulders at this stage to try on the bodice. Don’t worry if it seems short at this stage; the skirt is very heavy and will pull the bodice down.
I also overlocked the seams on the skirt pieces and pinned and basted the front seam of my skirt.
The next steps will be to join the skirt to the bodice and then instal the zip. One of my mods will be to add pockets, so I’ll start thinking about the best way to do this.

Boo! Obligatory pumpkin carving post

My natural cynicism makes me unreasonably grumpy about most holidays, but I do quite like Halloween. In particular, I like to dress up and have a reason to eat and drink to excess.

I also relish any excuse to try out a new craft, so I was very excited to try out a friend’s rather snazzy pumpkin carving tools. I started out by looking for inspiration on Google images and settled on Boo from Mario as my design. I started out by sketching it onto the pumpkin using dry wipe marker.

This gave me an outline to trace using a Stanley knife. Next was the fun part, using a tool I called ‘the gouger’ to dig out the sections where I wanted light to come through. You have to be careful if you have a complex design because it’s very easy to accidentally remove bits you’re not intending. Technical language: you have to be aware of the positive and negative space (this is also important in papercraft).

It helps to stick a tea light in periodically to check the design is showing up like you want. You need to scrape away a fair bit of pumpkin flesh to achieve a good effect.


How to: Purple flames Halloween nail art

If, like me, you don’t have a lot of nail art tools (or confidence) then you can still have fun spooky nails for Halloween. These are mine, the only special equipment I used was a black striping brush, but any small paintbrush would work.

As my base I used magnetic purple nail varnish as you get the cool stripes with very little effort.

I then used the striping brush to colour the tips black and draw the polish down to resemble flames.


How to: Chocolate chip cookies

Apparently I’m on a basic recipes kick at the moment- I can’t believe I haven’t made chocolate chip cookies in about two years. This recipe yields a delicious buttery cookie that’s crispy around the edges but soft in the middle. Yum.


  • 125g butter
  • 100g light brown sugar
  • 75g sugar
  • 1tsp vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 225g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Selection of chocolate chips. I used about 150g M&Ms and I wished I had added about 100g of really dark chocolate and some nuts too.

Makes 12 large cookies. Double up for twice the fun.

Method, man
Using a wooden spoon or a mixer, cream together the butter and sugars.

Add the eggs and vanilla and mix until combined.

Sift in the dry ingredients in two batches and mix until you have a smooth, thick batter.

Stir through your selection of chocolates, making sure they’re distributed fairly evenly.

Drop heaped tablespoons of dough onto a baking tray lined with parchment. You can shape into thick discs using your hands, or an ice cream scoop if you have one.

Pop in the fridge while you preheat the oven to 180C.
After about 15-20mins, bake for 12-18 mins, until cookies are golden at the edges.


WiP Wednesday: Opposite Pole

When I’ve had time in the evening recently, I’ve found myself drawn to knitting this project. Here’s what I hope the final garment will look like.

This cardigan has a really interesting construction. First you knit a central rectangle.

The fronts and collar are made by knitting a massive circle around the central rectangle. The circle is made up of repeated rectangular sections…

…alternated with triangular wedges.

Each row of the circular section is joined to the central rectangle. I will knit all the way around until I get back to the row of red in the middle, which is my crocheted provisional cast-on. When I undo the red stitches, I will be able to seamlessly join the circle together.

The light blue ovals indicate the sides where I will not join the circle to the central square, leaving space to join the sleeves.
I’m really excited to see how this cardigan turns out.

WiP Wednesday: Waterlily

Here’s my progress on the beautiful Waterlily top. I got held up with working on this for a few weeks, partly because I was a bit worried about attempting the Latvian braid, and partly because I was coming to the end of my first skein of Islington and I hate winding skeins into balls.
For anyone knitting with Islington, I would suggest not using centre-pull balls. The wool is so soft and slippery that the ball can’t really hold its shape as you work from the middle.
Anyway, I managed the Latvian braid and I’m now a few rows into the lace section.



The blue and purple strands are life-lines. My magical new interchangeable double-pointed needles are designed to allow you to add a lifeline with no additional effort, which I think is pretty amazing. But then, I am a massive geek. Lifelines are particularly useful when knitting lace. If you make a mistake in lace, undoing rows and picking up the stitches and yarnovers is a complete knit-mare. With a lifeline, you know that you can drop down to your scrap yarn and all your precious stitches are securely held. Here’s a later progress picture. I’ve finished a full repeat of the lace pattern, so you get a better idea of what the final design will look like.


How to: Simple white loaf

I realised last week that in my occasional bread baking pursuits this year, I have neglected to make simple white bread. Being given some rather wonderful pear and speculoos jam by Anna provided the perfect impetus to give it a go. Humorous aside: autocorrect suggestion for speculoos is ‘speculums’, which I’m not sure is even the correct plural for speculum. And certainly not as nice in a jam. Turns out I don’t know the difference between a 1lb loaf tin and a 2lb loaf tin, hence the rather thin bread. What would Mary Berry say? IMG_1442.JPG   Ingredients

  • 500g strong white bread flour
  • 10g (about two scant teaspoons) salt
  • 1 15g sachet instant yeast
  • 50g butter, soft
  • 290ml water

Makes 1 2lb loaf, apparently. Makes one loaf that fits in a 21x11x6cm loaf tin. Or two very thin loaves.

Method Put the flour, yeast, salt and butter into a mixing bowl. Slowly add the water, mixing with your hands as you go, until all the flour is absorbed into the dough. Transfer to a floured work surface and knead for about 5 mins, until the dough is soft and pliable. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with cling film or a damp tea towel and leave to prove for an hour.

IMG_1434.JPG At this point I froze half of my dough, which I think is when my problems began. So don’t do that. Instead, oil your loaf tin, shape the dough so it fits the tin and leave to prove, covered, for a further hour.


IMG_1437.JPG Yes, I should have realised sooner that something odd was going on. Preheat oven to 225C. If desired, slash top of loaf and sprinkle with flour just before baking. I didn’t see the point of doing these things, so didn’t. Maybe with my next really small loaf. Anyway, bake loaf in preheated oven for 35-40mins (20 if it’s minuscule). I tap the bottom of the loaf and see if it sounds hollow to check it’s baked. Turn out to cool on a wire rack.


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